Product Management Skills Guide

Guide to Product Management Skills

This is a list of some of the soft skills you need in order to succeed as a product manager. You can read more on each topic by clicking the link below each heading.

1. Subject Matter Expertise

One of the main requirements for any Product Management role is that you become a Subject Matter Expert. A Subject Matter Expert is someone that has gained sufficient knowledge and experience in a market or industry segment. They are the “go to” person in their organization for any given subject. The need for product managers to have Subject Matter Expertise is manifold. Here are a few areas where they prove most useful: More info Product Management Subject Matter Expertise

2. Product Management Leadership

Product Management Leadership

Product Management Leadership

As a Product Manager, you will be required to be a leader and a champion of the product that you are responsible for. In practice, most of the time, this means that you will be leading without authority. Leading without authority is a critical skill that needs to be adopted by all Product Managers. So what does leading without authority entail and why do you need to do it? Well, there are volumes and volumes written on it so this is going to be a brief overview of the most salient points. To be a successful Product Manager, you will have to learn strong leadership skills. Not everyone is born a leader and even those that have a natural flair for it still need to learn the skills that will enable them to deal with most eventualities. Product managers are usually leaders in their organizations, as they are responsible for leading the team towards the goal of creating successful products. Despite this responsibility, the people on their team rarely report to them, meaning that the product manager needs to lead through their leadership abilities as they have no authority. They can do this through setting an inspiring vision and strategy for the team and clearly communicating it. Good leadership also requires interpersonal skills, like transparency and authenticity. More info on Product Management Leadership

3. Being a Part of a Product Management Cross-Functional Team

Product Management Cross-Functional Team Guide

Product Management Cross-Functional Team Guide

There are two types of cross-functional teams:
  • Cross-Functional Project Teams These are convened as part of a project. They are transitory and only last for the duration of a project. They are a collective that comes together to complete a series of tasks in concert in order to deliver a finite goal or set of goals.
  • Cross-Functional Product Teams These are usually formed at the inception of the product/product line concept phase and remain in place until the product/product line is phased out.
More info on Product Management Cross Functional Teams

4. Product Management Decision Making

Product Management Decision Making

Product Management Decision-Making Guide

Decision making can be described as the ability to form a conclusion or to come up with a solution to a given problem or issue. There are always decisions to be made. Our minutes, hours and days are filled with choices that we make decisions about. As a Product Manager, decision making takes on a different slant because every decision that you make in your role affects many others and your company. Good decision-making skills are vital for being an effective product manager. Product managers have to make many decisions every day about everything between backlog prioritization, product design and bug triaging. A product manager who get things done is a product manager who prioritizes ruthlessly and makes effective decisions. What and how decisions are made can result in either a well functioning team or the complete opposite. More info on Product Management Decision Making

5. Product Management Market Research

Product Management Marketing Guide

Product Management Marketing Guide

As a Product Manager, formal market research may or may not be a part of your role. In some organizations – especially larger companies – formal market research is carried out by a specialist function in the marketing department. At smaller organizations, product managers may be asked to play this role. More info on Product Management Market Research

6. Product Management Competitive Analysis

PM Competitive Analysis Guide

PM Competitive Analysis Guide

Competitive Analysis is something that every organization carries out either formally or informally. As a Product Manager, the information gathered during the process of carrying out competitor analysis is vital to successfully carrying out your brief. The competitive analysis concerns itself with analysing your business, its product and product lines versus those of your competitors and potential competitors in the market place. Before you get started on fresh analysis, it is important to find out what your organization’s position is on competitive analysis. At larger organizations, you might even find out that there are one or two departments already tasked with this data gathering. If there are, make sure that you interact with them and obtain as much of their data as possible. You may even be able to get access to their libraries of industry subscriptions (electronic and paper). If there is no formal competitive analysis carried out or it is not updated or reliable, then you need to put your own process in place. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet with ancillary evidence. You are basically going to build a profile for each of your competitors which you will compare to a profile of your own organization. This will help you to monitor all sorts of data such as your products performance versus theirs; your market share versus theirs; your products features versus theirs and so on. You will also carry out a SWOT analysis to determine your respective strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. More info on Product Management Competitive Analysis

7. Product Management Market Segmentations

Product management market segmentation

Product management market segmentation

Market Segmentation is a strategy used by businesses to determine a subset of customers to target within a market. Dividing a market up in this way allows businesses to make more effective use of their resources. This dovetails with the Product Manager’s number one goal in life: better understanding the customers’ needs! Accurate Market Segmentation is a key practice for any Product Manager. Without this in-depth knowledge of the market, there can be no way of knowing your customers’ needs or which sections of the market to specifically target. More info on Product Management Market segmentation

8. Identifying Target Markets in Product Management

Product management market target

Product management market target

Once you have identified the segments that make up your market, you need to then decide which of these segments you are going to target for potential customers. In order to make this decision, you need to carry out some analysis of the segments whilst bearing in mind your business goals and budget. More info on Product Management Market Targeting

9. Product Management Analytical Skills

If a product manager needs to make and communicate decisions – what should drive these decisions? The answer is data. A good product manager doesn’t make decisions based on gut or instinct, but instead makes informed decisions by seeking out the right data and analyzing it. They are armed with insights and knowledge of the right methods for finding the answers. You can read more about Product Management Analytics.

10. Product Management Strategic Thinking Skills

The set of skills that the product managers need to bring to the team is strategic thinking, to complement the skills of engineers, designers, marketers and others. Strategic thinking is all about understanding the current market, how it is developing and competition – it is about asking the right questions in order to define the right problems to solve and a roadmap. You can read more about Product Management Strategy here, and also read about how to create a roadmap here.

11. Product Management Collaboration Skills

In order to be successful, a product manager has to collaborate with both members on the team and across other departments. It can be a challenge as the people you will need to bring together are of diverse backgrounds, skill-sets and professions. In order to push your product forward, you will not only work with a development team, but you also need to collaborate well with stakeholders, other product managers and the leadership team by listening and channeling their point of view. You can read more about collaboration here. You can also find more information on how to manage stakeholders here.

12. Product Management Influencing

The product manager role requires leadership without authority. This means that you will have to lead through influence – to get others to adopt your priorities and help you succeed. Through building strong relationships, you will have to earn respect and persuade with data, logic, enthusiasm, and credibility. Learn how to gain influence in Product Management

13. Product Management Communication

As a product manager needs to educate the team and stakeholders on his or her product and evangelize it, communicate decisions, data and results, interpret and forward information from as well engineers as designers and more, excellent communication skills are essential. You need to know how to be clear, concise and direct, in both written and verbal communication. You can learn more about communication in Product Management