Think about the word “Product Manager”! What do you think are the product manager responsibilities?

Write the first thing that comes up to your mind on a piece of paper and continue reading the following article.

Many people associate the position of a product manager as a manager with a big team who says to the rest of the team what to do.

Also, they perceived that this position gives a full authority for taking directions on a company level, directions like new products which will be introduced to the customers, for example.

Other people perceive them as the people who lead the company to success!

Those things are partially true. What is unique about the product managers’ responsibilities is the fact that they are informal leaders, they don’t manage a team and are not managers in the classic way.

They might even not have the full authority to decide on the product strategy. 

Instead, they must align with the business and marketing department.

It is important for the product manager to keep the management informed for all the decision taken and the reasoning behind choosing the features which will become part of the product road map!

I have seen in many teams the situation where the marketing and sales promise something which was not planned to be part of the product.

That’s the reason why you must be an influencer and persuader and help sales, management and marketing see and promote your vision of the product. This will help you to focus on the main part of your job – the product itself and the features which must be developed first. The product managers are the decision makers and the one who spends the most time thinking about the product and the vision.

If you want to be a Product Manager, you need to focus on three aspects of the product. The technology, the business, and the UX (User Experience).

In this article, you will learn what each of those focus is about.

The Business

Focusing on the business might not be so obvious for anyone who wants to become a product manager, but this is a crucial part of the job. Without understanding the direction of the business, there is a risk for the company to build something interesting that no one wants. And the world is full with examples like that. Edson flop is one of the most famous one, where Ford Motors build a new model car and in the end no one wanted it.

It was too expensive! The other reason for their failure was the market segment position. Their customers expected a smaller and more economical car, because Ford had already had a good portfolio of big cars.

That’s why it is important as a product manager to know the business direction and to understand the customer segment of your product is trying to reach.

The Technology skills

Twenty years ago, no one was aware of the term cloud computing. Ten years later there were still a lot of discussions is cloud computing a good idea or not.

These days there is no such debate. Companies, big and small, are adopting Saas and cloud computing. This made a once trend and a buzz word a standard, which the customers are very used to. The product manager must be wellversed in the technologies and the latest trends.

The PM need not know coding. They must be able to understand why one technology is better used in one case and not in another, because they need to communicate those decisions to the business and marketing and to help them and educate them with the decision.

Another advantage of knowing the immerse trends is to advise the team what to check and see if the product can benefit from immerse trends and early adopters.

The User Experience and design

Try to explain to your team how do you want a feature to look like? 

Would you explain all the element dimensions in a huge word document?

Usually just saying what your product will look like is not a good idea. We see the world differently and the chances someone will understand your design as you imagine it is very low. To minimize the chances of confusion, the product manager must be able to explain with prototypes and wireframes how the solution will look like and how each of its functionalities will behave. It is unnecessary for that role to know Photoshop or any other professional tools. Sometimes the easiest way is the most effective one. Doing design in Powerpoint or with a dedicated tool such as Balsamiq will do the trick.

User Experience is another focus a good product manager should take into account.

If you are lucky enough to work on a greenfield project, your first customers wouldn’t mind the confusion and the need to ask more questions to get their work done. The more competition you have, the more users will demand a better experience.

That’s why many companies which started with one interface end up redesigning features to make them more accessible for the majority. One tool I had introduced in the past had a very simple interface, as the adoption increased it was time to re-design it to look more professional to encourage a larger adoption. The UX design must be reviewed regularly, not only in the silos of the company but also to be compared with the current competitors in the market.

Summary

You just read an article about what skills you need to be an excellent product manager. To take such a role it is a big responsibility and you have the chance to shape the future of a product. To do that, you must have not only the knowledge of the business your product is in. Also, you need to show with a confidence that you know the right direction to your marketing and business department. You must also be able to explain your product vision to the development team. 

The skills I had presented in this article will serve you well in your new career as a product manager.

Aleks Vladimriov is a Senior Software Developer, recognized Project Manager and Soft-skilled trainer and a coach.

Aleks Vladimirov

Solution Engineering Manager at Thales | Senior IT Professional | Startup Mentor and Product Manager

Aleks is experienced Product Manager with an engineer background and over 10 years of experience as a software developer. He works with different governments and is responsible for negotiation features and requirements, understanding the customers’ needs and supporting the senior management with regular reports and analysis. He held various positions starting as a software developer, moving to a team leader and software architect.

He strives in waterfall and agile environment alike. He is certified Scrum Master and Prince2 Practitioner and he knows how to design business processes and help teams optimize their work.
During his tenure, he had to wear many hats, prioritizing business requirements, delegating work and mentoring team members, creating mockups with Balsamiq, providing MS Project plan to the senior management.

He had worked in many international teams, located in the same city or distributed in different countries and continents. He had been a team leader of cross functional international team of 8 people.

In his current position, he is very much client focused. He has excellent presentation skills.
He delivers training sessions on presentation skills and leadership and he had helped hundred of people to improve their presentation skills.

He is also interested in creating more positive changes in the workplace by using entrepreneurship skills.
He had won startup competition where his team had validated and develop a business idea from scratch.

In his free time, he writes in his blog about effective product development.

Get the manual: "Leader as a Coach!"!

By downloading this handout you will be subscribed to our newsletter, which we send once per month. Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.
Download
  1. Elis June 30, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    Interesting article. I would like to read more about the skills needed for a PM to be successful in their career.
    Maybe some use cases of successful products and what makes a product successful?

    Thank you for this article and I am looking forward to read more articles in the future!

Comments are closed.