What Makes A Good Product Manager

Top Qualities of a Good Product Manager

The Product Management position is one of the most sought-after positions in the Tech World.

The best engineers and MBA’s fight for this highly coveted title of being called a “Good Product Manager”.

But what makes a good product manager? As always, we reached out to industry leader and business coaches to find out their thoughts about this and here is what they had to share.

As you read further, you will come to know about what skills are required for product management and to be really good at it.

We hope that this article will help future product managers to hone the right skills and get out the best in the.

 

Greg Githens, PMP
Executive & Leadership Coach at http://www.StrategicThinkingCoach.com

Research shows that the top three needs of next-generation leaders are:

  1. The ability to think strategically. Strategic thinking is rare and valuable. One important responsibility is for the tech product manager is to understand the enterprise’s strategy and then formulate product-related
    strategies that enable the org. strategy. The product manager needs to articulate and discuss strategy.
  2. An understanding of the organisation’s value proposition and how it fits into its ecosystem. The product’s value proposition is a reflection of the organisational value proposition.
  3. The ability to drive change. There are many competing priorities in product management, so the PM uses her strategic thinking to help navigate the many demands and optimise designs.

 

Jamie Conklin
VP of Product,
Astraea, Inc

The most important skill is empathy.
As a product manager, you need to see the world from three perspectives:

  • The customer or user
  • The development team
  • The company leadership

The better you can understand the priorities, motivations, and objectives of these three groups the better you will be able to communicate between these teams and find the spot in the middle where the product should be.

Communication
As a PM, I spend a great deal of my time communicating between the groups above to ensure everything remains aligned.

I also spend a great deal of time working with marketing to ensure that we communicate externally in an effective way i.e. speak to the buyers and users

Software development as a practice
You don’t need to be a developer, but you have to “get developers.” You have to know how they work, what they like, and how to balance quality against speed to delivery.

Business Skills
You need to know what makes the business tick”; you need to know business strategy, you need to understand the vision of the company, the role of the product in that vision, and how that aligns with the customer needs.

The balance between vision leadership and customer leadership
Until you have customers, your organization is completely vision led.

Once you have a product in the wild, customers should drive your thinking for the most part,

BUT,

to truly disrupt, you need to see a better world for your customers, not just the one they envision tomorrow.

 

James Sear
Co-founder at
Avion

Key Skill 1: Prioritisation
Prioritisation requires the ability to balance the business goals and strategy with the features needed by end users. Often there is a conflict when prioritisation is involved, and a product manager must be able to make a decision and stand strong when challenged. This must be enabled at the business level by giving the product manager the authority to make such decisions.

There are many techniques to help with feature prioritisation — MoSCoW and Kano are both simple to understand and can be done using either post-its or spreadsheets — or both. For a more ongoing style of prioritisation that can help shape the roadmap, user story mapping is unmatched. This can be done with post-its, which is a great collaborative exercise, but often remote-teams require a digital copy of the story map. There are a few good tools available such as — Avion, FeatureMap and Cardboard.

Key Skill 2: Listening & Communication
Product managers need to have refined listening skills to get the most out of retrospectives and planning meetings. Often a product manager needs to listen to problems but be able to identify a deeper issue. This could be a developer that isn’t happy on the team or a stakeholder that isn’t happy with the product direction.

As well as listening, a product manager needs to be able to communicate effectively. Tasks such as articulating upcoming work and features to the already technical development team, talking to stakeholders about future vision, speaking at conferences to spread awareness or writing public release notes for anyone to read and understand — require sharp speaking and writing skills.

 

Brian Mitchell
Manager of Digitalization, SKF’s Lubrication Management Division

  1. Ability to prioritize and ruthlessly focus – Between customers in different industries, global sales people focused solely on closing today’s deal and the typical chaos of the business world, the scope can grow out of control quickly if you let it. I look for Product Managers that can quickly identify a clear profitable market opportunity and keep development teams focused on only this. The Product Manager must stand at the front of the ship and give clear direction. This means telling some customers no. This means taking tough and sometimes unpopular positions. If you can’t do this confidently, the role is not for you.
  2. Finding the balance between speed to market and robustness – There is constant pressure from the business side to release now. Similarly, engineers are never confident enough in their work to sign off as done. A Product Manager’s biggest responsibility is to find that right point where the core features are solid enough that you don’t compromise quality and at the same time taking the right amount of risk with non-core functionality to be quick to market. The double-edged sword of waiting too long and releasing poor product causes some Product Managers to spiral into analysis paralysis. If you demonstrate that you know the sweet spot, you’re a valuable candidate.

 

Adrian Domocos
Brand Evangelist,
flipsnack.com

A Product Manager needs to be versatile not volatile, understanding and not rigid. These are the qualities of a great leader. From a technical perspective, the ideal Product Manager should have advanced knowledge in marketing and business and a great understanding of the customers. Technical knowledge (if we’re talking about a product manager of a tech team) definitely helps build great relationships with the team. You will also be able to understand their impediments and problems better if you’ve been doing the same work they do. Before I became Product Manager, I was a web developer for a while and then I worked within the customer care department, which helped me understand the needs of our clients. Without that experience, I would’ve failed.

