Curious to know how to advance your career as a long-term product manager as either s group product manager or principal product manager?
Then look no further.
Product managers are responsible for establishing a product’s vision and long-term business strategy while ensuring that all stakeholders are aware of said strategy. While it is a senior position, there are numerous career paths, such as Group Product Manager (GPM) and Principal Product Manager (PPM).
But what distinguishes these roles from each other? How do you determine which path is right for you?
In this article, we outline the differences between a group product manager and a principal product manager, while exploring in detail the responsibilities, salaries, skills, career path trajectory, and certifications for each role.
Let’s dive right into the discussion.
Group Product Manager vs. Principal Product Manager: What Do They Do?
One of the main differences between the group product manager position and the principal product manager role, is the capacity in which they contribute to the product management team.
On the one hand, principal product managers are Individual Contributors (IC). This means that although they hold a senior position within the organization and contribute to the company’s goals, they do not have any responsibilities as it relates to management.
On the other hand, group product managers assume a more direct role within management because they are responsible for managing other members throughout the organization. They ensure that the various teams remain on course toward achieving the company’s objectives.
Each career track is available to product managers and are dependent on aspirations, experience, and a deep understanding of the primary responsibilities. Let’s explore these responsibilities below.
What Does A Group Product Manager Do?
Within this leadership role, group product managers oversee the development of a group of products from the beginning, to its testing stages and eventual product launch onto the market. This enables them to identify and mitigate any risks that arise.
Since we consider this position to be on the management career track, group product managers have a responsibility toward managing product teams. This includes the development and review of the product roadmap to guide the product team toward achieving the company’s objectives.
Group product managers often collaborate with internal teams on the development and updating of products so that they remain competitive on the market and earn revenue in accordance with the goals of the organization. Having alignment across all product teams is vital to their success. It also helps that group product managers create documentation that outlines the product vision and requirements.
One of the primary objectives of any product strategy is to meet customer satisfaction. As a group product manager, it is necessary to spearhead the user research (for example via focus groups) to identify opportunities for product improvement by soliciting feedback that in the end, helps to understand the customer needs.
Although the customers are often at the forefront, the group product manager is in the ideal position to communicate with stakeholders and upper management and at the same time, supervise and train junior members of the product team, making sure to address any of their concerns.
What Does A Principal Product Manager Do?
Principal product managers do not oversee the day-to-day operations and management of product teams, which we associate with senior positions. Their responsibilities center on the fundamentals of the product vision and product strategy. They do, however, collaborate with product teams when developing strategies and resolving issues that have an impact on efficiency and profitability.
At the helm of the principal product manager’s responsibilities is supervising the critical aspects of the product roadmap. These are inclusive of the product team objectives, the product vision or end goal toward which the team works and the efforts or tasks that the teams complete to ensure the achievement of the vision. The principal product manager then shares the contents of the roadmap to the various marketing, design, and engineering teams.
Another responsibility is ensuring that there is alignment between the product strategy and key stakeholders by training them how to manage and prioritize their product backlogs. To this end, principal product managers foster collaboration among the relevant teams, such as product leaders, and marketing and development managers.
At the external level, principal product managers represent the voice of the customers. They collaborate with research and marketing teams to understand customer needs and forecast their demands while finding viable solutions to their pain points.
It is also the duty of the principal product manager to analyze complex business cases and metrics to determine product feasibility, feature prioritization, and the overall return on investment (ROI).
How Do Group Product Managers and Principal Product Managers Work Together?
Group product managers and principal product managers are both senior-level roles. Therefore, they often collaborate on different steps throughout the product management ladder to ensure the successful completion of business requirements.
It is safe to say that in general, product managers do not build products on their own. They are, in large part, in control of organizing certain elements of the process. For example, conducting user research and translating the company’s strategies and objectives into product roadmaps. As such, they rely on other team members to fulfill other tasks in the backlog such as writing code or billing the customers.
