Overview on the role of Product Manager for Digital product

I have been working as a Product Manager for 2 years. In my previous role, I was a consultant for a large tech consulting company. When I first started, I was struggling for the first few months. There were areas which I did not have enough skills to perform the Product Manager role effectively.

Since then, I started putting together a “manual” of sort where someone new without previous experience can read up on and make the transition to the new role a smoother one. Below is the first part of my manual.

Definition of the role

A Product Manager is a person responsible and accountable for a solution to a problem. I define the the word “Manager” as “a person who is responsible and accountable” for something and “Product” as “a solution to a business problem”. This is based on my belief that when you manage something, you are accountable and a Product has to solve a problem.

The critical five hard skills which a Product Manager need to have, in no particular order:

  • Project management
  • Analytical
  • Technical
  • Business
  • Product sense

The soft skills required are:

  • Communication
  • People Management

The level of knowledge in each area will vary for different PM when you start. I believe it is possible to establish a minimum requirements for each area before one can call oneself a Product Manager. Some may even argue that you have different types of Product Managers, depending on various level of skills in each area.

The ideas are explained by Uri Haramati (Link to article)

What I do not have on my list is “Wackiness” which I think can be called “Creativity” or “Originality”. This one as the author acknowledged is hard to defined. My objective is to define and guide new Product Manager on the journey, I would like to focus on areas which can be clearly defined and practiced.

I am taking a shot as defining what a new PM needs to know for each area. As a new PM, I think you can start with knowing i.e. aware and understand the definitions and concepts of these areas. To improve your skills, you will need to get your hands dirty and have a go at all these areas to build up your experiences.

Analytical

Analytical works typically are done to understand how end users are using the Product. Then for Analytical you need to know:

  • How to define relevant Metrics. This means you need understanding about the problem you are solving. Each problem will require a different set of metrics
  • Statistics concepts
  • Analytical tools and technology available to collect the data for your metrics
  • Data querying

Technical

This means skills and knowledge required to create a Product. Since we are dealing with Digital product, you need to know about the concepts of Software Development. Key concepts are, in random orders:

  • Application/ System Architecture
  • Data model
  • At least one programming language
  • Methodologies for Software development
  • Web/Mobile application
  • Available cloud based technology and services

When I first started, I had knowledge in Java, SQL, Database concepts, Waterfall and Agile methodologies, Web application architecture. I was struggling to understand about mobile application and its release method and cloud based services such as AWS, Firebase, Parse, Cloudflare, Digital Ocean etc…

Business

In essence, you need to know how a business operates. That means knowing about:

  • Revenue, cost, profit i.e. how a business makes money and sustain itself
  • Different functions forming a business and what values they provide to the business e.g. Sales, Finance, Product, Customer service, HR, Service delivery, Marketing
  • Business strategy
  • Market and regulatory environment

I obtained these understandings from my Commerce degree and these have been sufficient for me so far. Over the course of my career, I learnt from reading various business books about market and other companies to gain more information about this space.

Product sense

This combines User experience, User psychology and mostly design matter or UX/UI . This is my weakest area and I find difficulty trying to conceptualize what a new Product Manager needs to know. However, I feel you should know:

  • Psychology principles, a handy list is created here
  • Human & Computer interactions principles. This was taught to me during my university degree

A practical way to gain knowledge in this space is to use lots of the popular Product such as Facebook, Google Search etc… Find these Products, use them, and question why certain elements or flows are designed in such a way.

Project management

A Product Manager needs to deliver something and to deliver you need to know the basics of how to define scope and deliver it against an estimated timeline.

You need to know the basic concepts of:

  • Requirements gathering and prioritisation
  • Effort estimation
  • Release management
  • Risk and Issue management
  • Stakeholders management

There are several certifications on the market that you can study for and get qualified. I learnt Project Management from my University degree and later on from my previous tech consulting job.

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Your feedback and questions will be much appreciated.