Behind every successful company, there’s a string of in-demand products and services. Without the iconic iPhone, iPad, or MacBook, Apple wouldn’t be the company it is today. Product managers are the professionals responsible for creating these amazing products. And Steve Jobs was arguably the greatest product manager that ever lived.
You’ll need to be a natural leader with great social skills to cut it in this field. The role also requires technical know-how and an understanding of engineering principles. If you think you have what it takes, a career in product management can be highly rewarding and well-compensated.
Let’s explore the role in more detail and learn exactly what a product manager does.
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What is Product Management?
Product management is concerned with the research, analysis, development, testing, marketing, launch, and ongoing support of new products within an organization. These new products can be anything from physical devices and gadgets, to digital products like apps and online services.
The Importance of Product Management
Launching new products directly affect company profits and can make or break a business. The role carries a high level of responsibility. For this reason, top product managers are well-respected and highly sought-after in the tech industry.
Technology is shaping the world in unimaginable ways. With the introduction of 5G, the internet is becoming faster and more affordable, making it more accessible to everyone. Smartphone technology is also booming and users now enjoy more apps than ever before.
The level of competition among app developers and tech companies has skyrocketed in recent years. This has further increased the importance of the product management role. Companies must find creative ways to market and launch innovative products to stand out from the crowd.
Product managers are responsible for monitoring the critical aspects of a product. They need to understand the technical components of a product and have excellent managerial skills. This helps them bring together different departments to achieve company goals.
The Six Stages of Product Management
No matter what product you’re working on, you’ll need to follow a six-stage process:
- Create a Vision: The first step in the product management process is to develop a product idea and create a vision. Analyzing the market and knowing what it demands is a skill. A good product manager should know the needs of the market and learn how to satisfy customers.
- Plan: After creating an idea, you’ll need to gather the necessary tools, assemble critical resources, allocate work, and set targets. This step provides a checklist for the effective management of time and resources.
- Design and Develop: This is where the technical part of building a new product comes in. Programming languages like Python, Java, R, and UI/UX design aspects come together to enhance usability. Competing products are analyzed to determine performance and set a benchmark in terms of quality.
- Test: Prototyping and testing is done to ensure the initial idea matches the final product. This serves as a virtual model and helps to identify any bugs so they can be fixed before the official launch.
- Launch: Launching the product involves sales, marketing, and advertising. In this stage, the user will experience the product for the first time.
Skills Required to Become a Product Manager
Product management requires an impressive mix of both social and technical skills. Here are some of the most in-demand skills needed to make it in this field:
- Empathy: One of the most important qualities required to become a product manager is empathy. As users ultimately decide if a product is successful or not, it’s essential that you tap into their thought process and completely understand their requirements.
- Communication: Before testing candidates for technical expertise, recruiters will focus on communication skills. Even technically proficient candidates will be ranked down if they aren’t able to communicate well. Product managers are the link between the customer and the company. Ideas need to be collected from the user in a clear and concise manner. Extracting inputs from customers helps understand what they expect in the final output.
Product managers need to convey ideas to the development team. Usually, it’s the product manager who will explain how the final product needs to look and feel.
Technical skills can be learned by studying theory, but communication skills need constant practice. Persuasive presentation skills are expected from a product manager. You should be able to pitch your ideas in a commanding way.
- Management and Team Building: Product development is a collaborative effort. Several cross-functional teams including design, sales, marketing, engineering, and customer relations work together to build and release a product. A product manager should be the link between these core teams.
- Research: Before working on a project, it’s important to conduct research. It’ll help you identify areas of improvement and better understand the competition.
- Planning: A product without a plan loses its purpose. It’s necessary to plan the product roadmap well in advance. A solid plan will help your team progress smoothly, beat the competition, and release a quality final product. Strategic planning creates a virtual route to minimize hurdles and achieve company goals.
- Analysis: A product manager works with big data. This could be in the form of user feedback gathered from market research, or direct user metrics generated by the product itself. Part of your job will be to study this data in order to discover insights and help decision making. You’ll need excellent analytical skills to learn about the competition, the market, and the individual users.
- Interpersonal: Product managers interact daily with multiple stakeholders associated with the product. They should be good communicators and share their vision effectively. Being a product manager is a multi-faceted role. More than any other role, a product manager should understand demands at various levels and work tirelessly to solve business problems.
As a product manager, you don’t necessarily need to be an engineer. But you should have the mindset to understand the structure of a product, its composition, and its end application. You should also be able to analyze the market and understand how the product fits into higher-level business goals.
Product Management Specializations
Product managers are sometimes labeled differently across the corporate world. Although core skills overlap, the specific job title can indicate subtle differences in technical expertise. Let’s look at some of the more common product management specialties that exist:
- Product Manager: A product manager is the head of the product. It’s with their approval that the entire business process takes place. They occupy the top position in the hierarchy and act as the key link between various departments.
- Product Analyst: A product analyst gets the most out of data. They collect information and use tools like Excel, Power BI, and Tableau to analyze it. Their analysis helps the company make informed business decisions to improve the product and increase sales.
- Product Designer: A product designer has an eye for detail and a visual imagination. They’re experts in user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design techniques. One of their core responsibilities is to develop strategies to attract and retain users.
- Product Consultant: Technical queries, user guidance, and user experience are the key metrics directed towards a product consultant. They typically act as a connection between the organization and the external world.
How to Become a Product Manager
A bachelor’s degree is the traditional path taken by most aspiring product managers. However, a degree isn’t actually needed to get started in this field. Due to the significant investment of both time and money that a degree requires, many students are now opting for alternative training programs.
A product management bootcamp is one such alternative. These laser-focused online courses prioritize practical learning over theoretical study. They’re designed to teach students career-ready skills so they can hit the ground running.
If you’re passionate about products, great with people, and love solving problems, enroll in our product management bootcamp today. We’ll teach you how to research markets, identify user problems, envision great solutions, and sell your ideas. Our industry experts will mentor you throughout the program and beyond. We’ll provide interview prep and help you land a top product management job, fast.
To continue learning about a future career in product management check out our blog. We write regular product-based articles on topics like how to get a job as a product manager and provide insight from leading product management experts.