Product Management is an important part of the current IT roles, it spans across various jobs which one has to know who is willing to move to this role or who already are in the role to become better.
Being in the IT industry for last 20+ years, if I reflect back how things were done and what is transformed this super special role by the industry. I try to put my experiences when I started in my job in 2000, the Organization hierarchy used to be
- Leads (Project/ Team) and
- Project Managers
Right from Lead level onwards, people start to own the solution right from requirements to solution delivery in full. This used to be working well in SDLC quite well, as IT extended to all the areas of complex domains which needed specialized roles to bridge the gap between business and technology. Especially in Treasury domain where I used to work around 2005, suddenly started seeing new role called as Business Analyst. This role is more functional who understand the domain and help the development teams to deliver the requirements bridging the knowledge gaps.
As time passed, the fully managed solution delivery, startup culture, SAAS and Cloud solutions made the way to Product Management. This is now in almost every domain or industry involving varied skills which we will touch base in this post.
Key Skills people need to focus in product management
While there are different demands from a product manager depending on the Organization maturity in business and the domain it operates. We would like to emphasize on key skills without going too much into feature delivery or technical nuances which can be found in many books or online material. Being a 3Cortian we believe just focusing on 3 dimensions in any field, we can come out with a meaningful analogy, so here we go with 3 main skills
- Domain Knowledge
- Solution Orientation
- Soft skills
In my view this is the most important factor to become a successful Product Manager, especially your passion to learn the domain how business users perceive, the value they derive out of business and more thinking like an end user. We need to understand while there are so many domains like Banking Sector, Corporate or Enterprise segment, Healthcare and the list goes on. While the high-level domain is just the beginning and as a product manager becoming an expert in the sub-domain is the key. Say for example in Banking we have Consumer Banking, Corporate Banking, Treasury, Lending, Trade finance etc. Even under each sub-domain there are multiple levels of expertise needed as the complexity is multi-fold. First thing people who are serious on product management should be willing to put the extra effort to understand or learn the domain.
Now finally the goal of a product manager after knowing the domain is to simplify things in the business processes with effective solutions. We need to have a fine line in knowing what business expects and a good product manager is always trying to differentiate him/ herself by bringing that flair of deriving what business users don’t know what is possible and add value in providing solutions. This is the key differentiator for a good product manager for which knowing the domain or reaching a stage where business users start respecting the knowledge, this is the ideal state.
As predominantly delivering the solution is handling the technology and for that having the technology orientation is very important. At the end of the day, a product manager derives respect when he/ she knows how things can be done using the technology. I have seen in many companies and Banks people who started in technology understood the functionality from business users made up a great Product Managers. Which means coming from a pure functional background the journey will be difficult and it needs support or putting that additional efforts in understanding technology.
One good thing is technology is becoming easier compared to what it used to be, so again getting the technology acumen is quite easy for the people who want to make a mark.
Last but not the least is soft skills, very important aspect. Handling the people around, driving your solution or product, needs a different level of soft skills which I term as leadership ability of a Product Manager. A product is successful if people buy-in the idea not by power but by showing the vision or value to everyone around. This is highly difficult part when compared to the above two skills in my view. This comes with the professional experiences one gains in his/ her journey. We will touch-base this in our next blogs as it is made of successes and failures through which people learn.
Final Word to the people who want to make a mark
As Product Management roles in Job Description is highly glamourized yet times stating as CEO of the product and owner of the product etc. It is very important to stick to the basics mentioned above. Keep an eye on learning the domain, ensuring technology is embraced and people are valued or respected which in turn yields respect to you. In my view not every Organization will be able to show the career of what is kept in Job Descriptions, one thing which you need to believe is if you are a good product manager you can be the CEO of your own company and for your own product. So, believe in yourself and put the efforts to become a well-rounded product manager. All the very best!!!