Director of Product Management Vs. Senior Product Manager

Question: "What is the difference between a Director of Product Management and a Senior Product Manager? I am having this conversation with my boss (who is not a product manager) and others at my company and want to be clear about expectations of each role."

Answer: This question beckons two comparisons. The substantive difference between a Product Manager and a Senior Product Manager is only in tenure or proficiency. The difference itself is manifested in the level of credence or respect that is given to a Senior Product Manager, internally and externally to a company, and possibly also in a higher salary. In general, a Senior Product Manager is a title given to a practitioner who is more adept but who does not hold a team leadership role.

The difference between a "Regular" or "Senior" Product Manager and a Director of Product Management is substantive.

The Product Planner (aka Product Manager) is a strategic role that is owned by a market expert who articulates the market problem and needs. The Product Planner researches the market, identifies the market opportunity, and articulates user and buyer needs in the form of market requirement statements.

The primary deliverable of the Product Planner is the Market Requirements Document (MRD), which reflects a complete, accurate, and true understanding of the market and its needs. Other supporting documents that might be prepared include product use cases, product roadmaps, and pricing models.

The prime goal of the Product Planner role is to create satisfied product buyers and users. This satisfaction level means contentment with the product's ability to solve business or consumer problems (in a market) and meet their needs.

Conversely, the Director of Products (aka Director of Product Management) is a highly strategic and encompassing role that is owned by a strategy and process expert who leads the product management team by providing overall product vision, product and market strategies, and team leadership.

The Director of Products is responsible for balancing corporate goals with long-term market trends and opportunities, and for directing, establishing, maintaining, and planning the overall policies and strategies for the product management department.

On the strategic level, this role formulates the company's product and market strategies and drives their implementation, while balancing corporate goals with long-term market trends and market opportunities.

On the tactical level, this leadership position provides coaching and mentorship to the product management team members and is responsible for furnishing them with resources, tools, and uniform processes to do their respective jobs. The Director of Products role creates and manages the overall product management process and oversees its effective execution.

From a deliverables perspective, the Director of Products directs, supports, and contributes primarily to the making of the product business case, market plan, and market requirements document (MRD). The Director of Products also guides and assists with the formulation of a product launch plan and the value documents.

The prime goal of the Director of Products role is to continuously oversee the successful formulation and execution of the product and market strategies and to achieve better consistency in the internal application of the product management discipline.

For more information, please see the Blackblot Product Management Team Model and the Blackblot Product Definition Team Model, the "Product management Team" and the "Product Definition Team" chapters in the "Product Manager's Toolkit" book, and download the evaluation copy of the PMTK Role Descriptions template from the Blackblot Product Manager's Toolkit® (PMTK).

Blackblot Product Management Team Model

Blackblot Product Definition Team Model