Product management is an extremely specialized but challenging title. A product manager serves as an expert on the product being developed while scoping the market and understanding the customer. It is the product manager that brings a product to life.
Each product manager is different and that’s what makes the role so variable and great. That said, certain skills are required of good product managers. Don’t get us wrong; there is no one size fits all for what makes one a great PM. However, some skills should be included in everyone’s toolkit if they want to ensure success.
What do product managers do exactly?
It is the job of the product manager to guide a cross-functional team throughout the strategic and tactical lifecycle of a product. This means that a project manager is involved in every critical step from ideation and roadmap to the actual development of the product. And the responsibilities don’t end there; product managers are also needed when products need to be refined.
As such, a product manager essentially ensures ongoing optimization and scaling even after a product has been successfully launched. A product manager serves as the go-to person for any decisions that have to be made relating to the product and its development. A product manager solves any issues arising while ensuring that the short and long-term needs of the customer are met.
Since a product manager must straddle many different roles and interact with various departments, a lot of a product manager’s time is spent maintaining communication between departments and different parties. At the same time, a good product manager must be able to sustain his or her own vision for the product as it aligns with the business objective.
Sound easy enough right? It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. If product management sounds like the perfect career for you, here are 5 skills that you need to master for 2021:
Great interpersonal communication skills
A project manager often has to handle various communication tasks at a time so a lot of time is spent speaking and writing. That’s why having strong interpersonal communication skills is so important for a project manager.
Product managers are basically the keepers of product knowledge, which has to be disseminated among various parties and departments. It is a product manager’s responsibility to keep all internal and external members of the team updated. As such, a product manager provides clear and comprehensive guidance as it relates to the engineering, design, and development of a product.
The poorly communicated information can result in disastrous consequences and skewed expectations. So having great interpersonal communication skills is arguably one of the most crucial responsibilities that product managers have.
A great product manager takes the time to advance his or her technical or specialized skills. While it is certainly not a requirement to have a degree to work as a product manager, one needs to at least have some basic knowledge about the technical field one is working in. Just having sufficient knowledge perhaps from a starter product management course is a great place to start.
The point is not to be an expert but to have sufficient technical insight needed to prioritize projects. Having some understanding of how technical things work ensures suitable team collaboration and management of expectations. While you will definitely come across opportunities that don’t require one to have a technical base, having technical knowledge never hurts to boost one’s job application.
Excellent team- and relationship-building abilities
Aside from ensuring that the team is kept abreast of all the important details, a product manager also has to build relationships with the customers. That’s actually one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job; customer loyalty is by far the best driver of growth in any industry.
The product manager serves as the voice of the buyer so he or she must have an intimate understanding of the customer’s needs. This is the only way that a product manager can effectively advocate for a solution that meets the customer’s needs. Having empathy for the buyer is especially vital in today’s super competitive SaaS markets.
The best thing that a product manager can do is build long-lasting relationships with customers through direct dialogue. When a PM takes the time to get to know the customer, it then becomes a lot easier to create an emotional connection with them, which makes all the difference when providing value.
Ability to work well under pressure
A good product manager must be able to prioritize as well as work well under pressure. Product managers can easily fall under the pressure of all the responsibilities. As such, a product manager should be able to roll with the punches without succumbing.
A product manager’s day is never the same as the last. The priorities of teams change constantly and a PM must respond to the changes in demand without causing the ship to sink. A successful product manager will have access to the right tools. And in this ultra-modern society that we live in, there are numerous tools that a product manager can rely on that help to make the job slightly less challenging.
An eye for design
As well as having some technical ability, good product managers should also be keen on developing a good eye for design. That’s because good design has become increasingly crucial for developing a great UX. The importance of a good user experienced is evidenced by companies such as Airbnb and Uber, which have emerged as better alternatives owing to their focus on design and aesthetics.
Understanding the components of good design doesn’t require that one develop design skills, but rather, a great PM must point out good UI and UX so that changes can be made when something doesn’t look or feel right. Incorporating good design can be the ultimate turning point for a product so PMs must combine a little bit of science and art to get it right.