6 Critical Skills to be a Successful Product Manager
Looking for a role in technology as a product manager? There are important skills to take into account. There is no hard and fast rule to becoming a product manager and no direct course you can take. Job descriptions change depending on the product and involves working with teams. JD's can also change depending on the industry and how big the organisation is. Are you looking for a startup or a multinational company?
Before we take a look at what key skills are significant for a product manager role, let us take a look at the basics. From a foundational level, we define product management and what is involved.
What is Product Management?
Product management involves the building of products. Product managers develop them and bring them to life via a series of tests, and prototypes. The process involves determining what features to build or update, and how this will be built. Time is important as well. A product manager ensures pre-determined deadlines are met with their development team. Throughout the development actionable insights are formed from data collection. Then there is the product launch, which brings a new product to the market. And the whole cycle starts again.
There are a certain set of technical skills required that make for a good product manager. These are the following:
Data Collection & Extraction
Product managers need to be able to make a decision upon insights from data. This backs up features upgrades and changes to design for instance. How do they do this? By knowing where to look and how to gather the data. Knowing popular database languages such as SQL is helpful to assimilate the information. Analysis and presentation comes next. This is where Excel comes in handy, plus platforms such as Tableau or tools like Powerpoint.
This is where Google Sheets or Excel come in handy. Both enable the use of macros, pivot tables and filters to help make sense of data. Filters allow you to sift through and pinpoint patterns during analysis. This is time-efficient and helps provide accuracy to your theories. Valuable insights can be made actionable and you will have the data to back it up to management.
This involves the preliminary design with its function designed for testing. This means the physical product created if it is a hardware for instance. The prototype can also be a software though. In both cases, a prototype helps to visually convey a product to the audience. This could be the target market or internally with stakeholders or management. Functions and features become tangible. This is where UX designers create mockups and renderings with Figma, Sketch, and Adobe.
Part of the process to determine how successful a product is can be done through A/B testing. It allows a product to be tested in a controlled environment with two comparable options. Option A or option B. With the results, a product management team can decide which option worked best. This helps to determine the next course of action that can be used for the product launch. Data-based evidence is used to make the business decision. This can be applied to anything from design to functions to marketing campaigns.
You may well think that a product manager does not need communication skills. After-all, they may not be customer-facing. That being said, knowing how to speak with and coordinate with your team is half the work. A product manager is half boss and half teammate. Part of the time, you will need to make sure everyone is on track and push to meet a deadline. The other time, you will be working as equals alongside developers and engineers. You may also need to work with sales and marketing teams, so knowing when to use technical jargon is vital.
The role of a product manager is cross-functional, spanning many teams. You need to know how to explain what the team is working on and what it is taking so long, while having their back. At the same time, you need to be able to express understanding for the other party you are liaising with. Remaining amicable is key.
Another important aspect of being a product manager is knowing when not to get carried away. Sure, things can be exciting and widely innovative. But check that the data matches up with the purpose and needs. Or make sure that it is feasible in 'x' timeframe.
At the end of the day, there may be no standard job description. This does not mean that you cannot work your way towards being a great product manager. These skills can be acquired over time to help you land that position. If you are able to nail a bit of every one of these skills, you will be trusted among stakeholders. You will also be seen as a worthy candidate with credibility.