Product Managers are incredibly important to their product’s workflow and success. But good product managers can be hard to find, partially because it’s hard to define what exactly makes a good product manager.
In this post, we’ll go over all the important skills a product manager must have to benefit their product as well as how these qualities can be represented in your chosen product management platform.
What’s A Product Manager?
First, let’s recap what a product manager is.
Product managers are responsible for overseeing an entire product as it goes through its life cycle and different stages. They set overall product direction, so it’s crucial they understand their users’ needs in order to translate them into goals and features.
This means a product manager’s role is largely focused on research and interpreting that research to benefit both the product and its users.
The product manager has many different tasks. Let’s strip it down to the main ones:
- Managing profits, losses and resources for the product team
- Talking with users and gathering feedback to better understand user needs
- Identifying problems and potential opportunities for features
- Creating a product roadmap and defining different features for development
- Prioritizing development tickets and the overall work cycle
- Collaborating closely with other teams working on the product
Check out our article on Product Managers vs Project Managers for more details on the differences between the two roles.
Let’s go over the basic skills needed in order to be successful as a product manager.
A good product manager needs to have what’s referred to as “product sense”: a sort of intuition around what needs to be done for your product. This includes making changes, moving your product to and from different testing stages, and adding features.
Interviewing and Testing
As your product goes through its life cycle and different iterations, you’ll need to speak to your users about what they need from your product and what they want to see going forward. Part of this includes interviewing users about your product, but you can also get valuable insights from user testing as well.
As the product manager, you will be overseeing all of your company’s teams on that product. This in turn means you will be responsible for their work flow and helping the team leads and project managers achieve their targets.
One of the best ways to get this done is by running sprints and scrum meetings with team leads to stay up-to-date on everyone’s tasks and progress. This can allow you to easily check in on your teams without wasting time on minute details.
Feature Prioritization and Planning
Knowing what features to prioritize in your roadmap is crucial. As product manager, you’ll need to take the information you receive from users on your product and decide which features should be focused on and which are less important.
All of this information is crucial in creating and maintaining your roadmap. Prioritizing the wrong features or keeping low-impact features in your roadmap can drag your product down and stall its growth.
Knowing where and when to allocate resources is one of the most important skills to have as a product manager. It’s also one of the most difficult skills to learn and will take time to develop, even though intuition can help.
Each team will need a certain amount of resources to do their job--including money, time, and people--and it’s your job to figure out how to balance that alongside your given time and money constraints. You don’t want to undercut groups that need it, but at the same time, you don’t want to waste resources where they aren’t necessary.
Furthermore, the resources different groups need may change as your product grows. You’ll need to learn how to balance your resources as time goes on to maximize your budgets.
As product manager, you’ll need to have a good eye on the market you want to break into.
Does your product fill a gap? Does it meet the needs of consumers? These are all important questions to ask yourself. If you’re simply repeating things done by previous products, you might have a hard time gaining traction. Your product has to have a competitive edge in order to succeed.
Translating business requirements to different groups
As the product manager, you are the go-between for your company. It’s your job to translate business requirements to your team, and then take those technical details and explain them to shareholders and users.
Finally, you’ll have to learn how to find and track metrics for your product in order to measure your product’s success. This can be anything from work completed to customer feedback to new signups and much more
Being a product manager is no easy task. You’ll need to be able to balance several tasks at once and interact with many different kinds of people, so knowing how to properly manage your time is essential. It’s very easy to get lost in rabbit holes, but you’ll have to figure out how to invest your time to boost your product’s potential.
Emotional Intelligence Skills
Any good product manager needs to have a high EQ (Emotional Quotient) in order to succeed in their role. This means everything from being about to emphasize with customers and team members, note body language and smooth over disagreements and worries. Let’s delve into that a little deeper.
A product manager has to be able to form authentic connections with stakeholders, higher-ups and users, as well as their own team members. They have to be able to recognize their team’s individual strengths and weaknesses and use them to the team’s advantage, and inspire them to reach their goals.
