New to Product Management? Here’s some advice from the pros.
A few years back, my company decided to launch into developing an app that would help our team work more efficiently. I had been heavily involved in building our team’s processes and was fascinated by the ways technology could help us work smarter and faster! Eager to take the reins, I set out to learn Product Management.
Below, I will share the suggestions that 7 insightful Product Managers shared with me when they were asked:
“What books/blogs/courses/etc would you recommend to help someone moving into a software product management role?”
If you have helpful resources for Product Managers looking to develop their skills, tweet them at me: @simply_cima
The answer to your question really revolves around the stage of your company and the problem you’re trying to solve. With a brief look at your company, I’d suggest you look at the following list of product books that I’ve found very helpful. Since you’re in the early stage, I’d recommend Crossing the Chasm as a first read. There are lots of good articles on Medium as well, but I’d suggest you read up on Directed Discovery, starting this this three part series by Nate Walkingshaw. Pure gold.
These are pretty high-level books for shaping some of the thinking and process:
* Competing Against Luck — Clayton Christensen
* The Lean Startup — Eric Ries
These are a bit more tactical Product Management Links:
* Lots of great content in this link
* Pragmatic Marketing also has a lot of great content on their website and a certification process.
As far as resources go I would suggest the following:
“User Story Mapping” by Jeff Patton — This is probably one of my favorite books about writing out user stories doing a good job at writing to every level and giving lots of examples and pictures of what they are talking about.
“Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days” by Jake Knapp — Although a little more advanced this book does have some great ideas on how to work with different divisions of your company to come together quickly and produce a working prototype.
www.mindtheproduct.com — This is probably one of the best forums of Product Managers around the world giving insights about the profession and how to help other product managers. They have a weekly email that goes out giving a list of top articles they found throughout the week all over the internet. They have lots of video as well as articles on their site. They also sponsor ProductTanks all over the US and there should be one close to you, where you could attend and meet with more product managers and expand her network
www.thecleverPM.com — This product manager always has good information about all different aspects of the industry, and they tend to quick reads with good information.
http://spectechular.walkme.com/ — Another great site to get information about how to be a PM, what to look out for and working with other departments
www.medium.com — They have a whole section dedicated to PMs with tons of articles to read
I do not know how technical, how much you’re going to be involved with the backend design of the product, but having an account on www.pluralsight.com is good to help learn some basic information on technical issues. I would recommend the course on about domain design they have for PMs as well as any coursework they may have on directed discovery, it is Pluralsight’s flavor of agile they use, and it is heavily focused on user voice and working with the customer to gather the information about what future items your product needs.
If you do use agile, I would recommend taking the Certified Scrum Product Owner course offered by the Scrum Alliance. It is a two-day course and they have them all over the place but it is a good introduction to what you’d be doing.
Here is a list of a lot of great books and articles. My favorite book right now is Lean Product Playbook. It takes a lot of lean theory and teaches you how to apply them.
Anything on intercom.io’s blog, especially their free Ebook called Intercom on Product Management. Also the book Cracking the PM interview gives a really excellent overview of what PM is and how it differs from project and program management etc. A surprising amount of that book actually has nothing to do with PM interviews — it’s more about product management and product management skills.
Finally I would recommend two lessons learned: 1. nothing, nothing, nothing, is more important than watching the user use your product and measuring the user use your product. There’s tons of other things that will try to occupy your time but you cannot sacrifice those two and 2. The user is the final authority on what makes a good product. The CEO may say it’s good, your manager may say it’s good, or sales, or marketing, or even admins and managers at the company you sell to but none of that matters until the user says the product is good and gets their job done for them.
Thanks so much for reaching out! I truly love being a Product Manager and am more than willing to share any advice or direction I can. To start, I would read The Product Manager’s Survival Guide and/or Hooked. Both of these are books focused on Product Management and are great!
The other action I would take is go to a training for Product Managers based on how the company operates. Does your company use Agile or are they traditional waterfall? How your company operates will greatly determine what type of Product Manager you need to be. Also read through a bunch of different Product Management job descriptions to see what all the job entails. A Product Manager is a very key player in the success of your product so you want to make sure you’re at least somewhat passionate about being a Product Manager. I truly love being a Product Manager because it involves working with designers, creating the user experience, building products that influence lives, etc. Just make sure you care about the vision and experience for your customer.
I’d recommend the Agile Manifesto which is a good summary and place to start. I’m assuming that you are running an agile shop. Most of my background came from on the job training vs. books as I used to be a coder as well so somewhat grew into the job organically. I’d also recommend attending a SCRUM training workshop from Atlassian U or similar. Provides a pretty good background overall for what a PM should do. Most importantly a PM needs to keep the end user and their needs in mind. Development can get off track at times chasing the latest and greatest w/o regard to cost, benefit, etc. The PM should strive to meet the customers needs in the most efficient and ideally simplest way possible. Not always easy to do but a good goal to have.