Ever wondered what skills you need to be a Product Manager? Or are you looking to improve your skills and make the next step in your career? Then carry on reading because this article will tell you everything you need to know!
What are the main Product Manager Skills?
Product Management is a very varied job (one of the reasons say it's a great career!) so there are a lot of different types of skills you need to be able to perform the job well. Here are a few of the main skills:
- People and relationship skills
- Planning skills
- Understanding and using different types of data
Each of these are general 'skills' that in truth cover multiple types of ability and experience. Let's look at each of these in more detail.
People and relationship skills
Lots of careers claim 'people skills' as a must-have and there are countless definitions of people/interpersonal skills and which ones are needed to succeed in your career, such as this list of 20 people skills. So is Product Management really any different?
I would say a resounding "YES" - Product Management is a career where each of these skills are used every day, and where you are leading a wider variety of people than in most other jobs. The ability to communicate with, work with, and influence people is the heart of Product Management.
As a Product Manager, your product vision is ultimately what you want to achieve. To do that you need help - designers, engineers, backers, stakeholders and more. You need to get their buy-in for your vision, you need them to trust the decisions you make, and you need them to help deliver.
Without really good people-skills, a Product Manager will really struggle to achieve anything.
Just as importantly, you need to be able to approach and communicate with your existing and potential customers. You need to work with them to discover their wants and needs, and cultivating good relationships with them is vital to achieve this.
So, if you're already someone with great people skills then Product Management might well be for you...but what if you're not?
I won't contradict what I've just written and say it doesn't matter...but they can be learned. We cover a lot of this on our Product Management Course, and even more on our Advanced Product Management Course.
Two of the key artefacts you are responsible for as a Product Manager are the Product Strategy and the Product Roadmap. These are documents that you use to plan ahead and communicate your plans with others. Getting them right is absolutely vital to being a successful Product Manager.
'Planning skills' incorporate a number of abilities that a Product Manager should possess - strategising, dealing with lots of information, making clear decisions, anticipating issues, etc. Sometimes the Product Roadmap is taught as simply an ordered list of priorities. While it is an ordered list of priorities, it is often a lot more complex, taking into account things such as:
- alignment with marketing/commercial activities
- release scheduling conflicts with connected products
- availability of third party support (e.g. for APIs)
- business strategy
- the product lifecycle
Incorporating one or all of these things calls for planning skills - being aware of what you need to know to be able to plan well, and planning around those various inputs.
In addition to 'regular' planning skills like those above, a Product Manager needs to have specific product planning skills. As already mentioned, the roadmap has to be prioritised and this is a skill in itself.
Prioritising a product roadmap calls for three skills:
- defining 'value' for your product
- measuring the value of each feature/function of the potential product
- prioritising for the value using an appropriate methodology
As you can see, planning is one of the fundamental Product Manager skills, but there are a number of skills and abilities covered by that banner. If you want to get more in-depth and learn these skills and how to apply them, we cover them in detail in our online Product Management course.
Understanding and using different types of data
As a Product Manager, you have to be able to understand multiple types of data, including:
- customer feedback
- product usage analytics
- sales / profit and loss figures
- user testing
Each of these (and more) are generally at your disposal, some are qualitative data and some are quantitative data. As a Product Manager, you need to be able to understand all of these as they each have specific information about your product and market. It is a skill to be able to understand these diverse data inputs, but fortunately it's one you can learn.
But understanding them isn't the end - you need to be able to use them effectively. They should impact your decisions, they should impact your plans. Sometimes one piece of data will support another piece...but other times two pieces of data might conflict. The skill of the Product Manager in this situation is knowing exactly what the data is telling them, contextualising the data, and making a decision on that basis.
It's also extremely important to be able to use data to 'back up' your decisions, or your roadmap priorities, or similar. If you have stakeholders/investors who will challenge your decisions (and you probably will have), then being able to provide data-led justification is a good step towards overcoming that challenge.
So those are three of the skills a Product Manager needs. In truth, they are fairly broad and incorporate a number of connected skills and abilities. To be successful as a Product Manager, it's important to have these skills and work on them as much as possible - whether or not they come naturally to you, they can be learned and improved. Our Product Management courses are one way to do that, and experience will help you to hone these even further.