What Makes a Great Product Manager?

By | April 16, 2023

In this article, I’d like to share with you what makes a product manager great. I have over 8 years of experience in product management and this is what I have observed.There are five areas in which a great product manager is well versed:· Customer Understanding· User Experience· Technology· Business· LeadershipLet’s look at each area in more detail.Customer UnderstandingThe PM is the relentless advocate for the customer on a product development project. From the point of view of the rest of the development team, the PM is the expert on this topic. This means he/she must invest time in understanding the customer that is being targeted. He/she needs to study segmentation materials; organize studies of representatives of the customer segment. The goal is to understand what drives the customer, what the behaviors and needs of the customer are. Only by understanding the customer can you create a product that meets the needs of the customer.User ExperienceA PM does not have to be a user experience expert, but should at least function as the approver for the user experience. The UX is the most important part of the product because this is how the customer interacts with the product. The underlying technology may be brilliant, but if the UX is out of sync with the customer, the customer will not buy the product.The goal is to look at the user experience through the eyes of the customer and challenge the UX designers to design for the specific customer the product is targeting.TechnologyThe main goal here is to become credible in conversations with your product development team. Also, because the development team is often motivated to reduce risk, it is good if a PM can challenge the development team to think outside the box. This requires some high-level comprehension of the ability of technology components. Additionally, it is important for him/her to understand the impact of their change requests on the underlying technology on a high level.BusinessFor a PM, another key constituency is the business management side of the company. The product fits into a financial plan laid out by the CEO and CFO of the company and deviation from the plan can seriously impact their forecasts. So the PM needs to make sure to understand the business case and how it fits into the grand scheme of things.Also on the business side, it is important to understand how marketing and sales work. This is especially important for PMs who spend most of their time sitting with the product development teams. He/she needs to understand when to engage sales and marketing, what drives them and how they are compensated. Those last two are not necessarily the same thing.LeadershipLast but not least, as a PM needs to provide leadership. While product management is a pivotal role in product development, with lots of responsibility, PMs hardly ever have formal authority over the people they work with. Thus, the way to get things done is through informal leadership. This can take different shapes, but a proven method is to build trust and provide a compelling vision of the product.At the same time, it is a good idea to build up social relationships with counterparts in other teams, because that makes it just a lot easier to get things done. It will also make the long hours close to launch a lot more fun.ConclusionIn this article I have tried to explain to you the five areas in which a great product manager must be well versed. They were: customer understanding, user experience, technology, business, and leadership. Mastery of these five areas will enable a highly rewarding career in product management.