But relationships will not always be smooth. This means that a product manager must also be able to resolve conflicts easily and help keep their team members working together smoothly.
Product managers need to stay self-aware and objective so their own preferences and biases don’t taint how they view their product or customers. While their personal opinions and intuition can be helpful in deciding what features to prioritize, they still need to be able to separate themselves from the product and look at it from the point-of-view of an outsider.
Furthermore, managing a product can also be incredibly stressful. You’ll get constant input from many different sources, and many people will be relying on you to get their work done. You’ll have to be able to balance this stress without getting upset at shareholders, team members or users, meaning you’ll have to know how to properly separate your emotions from your work.
Communication and Negotiation
While this can be considered part of relationship management, communication and negotiation skills are important on their own. Any good product manager needs to be able to communicate well with other teams, customers and shareholders in order to keep the product running smoothly and address any blockers or issues as they pop up.
Negotiation is another important skill to have. You’ll need to be able to take everyone’s ideas and concerns and find a solution that works for everyone.
People want to feel heard. Shareholders want to know you’re keeping their ideas in mind, team members want to know they’re a valued part of the company, and users want to know their thoughts and concerns are being heard. The most important part of this is listening. While not every request or demand can be met, it’s important that you listen to what people have to say.
Finally, good product managers need to have skills and knowledge from all of the groups working on the product. Let’s explore what that means a little deeper.
Basic Business Skills
While it may not be obvious, product managers will need some basic fluency in business, particularly regarding revenue, profit and budgeting.
These details are a vital part of your product’s details, and are necessary to the good running of your product. They are particularly important when talking to shareholders who want to know profits or potential future revenues.
Proficiency in Research and Analysis
Product roadmaps and decisions about your products (e.g. resource allocation, feature prioritization) need to be data-driven. You need to have this data ready to back up and support your decisions, and to get this data and use it efficiently you’ll need to be able to research and analyze information. This includes doing market research, using tools to compile and organize that information, and being able to interpret the information you collect.
Familiarity with Economics
Just like with basic business skills, becoming familiar with economics can help you become a better product manager. This can help you better understand budgets, resources and projected revenue and profits--and it can also help you translate and explain these comments to others.
Knowledge of Development Principles
Another helpful thing for product managers to know about is development principles. Having some familiarity with the technical details of your product can help you engage with development teams and engineering teams, in turn giving you a better idea of your product’s workflow.
Industry Insights and KPIs
Knowing industry trends and being able to track key KPIs like customer acquisition costs, conversion rates and customer satisfaction is a core product management skill. Startups face fierce competition and will need to be able to adapt to their industry’s changing trends in order to survive and meet the needs of their customers.
Knowing this information can also be helpful in creating strong use cases and stories to target new users.
Design and User Experience Knowledge
Much like with business and technical knowledge, having a decent understanding of product design can also help you understand your product and better manage all its moving parts. The design of a company can be a large part of its success, so understanding what goes into that design can be incredibly helpful.
Boost Your Product Management Skills with UserVitals
UserVitals is a great way to incorporate and use these skills in your product. As an all-in-one feedback management platform, we help you gather and organize feedback into usable data (referred to as Stories) that can help influence your product roadmap decisions and the future of your product itself.
Some of the main skills UserVitals can help you boost are Interviewing and Testing, Feature Prioritization, Metric Tracking, and Research and Analysis. First and foremost, we do most of the manual work of collecting user feedback for you from several different sources and putting it all together in one place for you to make your most informed decision without having to do as much research or search for users to interview.
When you organize these individual pieces of feedback, known as Insights, into Stories, you can then also add them to your roadmap, allowing you to easily prioritize the features you think are most important. You can also use this information to gauge whether you are meeting your set goals or metrics based on how customers feel about changes (particularly in the feedback section of our roadmap).