6 Essential Product Team Roles [Definitions and Resources]

15 min read
6 Essential Product Team Roles [Definitions and Resources]

If you're a engaged in building a new product odds are stacked against you. Over 90% of startups fail, and money doesn’t always solve the problem - even 75% of venture-backed startups fail.

The key to breaking this odds and ensuring your product stands out hinges significantly on the strength and synergy of your product team. Each product team role is crucial, contributing uniquely to build a product that truly resonates with users and aligns with your business objectives.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into each of the key product team roles and their impact on product success. We’ll equip you with the tools you need to put together a strong product team that can navigate the complexities of product development, adapt to changing market dynamics, and ultimately deliver solutions that stand out in a crowded marketplace.

What is a Product Team?

A product team involves a group of people who are assigned specific tasks to support the development of a product. The product team roles include business leaders, product managers, product marketers, project managers, product designers, and engineers. All these roles work together as a team to develop a successful product and are, hence, called a product team. A cross functional product team merges diverse skills and expertise to craft solutions that are user-centric, technologically feasible, and business-viable.

A product team's primary purpose is to take a product idea from concept to market, ensuring its alignment with both consumer needs and business objectives. This is typically accomplished by using a structured product development process, or sometimes called a product development lifecycle. Understanding a product team is all about getting clear on who owns the various tasks that drive this process.

Key Responsibilities of Product Team:

  • Conceptualization: Translating ideas into actionable plans.
  • Market alignment: Ensuring product resonates with market needs.
  • Technical feasibility: Guaranteeing that the product can be built with available technology and resources.
  • Continuous improvement: Refining products based on customer feedback and changing market dynamics.

Essential Product Team Roles

A typical product development team is structured around six key roles, each fundamental to the product's lifecycle:

In this section we will dive deeper into each of the six key product roles, which own the following responsibilities as part of the product development lifecycle.

Business Leadership

To build a truly market-aligned, technically-sound, successful product, you need more than a good idea. You need forward-thinking leadership that stands for the product vision and strategy.

If you’re building a product team, it’s important to proactively identify who your key business leaders are. You may already have an idea. Maybe it’s your startup founder or CEO who has a clear business strategy that the product is being built around, or maybe it’s an outside consultant you’ve brought in to help you build a product strategy. This business-savvy product leader is your guidepost, and has a finger on the pulse of emerging trends and user demands.

Key Functions of Business Leadership:

  • Anticipation: The business leader proactively identifies emerging trends and has a deep understanding of where customers are headed. They don't just react to the market; they predict it.
  • Knowledge sharing: An effective leader ensures that all product roles are enlightened about the latest trends and shifts in technology. This shared knowledge enables the creation of products that resonate deeply with user needs.
  • Championing innovation: With innovation as their mantra, they inspire the entire organization to prioritize fresh, forward-thinking approaches. They understand that in today's fiercely competitive market, being innovative isn't just a luxury—it's a necessity for survival and growth.

Depending on the structure and culture of an organization, the role of the business leader can take on various forms:

  • Executive visionaries: This could be the CTO, CMO, Chief Product Officer, or VP of Product. Positioned at the executive level, they drive the overarching vision and strategy. Their strategic blueprint is then operationalized by Product Managers.
  • The product manager as business leader: At times, the Product Manager dons the product strategist hat, diving deep into market research, and shaping the product's direction based on their insights and foresight.
  • Business analyst: In some orgs, the business analyst will serve in this role, bridging the gap between data and product direction and helping the broader product team to interpret trends, and understand user behaviors.
  • External expert consultants: Some companies opt to bring in industry experts or seasoned strategists from outside the organization. This could also look like bringing in a fractional CTO or CTO as a Service.

PRO TIP: Depending on the maturity of the product team and the complexity of the product, this could look like a single person playing more than one role, or it could look like entire teams being built up to function as each of these roles - for example:

ResponsibilityBusiness LeadershipProduct ManagersProduct MarketersProject ManagersDesignersEngineers
Product vision and strategyRACICC
Market researchCARICI
Product roadmapCRCACC
Software developmentICIACR
Release planningCRCAIC
Monitoring and maintenanceICIAIR
Marketing campaignsACRICI
User feedback collectionCRCIAI

Legend: R - Responsible, A - Accountable, C - Consulted, I - Informed

The exact organizational structure of a product team can vary significantly. We will look at a few common structures later in this article.

