At the heart of every business is a product. It can sometimes be positioned as a service, but even companies that only sell consulting time have a proposition that comes as a purchasable, differentiated package.
This makes product management an important strategic role in any organization. And for software companies that put products at the heart of their business, it’s vital. Getting it right can mean success. Getting it wrong can be disastrous.
What is Product Management?
For the uninitiated, product management is the planning, development, release, and management of a product or service throughout its lifecycle. From concept to retirement, it sums it all up. It also creates the vital link between a customer’s unmet need and a company’s ability to meet it.
It therefore touches every part of a business, acting as the hub of communications between departments. And he must react quickly to market behavior, technological developments, project deadlines, business objectives, while keeping a close eye on the vision and strategic direction. This is a difficult work.
What to Look for in a Winning Team
With so much work on the shoulders of product managers, building the right team is essential. There are five attributes to look for.
- The first trait to consider is business acumen. It seems obvious, but there is no point in creating a product that will not generate revenue and margin. Product managers should be as comfortable with business strategy as they are with product development. This includes prioritizing the product portfolio, developing a product go-to-market strategy, understanding product pricing, and then managing product performance and financial metrics, including return on investment.
Basically, product managers need to define and create product roadmaps aligned with business strategy. The features in the product roadmap should be tied to the value proposition of the product and how it differentiates itself from competing products.
- The second core capability is understanding the market. This means being able to spot market trends, understand the regulatory landscape, gather insights into the competitive landscape, identify product differentiators, know the partner ecosystem, and know how to compete in a busy market. .
- The third core capability is having a deep understanding of the customer with the ability to design products around customer needs. This requires early engagement with customers and a limited proof of concept or launch program, delivering a minimum viable product. It is essential that good product managers have user experience (UX) skills when interacting with customers. In other words, the product must be created taking into account the users and their way of working.
- The fourth requirement is that product managers have technical skills. Basically, software vendor product managers need to have a deep understanding of technology trends. For example, cloud solutions, artificial intelligence and open APIs. They should also be thoroughly familiar with architectural design, stack checkpoints, and enterprise architecture roadmaps.
- Last, but perhaps most important, is the need for soft skills. Without it, it can be nearly impossible to get everything else to work. It is imperative to be able to lead, communicate at all levels and influence change in teams, organizations and sectors.
While each of these talents is vital, team members are unlikely to have them all – and waiting for the perfect product manager could be a hurdle. With that in mind, product management isn’t about having one or two high performers, it’s about employing a high performing team with the right structure to work seamlessly.
Find the right people for the job
Achieving this requires putting diversity and inclusiveness at the center of a recruiting plan. Leaders must be open to new ideas, look in unlikely places, and welcome difference. In fact, hiring from a non-traditional background can bring in new knowledge and skills that might be lacking in the usual places.
In this context, it can be difficult to interview for the required qualities – especially if the candidates come from very diverse backgrounds. This requires unconventional techniques, such as allowing potential team members to play with and explore the products and platforms they will use, inviting feedback as a way to explore their strengths and test their ability to challenge and give their opinion.