What are digital products and product management?

As I mentioned in my article about The role of the Product VP/Head, I’m writing an entire book about the many different aspects and skills needed to be head of product.

The book will be divided into 3 mains sections, Concepts, Principles and Tools.

I’ll publish its chapters as articles so I can collect feedback. The first chapter is a review of the digital product and product management concepts.

What are digital products and product management?

In this chapter, I will review some basic concepts of product management, concepts that are necessary for the next chapters, where I will define concepts more linked to product development leadership.

Let’s start from the beginning:

Digital Product

Digital product is any software that has users.

A common way to classify digital products is by the type of audience it serves. There are products for end consumers (Netflix, Spotify, etc.) known as B2C (business to consumer), for companies (Locaweb, Conta Azul, SAP, etc.) known as B2B (business to business) and mixed products, which serve both end consumers and companies (Instagram, Mercado Livre, etc.)

Another way to classify a digital product is by looking at how the product is delivered to users (such as online, not online and embedded), or according to what it does: email, e-commerce, payment, email marketing, content management, education, communication, collaboration, reporting, entertainment, operating system, ERP, CRM, etc.

These different ways of classifying are not exclusive. For example, Netflix is ​​a digital product for end-users, but it is also an online entertainment product.

Digital or traditional?

In addition to understanding what a digital product is and how to classify it, we also need to understand the nature of the company that owns this digital product.

  • Digital: The product sold by the company is the software or technology developed by the product development team. Product Management is the company’s “core”, responsible for the company’s future vision and strategy. The product head will have a central role in defining and executing the company’s strategy. Examples: Zendesk, Instagram, Google Search, etc.


Platforms are products that deliver more value the more users use the platform. It is the famous network effect, based on the number of possible interactions between its users, which is governed by the formula n * (n-1) / 2 where n is the number of users. Platforms have been around for many years in the offline world. A good example is the old markets. They are a two-sided platform, with buyers on one side and sellers on the other. The more sellers you have, the more useful the market is for buyers. And the more buyers you have, the more attractive the market will be for sellers.

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There are single-sided platforms (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.) and multi-sided platforms, which can be of 3 types:

  • Exchange: with buyers on one side and sellers on the other side. In this type of platform, it is common for a person to enter on the buyer side and be invited to participate on the seller side. Who has never been invited to drive for Uber? Examples, besides Uber, are Airbnb, eBay, etc.

On platforms, it is customary to develop a product for each platform participant, plus one or more products that take care of the interaction between those participants.

Digital product management

We have already seen the definition of a digital product, the importance of understanding whether the company that owns the product is a digital, traditional, or traditional company that was born digital and we understand what platforms are. Now let’s understand what is product management.

Product Management

Digital product management is the function responsible for all aspects of a software product, throughout the lifecycle of that product, from its conception to the end of its life.

It is the function responsible for making the connection between the company strategy and the problems and needs of customers through the digital product. This should, at the same time, help the company to achieve its strategic objectives while solving problems and meeting the needs of customers.

To know more

There, we have already seen, in a very summarized form, the main concepts of digital product management and we are ready to understand more about how to lead digital products.

In case you want to know more about the concepts I presented above, you can read my book Product management: How to increase the chances of success of your software. In it I talk in detail about these and other concepts related to digital product management, as well as about the life cycle of a software product, the relationship of the product manager with the other areas and functions of the company, product portfolio management, and where use software product management.

Missing something?

So, did you miss something in this chapter? What else would like me to cover?

Written by

Digital product development advisor, mentor, board member. And open water swimmer!

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