Product Managers

Product management is the business process of planning, developing, launching, and managing a product or service. It includes the entire lifecycle of a product, from ideation to development to market launch. Product managers focus on managing and delivering the product to customers that has the ability to fulfill their needs and requirements. If customers are satisfied with the product and able to achieve their goals, then the product will be successful for the organization.

The product manager’s responsibilities are multidimensional, requiring them to juggle technical, business, and user-centric perspectives. Their unique position in the product ecosystem makes them invaluable, as they translate overarching strategies into actionable plans, drive execution, and ensure that the product delivers genuine value to its users.

Key Functions of Product Managers:

  • User advocate: The product manager’s role is to champion the user. They internalize user needs, pains, and desires, ensuring that products are tailored to address genuine user problems and deliver delightful experiences.
  • Cross-functional orchestrator: Product Managers excel in collaboration. They work seamlessly across engineering, design, marketing, and other departments, ensuring everyone is aligned towards a singular product vision.
  • Decision driver: Backed by data, market insights, and user feedback, Product Managers act as the “product owner” and make crucial decisions on product features, priorities, and roadmaps. Their choices profoundly influence the product's trajectory.
Read More: The 8-Step Product Management Process [with Examples]

Product Marketers

In today's competitive landscape, simply creating a product isn't enough. Central to a product's success is its marketing strategy, executed by an adept product marketing team. They don't just introduce a product to the market; they ensure it meets the right audience, resonates, and achieves its business objectives.

Product marketers are also often responsible for sales enablement, building materials for the sales teams to use to close deals.

Key Functions of Product Marketing:

  • Market insight: Before development begins, product marketers research the market, competitors, and user needs. This knowledge guides the product management team in crafting the right strategy and understanding their target user persona.
  • Launch strategy: As the product line nears completion, the marketing team defines how it will be presented to the market. This includes deciding the delivery model (e.g., service vs. subscription) and understanding the goals users hope to achieve with the product.
  • Coordination and timing: Working alongside product management and the business unit manager, product marketers pinpoint the optimal launch timeline, ensuring the product reaches its intended audience at the right moment and is successfully handed off to the sales team.
PRO TIP: Successful digital marketing hinges on having the right tools in the hands of your marketing team. AI-powered marketing tools are helping teams get more done faster, build ads with higher conversion rates, and more.

Project Managers

Project management is an integral component of successful product development. With the increasing complexity of today's projects, having an effective project management system in place ensures that the process remains streamlined, efficient, and aligned with business objectives.

Using practices of project management, the organization is able to figure out that they are going in the right direction and hence they can deliver the project on or before the decided delivery date set in the product brief. If the progress is slow then they must have to speed up their work in order to deliver the project before the deadline.

Key Functions of Project Managers:

  • Timeline oversight: They design and monitor project timelines, ensuring timely completion of each phase.
  • Risk management: They identify potential issues early and implement strategies to address them, ensuring smooth project progression.
  • Resource allocation: They manage resources, ensuring the right tools and personnel are in place for each phase of the project.
Read More: Software Development Planning - Perfect Project Plan in 10 Steps


The difference between a successful product and one that misses the mark often lies in its design. UX/UI Designers ensurie that not only is the product visually appealing, but also intuitive and user-friendly. Their expertise blends both art and science, marrying aesthetics with functionality.

In essence, while the UI designer focuses on the look and feel of the product, ensuring brand consistency and visual attractiveness, the UX designers concentrate on the overall user journey, identifying potential pain points and crafting solutions that simplify and enhance the user's interaction with the product. Together, they play a pivotal role in product success, influencing user retention, satisfaction, and overall engagement.

Key functions of UI/UX Designers:

  • User research: Working with the marketing teams, the designers will gather valuable insights about the target market’s preferences, needs, and behaviors to inform design decisions. This could also include building user personas that guide the entire design process.
  • Wireframing & prototyping: Creating visual representations of user interfaces, mapping out the user's journey through the product.
  • User testing: Evaluating the design's effectiveness and iterating based on real-world feedback.
  • Visual design: Crafting the aesthetics, including color schemes, typography, and layout, in alignment with the brand identity. If you have multiple products, they will also ensure visual consistency with your existing products.
  • Interaction design: Defining how users interact with product elements, ensuring a fluid and intuitive experience.
Read More: UI Design Process - 7 Easy Steps to Make Great UIs Faster

6. Engineers

Product engineering involves designing the architecture of the new product, implementing the feature set, testing the functionality, and developing a usable product for users based on their requirements. An ideal product engineering team takes care of building the right design architecture of the product so that incorporating the new functionality later in the product becomes easier. A strong yet flexible architecture helps the product team in the long term. The team develops standards and guidelines to design and implement the product and this ensures a consistent and uniform experience throughout the product.

