5 Must-have Skills for Product Managers in 2019

The role of product management has been around as long as we have had products. If we go back through history, we can see that one person would build a product, such as a chair, from end to end. Slowly, as output and distribution broadens, you bring in others to manage your assembly line. Each complicated process can be broken down into individual tasks, which requires the right skills for product managers to oversee. 

In today’s world of software, this process has only become faster, bigger, and more iterative. Product Managers are responsible for arranging of moving parts, and they must simplify complex scenarios for clients, stakeholders, and team members. 

The PM has to expertly steer their metaphorical fleet of ships simultaneously and without crashing. They work closely with design, engineering, marketing, and sales, which all have different goals and priorities. To be successful, the PM must speak the language of each team to align everyone in one direction. They act as a translator to facilitate and synchronize communication between groups. 

Skills that define a Product Manager

A core skill set is necessary for Product Managers to perform their jobs smoothly. Whether high levels of skills or tactical, the heart of the role depends on communication and synchronization. Harnessing these skills will allow product managers to be more effective in their role. 

1. Listening

A good product manager has to listen to their clients and team members. They are curious and adept at asking the right qualifying questions to communicate the story accurately. Being a good listener means genuinely being in tune with the cadence of the project and team. A good product manager will synthesize what they hear to further project goals or team success. They must be shameless about accepting blame and selfless about giving praise. 

2. Writing

A Product Manager’s greatest weapon is their writing skills. It is how they demonstrate market and product understanding to their clients. It is how they craft features and ideas and convey them to team members. Good writing allows product managers to explain and promote features and frameworks to their team and clients. 

3. Establishing Credibility

A product manager’s success hinges on their ability to establish credibility, particularly at the beginning of a project. This allows them to build trust with their team by adding value and making team member’s jobs easier. For example, maybe you cannot code, but you can write definitions of done for your dev team so that they can test and ship faster. You might not be able to design, but you can clarify and write design use cases so that your designer can focus on prioritizing the user. Establishing credibility relies on writing skills to get your team members the necessary information to allow them to be successful. 

Another method of establishing credibility is choosing a project framework and sticking to it. This will outline the heuristics and success metrics for the project. It doesn’t matter what framework you pick in the beginning; it just matters that you have one in place so that you can build a habit with your team of following sequential and thoughtful steps. Once you build this habit of communication, this can grow and expand to bigger projects as well. You can iterate on your initial framework to find one that suits your team’s needs. 

4. Data Analytics

Product Managers should be inherently curious. They continuously need to learn about the latest tech trends and coding language. In every project, it is crucial that they use their creativity to run experiments and validate findings with data. Some more technical product managers can use SQL or querying languages, whereas less technical PMs can use dashboards or BI tools layered on top. The method doesn’t matter as long as the PM is creative and resourceful when finding useful data to support their hypotheses. 

5. Prioritization

Prioritization of tasks and features is essential for project success. Product Managers in early stages mostly rely on their intuition and gut. At later stages with more features, this becomes increasingly challenging. With more moving parts, it becomes harder to see what is an essential task. A useful metric can be to focus on tasks that are high value and low effort. Many tasks like these will add up quickly and strengthen project success metrics. A PM must also discern what value each feature has to the user and the business. Understanding the value will illuminate the necessity of features. In addition, some features may only have long term value, but less so in the short term. In these instances, the product manager must rely on their instincts, which they can slowly build time. 

Garnering these skills will guide you towards being a successful product manager. It will take time and consistent effort to nurture your product management skills.

Done with Step 0? Learn about all the steps in Product Development from this series.

To unpack more questions related to product development dive into our Product Podcast.

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Suja Manandhar

Suja Manandhar is a Business Development Officer at Leapfrog Technology Inc. She is an avid reader and loves to explore about the impacts technology creates in businesses.

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