Think about the word Product Manager. What is the first thing that comes to your mind?
For many people it is a person with a big team who says to the rest of the team and the company what to do! Other people perceive them as the people who lead the company to success!
Those things are partially true. The Product Managers 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 spend 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.
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, companies, big and small are adopting this technology and from a trend it become as a standard, which the customers are very used to. The product manager must be well–versed in the technologies and the latest trends. The PM need not know coding, however 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.
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.
Technical Project Manager at Thales | Entrepreneur and Facilitator | Prince2, PSMI, Soft-Skills Trainer, DTM
Alek has vast experience in Software Development as well as Project Management and training session designing and delivering.
He had been part of the Toastmaster organization and had achieved the highest award Distinguished Toastmaster(DTM)
He is certified as Scrum Master and Prince 2 Practitioner.
He is leading multiple non-profit initiatives related to training and entrepreneurship.