Depending on the size of the product development team and broader organization, the engineering team could comprise a series of sub-teams or simply a handful of key individuals that take on multiple technical functions.

Key Functions of Engineering Teams:

  • Software Development: Transforming product ideas and early prototypes or designs in working, functional end products, using a range of technical knowledge.
  • Technical architecture: Establishing a robust foundation for the product, designed for scalability and ease of future enhancements.
  • QA testing: Systematic examination and validation to identify and fix any software issues, ensuring the product works seamlessly and adheres to usability standards.
  • Engineering management: Overseeing and guiding the entire development lifecycle, ensuring that project milestones are achieved promptly while maintaining high quality.

PRO TIP: Building a high performing software development team is not easy. It can take between 4.6 and 8.5 months for a group to start to function as a team.

Solution: hire a software development team to fast-track your project! Our Product and Engineering Leaders understand the need for bottom line results, and will help you plan, design and build great products from start to finish.

Common Product Team Structures

Now that we’ve reviewed the six key roles that sit within every product development team, let’s consider how these roles would be organized. Let’s look at the three primary structures that product teams commonly adopt:

Centralized Product Team:

  • A single, unified team handles product responsibilities, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and moving in a cohesive direction. This structure fosters clear communication and minimizes potential discrepancies in decision-making.
  • Ensures consistent direction and decision-making.
  • Ideal for organizations looking for tighter control and uniformity.

Decentralized Product Team:

  • Product responsibilities are spread across various teams or departments, enabling individual units to concentrate deeply on their specific areas. This can lead to richer insights and more tailored strategies, especially when products or markets vary greatly.
  • Offers flexibility and allows for specialized focus on distinct product aspects.
  • Best suited for larger organizations with diverse product lines or markets.

Matrix Design Team Structure:

  • Combines elements of both centralized and decentralized structures, where team members have dual reporting lines. They report to both a functional manager (e.g., engineering or marketing) and a product manager, which fosters a blend of specialized expertise with overarching product objectives.
  • Team members report to both a functional manager (e.g., engineering or marketing) and a product manager.
  • Balances specialized expertise with a unified product vision, suitable for complex projects where varied skills are pivotal.

The exact structure of your product team will certainly affect who holds the responsibilities for individual tasks within the product life cycle. For a more centralized product team, you may find that roles are clearly delineated, with each person staying in a clear lane. In contrast, a more decentralized team structure may see more overlap of roles. This is because, simply by design, individual functions within the product team may be in less contact day-to-day, leading to a more autonomous mode of operation.

For example, in such decentralized structures, while there might still be a designated project manager overseeing the broader product roadmap and ensuring alignment with organizational goals, the onus of day-to-day project management may fall more heavily on engineering managers in different groups. This is especially true if those groups operate semi-independently or are geographically dispersed.

Read More: Top 3 Product Team Structures — Which is the Best? [Pros & Cons]

Tips to Build a Successful Product Team in 2023

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, constructing a dynamic and future-ready product team has never been more crucial. The synergy of technological advancements and shifting market demands mandates a fresh approach to team building. Here are some pivotal strategies to ensure your product team remains agile, innovative, and primed for success in 2023 and beyond.

  • Embrace validated learning: Focus on rapid iterations, continuous feedback, and user-centric development. By incorporating daily stand-ups, short sprints, and user stories, product teams can swiftly adapt to changes and ensure they're always aligned with user needs.
  • Explore opportunities to leverage AI: Invest in AI tools to optimize business processes, enhance data-driven decision-making, and predict market shifts. By providing AI training for product team members, you not only streamline business operations but also empower them to harness AI capabilities innovatively. This ensures products stay at the forefront of technology and cater to evolving user demands.
  • Speed up software development with remote talent: When you need to build your product team quickly without the lengthy hiring processes, staff augmentation is the key. This approach enables businesses to swiftly onboard specialized expertise tailored to project needs, ensuring rapid scalability and adaptability without the traditional overheads of recruitment.


In order to develop a good and successful product, there must be an intelligent and committed product team working on that product. A product team involves multiple roles who are responsible to work on the product lifecycle and deliver a successful product to customers. It is important to devise your product roles that best suit your requirements and match the nature of the product you are going to deliver.

If you’re looking for a software product development company to help bring your vision to life, we’d love to help. Our team will help you plan, design and build a great software solution without the headache - reach out to get a free quote!