10 Skills for Product Management Professionals

Skills for Product Management

A couple of weeks ago, I had written extensively about the difference between product management vs project management. That should have given you a segue to help you understand the necessary skills for product management. I’m assuming you are here to figure out when in your career you should consider becoming a product manager and what it really takes, in the skillset department, to become a great product manager.

Product management roles have been continually evolving due to the rapid advancements in technology. Companies are embracing change in a whole new way and technology is at the helm of all these changes. Product management professionals are able to oversee a number of these changes while working with multiple stakeholders to ensure the products they are working on are future-ready. As a product manager, you are required to wear multiple hats donning multiple responsibilities. These range from analytical reasoning, technical implementation, user experience enhancements, and stakeholder management. Let’s take a look at what big companies like Google and Microsoft are looking for in a product manager to fill in their positions.

What is the Role of a Product Manager?

This is the person that overlooks the development of products for a company. They are the ones responsible for leading cross-function teams that will eventually contribute towards developing, ideating, and launching a product into the market. There is a lot of misunderstanding around the word product so just to make it clear, when we say product, it covers a service or an actual item that consumers can purchase. This could be a physical or digital product or service.

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.

Bill Gates, Microsoft

What are the Skills of Product Management Professionals?

Apart from the attention to detail, a Product Manager or PM is responsible for performing user research and understanding the overall customer requirement. It is their responsibility to create and communicate a strategy for the design and development teams. A clear product roadmap and an overall vision need to be supplied to stakeholders. Additionally, a PM is required to set objectives or goals that align the company with consumer demand. Being able to achieve these goals means that PMs also need to work closely with sales and marketing teams to help them build product information, documentation, and campaigns to help sell the product effectively.

In order to fulfill the duties of a Product Manager, they have to be skilled in various other departments too. These could include soft skills, people management, and leadership. The ability for a PM to make conscious decisions is a great skill to have. Communication is key to keep stakeholders updated. PMs need to be technically sound and should have a business mindset. Analytical reasoning is another great skill to master if you want to become a PM. You would also need to balance out your interpersonal skills and be able to manage teams with delegation management. Clearly, there’s a lot to do. Let’s take a deeper dive into exactly what do all these skills entail.

Communication Skills

A lot of your time as a Product Manager will go into communicating. This could be over calls, presentations, and emails. PMs require to maintain logs of documentation and provide sprint updates which all can be bucketed as communication. Being able to communicate with colleagues and stakeholders is key to getting the job done right. Without excellent communication skills, you and the company will struggle.

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas.

Steve Jobs, Apple

Technical Skills

Building a product requires a lot of understanding of how the product is intended to function. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. PMs are expected to have a thorough understanding of what it takes to technically build and overcome obstacles. PMs are expected to work alongside designers, developers, engineers, and system administrators. Therefore they are required to understand the nitty-gritty of design, function, and user experience.

Business Skills

A lot of PMs are under the wrong impression that they only need to serve as the coordinator. Many PMs do not understand basic business competencies. These are super important to make sure that they can do their jobs well and help the business grow. When building a product roadmap, PMs need to understand the company’s goals, expect profits and margins. Being able to budget finances with third-party integrations and still managing to remain profitable is why PMs need to focus on honing their business skills.

Research Skills

Market research is an essential element when it comes to product development. Product managers are required to conduct user interviews, study market patterns, and understand what the latest trends are. Data analytics, research skills, and reasoning are important skills that every product manager needs to master.

Analytical Skills

After conducting user research, PMs need to be able to creatively analyze the data they have received and process it into actionable insights. PMs must be able to understand the data they have at hand and use it to their advantage to improve functionality and implement customer-oriented features.

Interpersonal skills

We’ve already covered why communication skills are vital in this role. But we cannot leave out the need for interpersonal skills too. Product Managers need to be highly skilled people managers and this can be achieved with the right interpersonal skills. Working with stakeholders, peer team members, and other cross-functional teams will not only help PMs communicate their vision clearly but also will contribute towards onboarding decision-makers in the process. Interpersonal skills go beyond the boardroom and ensure that PMs are ready to serve emotional intelligence, listening skills, and collaborative efforts in their daily routine.

Marketing Skills

I like to think of a Product Manager as that person that bridges the gaps between the operation teams and marketing teams. This is why it is important that PMs have a sense of marketing acumen that helps them sell their product better. PMs are required to develop new and creative ways of sharing marketing collaterals with sales and business development teams which means that they have to be great at being able to pitch their product.

Delegation Skills

This is where teamwork comes into the picture. Product Managers need to work with Program Managers to understand where they can delegate. PMs need to have the right understanding of different teams across the organization. They further need to understand which people in their teams have the right skillsets. By doing so, PMs will be able to delegate responsibilities to creative leaders and help with a holistic product rollout. Product Managers should be able to identify which teams have the greatest strengths and use them to their advantage. Being able to work in a lean environment that is scalable is super important to any PM.

Any damn fool can make something complex, it takes a genius to make something simple.

Pete Seeger, Product Director at Docusign

Strategic Skills

I have come to realize that strategy is one of the most crucial factors that every other PM needs to understand. Being able to think logically through every sprint is the ideal roadmap every product needs to go on. PMs need to be efficient with strategies that range from market demand right up to supply chain management. Being able to fully understand a product means knowing a product’s lifecycle and further understanding all the smaller details that come along with it.

Prioritization Skills

Finally, PMs need to be able to learn to prioritize the work they need to be executed. This may sound easy to do at first. But when you are presented with concrete timelines, limited resources, and skill bandwidth, you will find yourself disoriented. Take a breath, understand the requirements in detail and make a decision on what needs to be achieved first. Save the rest for later. Great prioritization skills are not achieved overnight but it is important.

Need some personal guidance? Reach out to me on Twitter. We can talk about these skills for product management or anything related to user experience. Alternatively, if you’d like to get started with UX, here’s an article about 12 Easy Ways to Improve User Experience.

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