This exchange of information is evidence of cross-functional team collaboration, a key tenet of product management. The product manager communicates the specific product requirements and prospective outcomes as per the customer’s preferences, ensuring the accuracy of the product lifecycle from its inception to launch onto the market.
In order to foster healthy relationships across the product teams, group product managers and principal product managers concentrate on building trust among teams and using their positive influence to drive the product forward. Combining their skills of managing people and being individual contributors, the cross-functional team has the knowledge and scope to build, engage in product marketing, measure feature effectiveness, and provide customer support.
Given the range of responsibilities here, the typical structure of product teams is inclusive of representatives from several departments: engineering, finance, legal, marketing, project management, sales, and support. By collaborating to this extent, product managers encourage innovation, diverse perspectives, and shorter development cycles.
In essence, group product managers and principal product managers work together by using inspiring and effective leadership to cultivate a collaborative work environment for product teams.
Who Earns More: Group Product Manager or Principal Product Manager?
According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a group product manager in the United States in the year 2022 is $164,768 per year. This total accounts for an average annual base pay of $143,798 with estimates of additional pay totaling $20,970. Additional pay in this instance accounts for cash bonuses, commissions, profit sharing, and tips. Take note that, in general, the overall salary ranges from $124,000 to $224,000, representing a respective 25% and 75% of pay data.
On the contrary, Zippia reports that group product managers earn $155,050 per year on average ($74.54 per hour), adding that the bottom 10% earns $112,000 on an annual basis while the top 10% earns $213,000.
Zippia also estimates that principal product managers earn $145,943 per year on average ($70.16 per hour) with the bottom 10% earning $106,000 whereas the top 10% earns $199,000.
In contrast, PayScale reports that the average base salary for a principal product manager is $152,849 ($45.00 per hour). The base compensation ranges from $117,000 (bottom 10%) to $186,000 (top 90%) and excludes bonuses and profit sharing.
From these statistics, we deduce that the group product manager has more earning potential in comparison to the principal product manager.
It is important to note that a major factor that impacts these salaries is the location. The top five highest-paying states are California, Washington, Rhode Island, Alaska, and Oregon. Other factors that determine compensation rates include education, certifications, additional skills, and the total number of years of experience as a product manager.
Becoming A Group Product Manager vs. Principal Product Manager
Let’s examine the career trajectory of each product management track below:
The typical career path of both the group product manager and principal product manager is as follows:
- Associate Product Manager
- Product Manager
- Senior Product Manager
- Product Lead
- Group Product Manager or Principal Product Manager
- Director of Product
- VP of Product
- Chief Product Officer
The primary difference is whether you aspire toward managing people (GPM) or contributing to the day-to-day operations (PPM).
Advancing as a group product manager requires the following skills:
- Communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Analytical skills
- Product knowledge
- Product management experience
- Knowledge of business issues
To progress as a principal product manager, it is important to have the following skills:
- Interpersonal skills
- Communication skills
- Analytical skills
- Prioritization skills
- Technical expertise
- Product knowledge
Long-term career success is dependent upon continuing education. Although having a university degree is not a necessity in product management, there is a direct connection between furthering your knowledge and moving up the ranks.
Here are five online product management certification resources to consider:
- Product Manager Certification Program by Product HQ
- Technical Product Manager Course by Product HQ
- Product Management Certification by Product School
Duration: 8 weeks
- Product Leader Certification by Product School
Duration: 8 weeks
- Brand and Product Management by Coursera
Duration: 14 hours
Group Product Manager vs. Principal Product Manager: Key Takeaways
Group product managers and principal product managers are both senior product managers whose responsibilities differ as it relates to their management processes. The group product manager career track centers on people management responsibilities whereas the Principal Product Manager career track focuses on individual contribution responsibilities.
Despite the disparity with their compensation, they are both part of a cross-functional product team and utilize both technical and additional soft skills to establish and maintain a product strategy that functions in accordance with the product roadmap.