Product Manager: skills and competencies
January 3, 2020

Product Management

Product Manager: Who is it and How to Become One?

By Olga Matuts

Product development is a complicated process, which requires a lot of time and resources.

Before presenting a product to clients, a company should go through five steps: 

  • form a vision of the product, 
  • assemble an appropriate team of specialists, 
  • draw up a product strategy, 
  • develop the product itself and 
  • sell it to the target market.

Several departments are engaged in product development: IT, marketing, and sales. The product manager leads this process at all stages and interacts with a project manager and a product marketing manager.

Who is engaged in product development?

There are several persons who participate in product development and interact with the team.

A project manager deals directly with development, controls time and budget and works with teams of developers and designers.

A product marketing manager provides research about the marketplace, prepares the promotional strategy, branding, and organizes training of the sales team.  

Stakeholders also can participate in product management. They describe requirements, identify risks, provide resources and feedback.

A business analyst is kind of a mediator between stakeholders and the development team, who transforms business goals into clear tasks for developers. 

A product manager works with all of them and is engaged in the process from the beginning. 

What does a product manager do?

Usually, a product manager has the following 9 responsibilities:

  • establish communication with clients,
  • prioritize tasks and processes,
  • develop the pricing strategy and define product positioning,
  • create a roadmap of processes,
  • negotiate with stakeholders,
  • organize testing groups,
  • participate in the product launch,
  • prepare the promotion plan,
  • inform all involved groups about the condition of the product.

What is common between a Product manager and a Project manager?

In a number of points, the activity of product and project managers coincides. They both take care of the preparation of project documentation and reports about completed tasks, and communication with clients and stakeholders.

What is common between a Product manager and a Product marketing manager?

They both are engaged in such tasks as:

  • pricing
  • marketing research
  • working with customers’ feedback
  • development of sales tools
  • analysis of sales data

So, to sum up, it is appropriate to recall Marty Cagan and his work “Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love.” He says that product manager should “discover a product that is valuable, usable, and feasible.” A product manager is a person well-versed in the business, technologies, and user experience.

A product manager should follow the trends on the market to create an actual and necessary product or upgrade the existing product with the newest functions. He or she is responsible for coordinating the work of the involved teams and, as a result, a successful launch of the product. 

What are the skills needed for a product manager?

The following skills and competencies will be useful for a product manager:

  • understanding of the market situation, customers’ behavior, and demands
  • technical knowledge
  • tracking innovations
  • strategic thinking
  • good communication skills
  • management skills
  • ability to clearly explain technical and business requirements 
  • ability to evaluate the  product’s real success

The indicators of the product manager’s performance are monetization, user engagement, and user satisfaction.

Depending on the project, a product manager can pay more attention to the development and writing of the specifications, marketing, sales, or promotion.

What are the stages of product management?

There are 4 tactical and strategic levels of product management:

  1. creation of product vision
  2. strategy development
  3. product development
  4. marketing and sales

Product development consists of several stages, the results of which are controlled by a product manager:

  • definition of product vision
  • planning
  • strategy elaboration 
  • product development
  • product testing
  • product launch

Marketing tasks that can be the responsibilities of a product manager include:

  • marketing research
  • competitiveness research
  • market positioning of the product 
  • branding
  • working with customer feedback
  • pricing
  • promotion
  • sales
  • performance analysis. 

Let’s take a look at the main tasks from this list.

Product vision creation

Developing a product vision is the initial stage of strategy elaboration. It can be created from the ideas that appeared during a group discussion or brainstorming. The vision of the project should answer such questions:

  • Who is the user of the product?
  • What problems does the product solve?
  • How to measure the success of the product?

Geoffrey Moore created a special template for determining the vision of the product and described it in his book “Crossing the Chasm.” This is how it looks like:

For (target customers)

Who (statement of need or opportunity)

The (product name) is a (product category)

That (key benefit, reason to buy)

Unlike (primary competitive alternative)

Our product (statement of primary differentiation)

As an example, he offers a vision of Amazon: “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”

Strategy elaboration

While the vision determines goals, the strategy describes how to achieve them and becomes a to-do list for the involved teams. It is about the main features of the product that help out with satisfying customers’ needs and achieving the desired key performance indicators (KPIs).

