What Does a Digital Product Manager Do?

Tom Jelen | 12.11.19
Topics: Project Management, Association Management - Leadership, CIO - Digital Transformation - IT Maturity

What Does a Digital Product Manager Do?

As the field of digital development has matured over the past twenty years, new roles have emerged to help guide the successful implementation and maintenance of websites and digital products. Twenty years ago, almost no associations had a User Experience Designer, Digital Content Strategist, or Email Marketing Manager on staff. However, those positions are now in high demand.


One of the newer roles is the Digital Product Manager. While traditional Product Managers have played a role in consumer product development for quite some time, Digital Product Management is a relatively new field, with its own set of characteristics. To help you determine if your organization could benefit from creating a Digital Product Manager position, here are answers to a few of the questions you may have about the role.

What are the responsibilities of a Digital Product Manager?

The responsibilities of a Digital Product Manager will vary from organization to organization. However, almost all Digital Product Managers will be responsible for leading the on-going development of a specific digital product or website. As part of that responsibility the Digital Product Manager will act as the voice of the customer when decisions need to be made about strategy and priorities for future feature development. He or she will evaluate the market and competitors to make sure that the product isn't falling behind and he or she may work with Marketing staff help promote the product to current and new customers. One critical responsibility for almost any Digital Product Manager is creating and prioritizing the product backlog. The backlog is essentially the to-do list for product improvement. Keeping it up-to-date and managing customer expectations is critical for continued product success.

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Where does a Digital Product Manager fit in the organization chart?

Due to the cross-functional nature of the position, a Digital Product Manager can sit on a variety of functional teams and have success. For smaller organizations, the position might fit within a Marketing, IT, or Membership team. In larger organizations, a Digital Product Manager may be a part of a dedicated Digital team or even be part of a larger team of Product Managers. In all cases, Digital Product Managers lead cross-functional teams to develop and improve a digital product or website. He or she likely won't have any direct reports. Rather, the expectation is that a Digital Product Manager will lead through influence (which can be easier said than done).

What qualifications and experience does a Digital Product Manager need to have?

The best Digital Product Managers are generalists who can speak confidently to both business and technology staff. The ability to communicate clearly with a variety of stakeholders (e.g., executives, developers, marketing staff) is critical to a Digital Product Manager's success. That type of skillset can be found in people with varied backgrounds and experience. Some successful Digital Product Managers emerge from a traditional IT background, while others come up from inside the business or after obtaining an MBA. Ultimately, a successful Digital Product Manager needs an ability to think strategically, while having the skills to manage the small details that can ensure results.

What problems can a Digital Product Manager help solve?

One of the fundamental challenges faced by many associations relates to the ownership of digital products and services. While ownership may be clear for smaller-scale digital products (e.g., a conference microsite), it may be much less clear for the organization's main website, or a member self-service portal. If a Digital Product Manager is assigned to that type of major product, he or she can help clarify and coordinate the activities related to its development. Even if digital product management is a part-time responsibility for a staff person who handles other duties as assigned, making it clear that someone is in responsible and accountable, can make the organization much more responsive to customer feedback.

Now that you know what a Digital Product Manager does, do you think your organization needs one? If you still aren't sure, feel free to reach out for expert guidance from a DelCor CIO.

About Tom Jelen

Tom has been working in nonprofit and association technology since the era of Web 1.0. He gets energized by helping associations use digital technology to build new products, services, and business models.

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