Why should you not be a Product Manager ?
Being in the Product Management role for quite some time now, I've come across many articles, information and debates on the roles and responsibilities of a Product Manager and all aspects of Product Management.
But then I realized that there is no information on why one shouldn't be a Product Manager. In this article, I will be discussing what a Product Manager should be good at, ideally, and if you are not good, you should really ask yourself, “is this role really meant for me”?
So let’s talk about what should be the essential skills, which a Product Manager should be good at.
Strategic Thinking :
“Sound strategy starts with having the right goal.” — Michael Porter.
As a Product Manager, you should have a proper vision of goals you are trying to achieve. There should be a proper thought, timeline and process backing every new feature and product you work upon, so that at the end of it, you have achieved what you really set out to achieve at the beginning of the sprint.
Managing Cross-functional Work :
As a Product Manager, you are always at the center of action in an organization. When you are managing a product, each function in your organization have their expectations from you. Being a Product Manager you have to wear each of the functional hats in the final decision making process. Everyone wants the piece of decision making cake and as Product Manager, you have to make sure each one get it, but not at the cost of a wonderful product. This is a skill set which can’t be taught; you develop it with time & experience.
As a Product Manager, you will face situations where you will have a lot of requests and issues to manage. Requests coming from across the functions, user demands, on site issues and many more.
Then it becomes really important for you to weigh, which one of these requests to prioritize and in which order. So, for e.g. , an issue which is breaking some important feature on your website can be of high priority as compared to launch of a feature which is still not on your website but is supposed to give you better user metrics. Many such trivial situations will come your way, for which you will need to take decisions in a second to decide the priority of an item in your product pipeline.
Data Driven :
Which feature to build — which feature to drop is a constant question in the life of a Product Manager. Though you know, you can take such decisions on assumptions at times, it makes the decision making process a lot easier, if the facts are backed by some data.
One of the qualities of a successful Product Manager is that you should be able to identify and cull out data relevant in your decision making process. You don’t want to be in a situation, where you have built a feature and ignored the data which it supports, only to realize that it was a junk feature to have in the first place.
Understanding of The Product :
The best of the products are made when you know exactly what you are working on. The clarity of thought, requirements and goals help in identifying, what are going to be the set of features in a particular product. It is always a good practice to do some research on the product and understand how a particular feature is essential or non essential for your product.
You should also be aware of the different phases which your product will go through, before the final outcome materializes. Having an understanding of the Product Life Cycle, helps in managing the product strategy from inception to completion.
Understanding of User Experience :
Whom are you building the product for ? Who will be the end user of your product ? What are their problems and expectations you are trying to address ? Will they be able to use the product efficiently without any hassle ? These are some of the user related questions, which a Product Manager should be able to answer with their final product.
The most important thing for a product person should always be to deliver better end-user experience. If the end user is facing problems using the product, know that your product has serious user experience (UX) problems and you need to fix it for it to be successful. Make life easier for the end user, don’t complicate it. Give them what they want, not what you want.
Good Influencer / Negotiator :
A Product Manager needs to be a good influencer. The person should have good relationships with key decision makers across functions and in the organization. This really helps, when you want to get work done and make everyone believe in your decisions you make for your product. You will need good communication skills and the penchant to work with others to become a good negotiator.
This comes handy when you have to get your work done from your peers in other functions. You can’t be a suppressor, you need to be friendly and approachable, the way you act with everyone, the same way they respond. You need to create a good influencing effect.
Decision Maker :
As a Product Manager, you will have to take decisions everyday. The decisions you take can make or break the final product. Not only product, it can have an adverse effect on your working with other functions as well.
To make the correct decision, you need to be the smart thinker. One who can foresee the outcome of a decision being made. At times, you will have a lot of opinions to make the final decision, that’s the moment, when you have to meet the expectations by taking the correct decision. And at times, you will find yourself alone in the decision making process, where you will need to take critical calls on your own. For e.g., recently I faced a situation where I had to choose between business objective and user experience, and I took the call, that UX is more important and we should go for it because users will bring business not that business will call the users. Result, even UX remained good and business objective was also met.
As a Product Manager, you mind should be clear and smart enough, that, every decision which you make is backed by a proper outcome. Sometimes, you will be taking decision with uncertain outcomes, but that’s ok, you need to take risks at time. Taking good and proper decisions, will not only help you develop good products, but also a healthy working environment.
Leadership Skills :
As a Product Manager you have to play dual roles — of a curator as well as a creator. You will have a lot of resources at your disposal and then you will have to lead the way for everyone to make the best out of the available resources at hand. Whenever anyone will have any doubt about anything related to the product you are working upon, they will come to you first for the right answers. As a good leader you will have to welcome each question asked to you and reply with a proper answer.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” — Jack Welch
There will be situations, when your mates in your team will be completely blank about what they want to achieve or do. You will then need to step up and wear the hat of a creator. Give them ideas, show them the path which leads to achievement of these goals. This is also the time, when you can establish your faith as a team leader. How ? By being an influencer…!
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” — Steve Jobs
This pretty much is the aspect, which will make you outstanding in the final decision making process. One way of doing things, is to go the traditional way and keep achieving what everyone has been doing. But if you want to make your product outstanding, you will need to innovate on it.
Users will not come to your product or remember your product, if you are doing pretty much the same stuff or copying others. You need to innovate new ways for using the product which, at the end helps in making life much easier for the end user.
A good Product Manager is one who encompasses all the above attributes. Success is secondary. If you think, you possess these qualities, then this is the role for you. The second question to answer is whether you will be able to manage and execute these traits properly. If yes, then this is the role for you. Of course there is ambiguity but in your first few days or weeks you should be able to assess whether this is the role for you or not.
Just know the fact that, almost everyone who is using the product thinks he is a Product Manager. But a good Product Manager is one who knows and understands what he has made and for what purpose and what’s good and what’s bad in the product. These traits will help you achieve the role as an ideal Product Manager, but if you are doubtful about any of this, you won’t be doing justice to this role. This role should excite you with new ideas, products and features you build. Product Management is a role to be enjoyed and not something done, just for the sake of doing it.
*This article was originally posted on HTCampus.com.