A product manager must deliver on various tasks. This requires them to integrate a diverse set of skills. The skills range from customer development, product architecture, UI development to supply chain planning. Product Managers personify the success of the product team. In fact, several senior executives, such as the current CEO of Google, started their careers as a product manager.
Often, successful Product Managers are referred to as “rock stars,”. They are chased by top companies and VCs from Boston to the Silicon Valley. Many entrepreneurial Product Managers parley their experiences to either join a startup team or to launch their own startup ventures. Being a “rock star” means companies are more than willing to pay a competitive salary for a good product manager. The average salary for Digital/Software Product Managers ranges over $100,000.
Essential Skills for Product Management
Many software engineers, salespeople, and MBA types have jumped on the Product Managers bandwagon because the high benefits. Not surprisingly, these folks draw upon diverse backgrounds, from engineering, liberal arts to marketing.
The key to being a successful product manager does not lie in having deep expertise in any one field. Rather, success lies in “Digital Product Management Thinking (DPMT).” DPMT, in the digital economy, is the ability to integrate Analytics, Business model, Coordination, and Design thinking – ABCD Thinking.
Consider the recent mainstreaming of ‘design thinking’ – once the exclusive purview of designers. Today, design thinking is a problem-solving methodology adopted by entire teams and companies. Similarly, product managers must draw upon the collective thinking of their team. This is not trivial because Product Managers typically do not have team members reporting to them directly. Most of the work must be accomplished through influence. Then, implemented by building and leveraging a set of organizational and social networks. A team must understand and buy into digital product management thinking.
Product managers build relationships with their executive team
Depending on the size of a company, product managers have varying degrees of exposure and interaction with executive teams. More than half of product managers surveyed said that their organization’s executives give input for what features are added to the roadmap. Further, 69% of product managers regularly create reports for senior leaders. Nearly half do so for the C-suite.
Product managers who want to be successful make sure that such interactions are 2-way conversations. Roadmap “suggestions” from executives are often unvalidated pet projects that can derail product development. Product managers need to understand executive interests and objectives. They need to be able to align teams around their vision and push back when suggestions are unproductive. It’s important to create strong working relationships with the executive team early on rather than waiting until an uncomfortable confrontation.
Product managers build even closer relationships with customers
Executives frequently “offer” their input on the product roadmap. However, they’re far from the group that product managers actually want to collaborate most with. Customers rightfully get that honor.
Only 32% of product managers get input from customers before adding a feature to their roadmap. About half of the product managers surveyed wish they could collaborate more with customers and potential customers.
Ultimately, empathy for customers is one of the most important ingredients for a successful product. We expect to see the percentage of roadmaps with customer input increase in the coming years.