Product management ensures that the product is relevant to customer needs for its entire lifecycle and keeps the team agile to handle changing needs of the business or the customer. Product managers must know the product inside out, its technical abilities, customer needs, perception in the market, the team developing the product – and so on. The job involves interacting with multiple stakeholders and ensuring that product-related ideas and strategies are implemented. By aligning these ideas and techniques with the goals and objectives of the organization, product management helps in efficient usage of resources and devises strategies so that the resources are allocated equally among different teams.
Product managers are responsible for most of these activities and must be extra careful too. A slight misstep in understanding the product’s objective and the product might be closer to sunset than launch. Succeeding as a product manager is not just about the technical knowledge or the ability to handle the team: While both are essential to growing, the other factors – soft skills or innate abilities – play an important role too.
Putting customers first
Creating a customer-centric business model requires many different factors to come together. The common perception is to think of customer service teams when it comes to ‘prioritizing’ customers. Still, in reality – every member of the product team, and the larger organization, should understand why they are serving customers. Understanding customer needs at all levels is very important since customers expect a certain level of service when they buy the product. A Salesforce survey revealed that 80 percent of customers believed the brand experience to be as important as its products or services.
Improve core competencies
Product managers are the conduits between the product team and the rest of the business. They should understand how to narrate a technical tale to business guys and explain a business decision to developers because they will be doing that often. Also, to demonstrate product details to both sides of the table, product managers must know the product in and out. They get this knowledge by conducting compelling customer/user interviews, mapping overlapping ecosystems like customers, competitors, partners, and stakeholders, utilizing analytical tools, and taking customer feedback – among many other activities. Being aware of cognitive biases is a plus, and finding ways to compensate for them is a huge bonus: such as usability, usability testing, and usability heuristics. The ability to communicate user experience to relevant teams is also essential. Understanding and differentiating important work from busy work helps product managers identify time sinks and work towards automating those processes. Attention-intensive tasks like generating release notes can be delegated to tools and apps so that the product gets the most attention.
Capable of taking all information
Having the technical expertise and business know-how is essential for product managers to succeed, but it doesn’t mean they take up the role only when they know all about the product and the business. The learning happens on the job, too, more than anyone cares to admit. Creating a roadmap that lists all the features the product will have in the coming days is an excellent way to gauge the information the product manager needs – and then they can act accordingly to get that. By understanding customer issues and prioritizing features based on new customer requests, product managers also help their team members focus on the goal ahead. Learning about the latest developments from other team members during one-on-one not only keeps product managers up to date but also helps them bring the team closer.
Capable of anticipating new products
Past knowledge only indicates future success – not just for product managers but for almost everyone. But knowing the past – all about the product – does not guarantee success as a product manager because the current scenario might be entirely alien. This is where the business acumen of product managers shines – they can look at the feature sets about to come and decide which ones go in the product based on what data says. The innate understanding of the product’s capabilities can help them find new use cases, like a POS tool that can also be used for warehouse management, an OKR tool that can double up as an impromptu coaching tool, etc.
Learning, on its own, is not enough to help anyone succeed – learning with context does. As product managers have to keep in touch with the product’s technical and business aspects, they can learn from their colleagues on either side of the product. By being open to suggestions from even the newest team members (during one on ones or otherwise), product managers can not only stay up to date with the latest developments that they can leverage to take the product forward but also build an environment of trust and openness in the team.