Stages of the strategy elaboration:

  • Market research

The first step of a strategy elaboration is market research. It covers the analysis of information about customers’ behavior in relation to similar products. It can be primary (conducted by the company) or secondary research (provided by a third party).

Primary research is about the company’s needs; the results can be both qualitative and quantitative.

  • Qualitative research determines actual questions and identifies problems. This information can be obtained from personal and group surveys.
  • Quantitative research gives general information for statistical analysis gathered from a large audience.

Secondary research also includes gathering information from statistical databases and online public sources.

Market research helps product managers to get to know the clients’ needs and create a successful strategy for the product launch.

  • Strategic roadmap

A roadmap is a useful tool for well-collaborated teamwork. It is a goal- or feature-oriented framework with the vision, timing, goals, current conditions of the product and the next stages of the development. The most important quality of a roadmap is that it allows for arranging tasks according to the sequence of their implementation. The right prioritization of tasks will help a product manager to create an efficient roadmap.  

There are several kinds of roadmaps, for example, internal and external. 

  • An internal roadmap is used on the company level to show short-term and long-term goals and also related processes in which different teams are involved. A product manager uses an internal roadmap for tracking tasks progress.
  • An external roadmap is a simplified version for clients or investors.

A product manager should impress the strategy of the product upon the stakeholders and achieve the common vision of the product between developers and stakeholders.

Product development and testing

This stage is the realization of the roadmap, namely product development, testing, and working with feedback.

During the definition of technical characteristics, making prototypes and design mockups, a product manager together with the UX team should identify customers’ needs and report this information to developers. 

A product manager sets up meetings, interviews or focus groups with the potential target market. The results of questioning help him or her to highlight the most and least important functions and to prioritize them. 

Also, a product manager writes technical documentation, Product Requirement Document (PRD) and Functional Specifications Document (FSD).

After Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is released, a product manager uses external testing to verify it. With the help of the UX team he or she chooses testing scenarios, tracks the results, and passes the information to the project manager. 

An effective kind of testing is A/B testing; it illustrates clients’ reactions to different functions, their interest, and engagement. Based on this information, developers make changes to the product. 

Marketing and sales

During product development, a product manager should create and approve the marketing strategy and launch plans. The sales team should be ready for distribution.

After the start of sales, the product manager monitors the position of the product on the market, the number of users or buyers, sales and feedback.

Also, the product manager can deal with the following tasks if there are no product marketing and sales managers in the company:

  • writing business and use cases
  • preparing the product launch plan
  • defining the target market
  • setting the pricing strategy
  • supporting the sales team

How to move to the product manager from another position?

Frequently a relevant degree is not a critical indicator for the product manager vacancy. If you know your target market with its tastes and needs, you can make a successful product.

A person with experience as a marketing specialist or a software developer can become a product manager. As a product manager, you need to:

  • create and register the vision and strategy of the product
  • make and use roadmaps
  • get the hang of analytical reports
  • have a marketing knowledge
  • define key productivity indicators (KPI) of the product

We have some tips which will help you to move to the position of a product manager. 

How to become a product manager if you are…

Techie

First of all, you need to become a leader to participate in making important decisions about the product. You can offer new features and ways for their realization, illustrate your ideas with analytical research or focus groups. Create your startup, even if it fails; it will be a good practice.

Marketing specialist

The responsibilities of a product manager and a product marketing manager have matches and differences. Mostly, you should figure out and take part in product development and communication with the development team. As you know what your clients need, you can offer the solution and assess developers’ time required for this.

Designer

You should take a deeper look at the users’ feedback and understand the technical background of your actions. Ask questions and explore information on your own, it will be helpful and bring good results. 

 

A product manager engages with stakeholders, development, marketing, and sales teams from the beginning of product development. The future success and position of the product in the market depends on his or her decisions, that’s why a product manager should take into account customers’ needs and allocate time and resources wisely.

Leave a Comment

We use cookies to personalize our service and to improve your experience on the website and its subdomains. We also use this information for analytics.

Got it!

Share via
Send this to a friend