 

Craig Borowski
Content Lead,
The Blueprint

A product manager in a tech company is the connection between the business and the technology solutions it creates. To make that connection effectively, they need to have a great understanding of the customer and how the business serves them so they can design and prioritize the right solutions. So product management isn’t really a career people can just jump right in to. A lot of product managers get their start working a more traditional role in non-technical parts of the business, like sales, design, or marketing. I started my career in marketing and now, as a product manager, that experience helps me prioritize product features to best meet the needs of our target markets. All good product managers are good problem solvers. They need to think creatively to find the best solutions, with the best ROI, given whatever technology options are available. They also need to be great at communication. They need to translate business and customer requests into requirements and stories that the engineering teams can create solutions for. For those with the right skillset, tech product management can be a very rewarding career!

 

Julia Duran
CEO,
Southgeeks.com

We vet Product Managers on a daily basis and we look for a combination of hard and soft skills. For hard skills, we pay special attention to technologies used in the past, kind of products developed, industries candidates work in, and education. For soft skills, we look for a sweet balance of good communication and good listening skills. We look for people that understand businesses, indeed we ask them to describe a product-based business they like and describe their model. Last, we look for people with a high level of curiosity, which we believe to be essential for the role.

 

Jacob Ross
VP, Product,
Mio

Here are the skills needed to become a Product Manager:

Leadership skills are the most important. I purposely used the term leadership instead of management because a lot of the time, Product Managers only have soft power. In most companies, you don’t have any hard or direct power over the talented folks building your product. Leadership rallies the team behind a common cause offers them a sense of ownership, and that’s when teams really perform well.

You also need to be able to split your brain in two. You must maintain a strategic mindset as you build out the roadmap and never lose sight of the vision while at the same time be deeply familiar with the operational framework in which the vision is implemented. If you get too detached from the operational side, you open yourself up to internal risk. I.e. if you lose sight of the vision, you are at risk of building the wrong thing.

Having a strong knowledge of the software development lifecycle makes the job easier. You don’t feel like an outsider to the Engineering team when you understand their challenges. I highly recommend adopting a discipline that will help you better execute (e.g. Scrum, Lean, Waterfall, XP, etc) and then become an expert on the tools that help you implement your discipline (e.g. Atlassian tools, Roadmonk, Trello, Project, etc.)

 

Samuel Johns
Career Counselor and Resume Expert,
Resumegenius.com

Product managers need a good balance between hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills include the skills needed to effectively use the technology you’re managing. What you should list depends on the tools you’ll need to use in the specific role you’re applying for. You should review the job posting and make sure you list the skills provided in it.

For instance, if the job posting calls for candidates with experience using Agile project management and Jira, then it’s essential you include these in your skills section — as long as they are among your skills of course.

Soft skills are those that you need to effectively manage your team. Chief among your soft skills are interpersonal skills, organizational skills, and management skills since you’ll be responsible for motivating and leading people. These skills are fairly universal in tech companies, but you should still check the job description to make sure you include the skills the job requests. Because product managers have to demonstrate a large variety of hard and soft skills, I often advise clients to add an extra “Technical Skills” section to their resumes so they can add all of the hard skills employers look for in technology — a competitive and specialized industry.

 

Nikola Baldikov
Digital Marketing Manager, www.brosix.com

In my experience, soft skills are the most essential for effective project managers, and often the most overlooked. Most people associate project management with organizational and analytical skills, which definitely have their place. However, given the fact that project managers have to work with a wide range of people in order to guide them through a complex, multi-phase process, soft skills are arguably more important. Things like leadership, communication and teamwork are essential for effective project managers. In other words, the ability to work with, lead and inspire people are what defines a great project manager, not only their ability to understand complex processes.

 

Stacy Matyl
Marketing Specialist, ScienceSoft

Product management is about taking accountability. Product managers control the development process, find and maximize business value, plan and execute the marketing & PR strategy. Consequently, to become a good product manager, one should combine the roles of a project manager, a business analyst and a marketing specialist.

To suit for an entry-level product manager position, a candidate should have valid experience in one of the three fields and basic knowledge of the other two. Technical background, deep hands-on experience in the relevant business field, prototyping skills, and statistical knowledge will be a substantial advantage. Also, product managers should be good at communicating and tailoring their messages to different groups. They’ll often have to become a mediator between developers, end users and business stakeholders.

 

Malte Scholz
Head of Product and Co-Founder, Airfocus

If you want to become a product manager, these are the key competencies you
need to possess:

– conducting customer interview
– feature road mapping and prioritization
– allocating resources
– market research
– tracking key metrics
– communicating between the development, marketing and sales team
– reporting key metrics to upper management

Primarily, someone who works as a product manager needs to be an excellent communicator. They need to be the bridge between the development team and the app users and prioritize what gets built next. It’s not an easy position to be in but success in this role is very rewarding.

 

Marin Mortenson
Product Manager,
https://www.seniorleaf.com/

The most important aspects of my role as a product manager are intense organization and attention to detail. It’s my responsibility to understand the overall goals of the business and then oversee the day-to-day minutiae to make sure we meet those goals. I manage the relationships between multiple teams — design, development, marketing, stakeholders, etc. — it’s a fantastic juggling act. The necessary skills include: emotional intelligence (empathy is huge), problem-solving (overcoming challenges is a daily occurrence), and an analytical mindset (I’m always thinking of ways to improve our products and those of our competitors).

 

If you can add to the list or have any feedback about the above, get in touch with us at hello@dignitas.digital

 

(FYI we are also hiring Product Managers)