Being competitive as a product manager within any industry always requires both hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are very pertinent to the role and the work being done on day-to-day basis. Those hard skills are quite technical, and they play a prominent role in leading the great success in project managers’ careers. For example, business domain knowledge, user experience, and data analysis skills. Soft skills, such as time management skills, communication skills, and leadership might be less pertinent to the role and the work. However, they are essential in building a successful career for most project managers. Both B2B product managers and B2C product mangers develop some specific skills and abilities required for the job in common. In this post, I will list five critical skills I believe each product manager should develop, covering both soft skills and hard skills.
Five Key Skills Every Product Manager Should Develop
1. Analytical skills, with critical thinking
Analytical skills fall into three aspects. Prior to digging out product features, you need to conduct a huge amount of research to understand the entire industry, your competitors and target users. The process involves massive data collection and you need to draw your own conclusion based on the data extracted from both primary and secondary research results. Having excellent analytical skills will help you identify valuable insights into your product users and industry trends. Apart from analysing competitors and target users, understanding business processes and logic also relies on great analytical skills. It’s particularly important if you are working on a 2B product as it involves many use cases and the logic in operation process and data transition can be quite complex. The last bit lies in the ability to analyse requirements, which remains the core to analytical skills. Requirements are classified as business requirements, stakeholder requirements, solution requirements, and transition requirements. Those requirements can be expressed and communicated in various ways. Having strong requirements analytical skills not only ensures that your team members (mainly designers, developers, and testers) always focus on delivering working items constantly, but also adds value in achieving business goals in the long term.
2. Professional expertise
As a product manager, professional expertise resides in the field of DDaT, which is Digital, Data and Technology Profession. You will need to demonstrate an advanced understanding of user experience design, trendy technologies, data principles, and product architecture so you can carry on your BAU activities within the team. In the past, product managers were believed to only demonstrate their competencies in business-to-technical requirements translation (and vice versa), requirements analysis, requirements life cycle management and solution evaluation. Those competencies are mainly relevant to the business domain. However, strong DDaT expertise can make the product-engineering partnership robust, with joint discovery, effective communication, and decision-making. The leverage also enables each team to share the same understanding about the whole development process so as to drive the improved product velocity as well as high quality. In the end, happy stakeholders!
3. Management skills
Working as a product manager at a startup is more likely to be responsible for managing everything, compared with working in a mature company. When it comes to management skills, project management, time management, PM self-management, and stakeholder relationship management never fail to draw your attention. In addition to keeping the project on the right track by closely monitoring the progress and continuously prioritising tasks, relationship management might be one of the most important characteristics of a great PM. From requirements collection to building features, forming transparent communication and a trustworthy connection with internal and external project stakeholders are essential to project success. By solving the conflict between teams, encouraging honest and open conversation, and driving effective customer engagement outside of the organisation, this type of soft skill will drive the whole team to work towards the shared goal and gain extensive support from each stakeholder group.
4. Emotional intelligence
Empathy and organisational awareness are two significant backbones to build up emotional intelligence. Tapping empathy elements into product design contributes to creating the intuitive and user-friendly design. On the other hand, product managers also need to put themselves into team member’s shoes to understand their emotions and concerns in order to provide the support accordingly. Organisational awareness may sound abstract. A good PM knows how the entire organisation operates from project planning to execution. With a deep understanding about the process, product managers know how to strive for funding as well as support and secure the top talent to work on their projects. In the end, providing the customers with a perfect product by addressing customers’ pain points and further prove product-market fit.
5. Know-how: Product commercialisation
Both 2B and 2C products require PM’s effort on driving conversions and monetisation after several product iterations. Involved with company strategies, product portfolio strategies and product marketing/sales, PMs are likely to identify the “engine” to drive product growth based on both internal feedback and market reaction. In the end, creating the business model for their own products and leading continuous growth at different stages of the product life cycle.