It's the adjacencies, says Catherine Shyu.
In Summary: Product Management has become a role defined by a lack of skills within an organisation. This is partially down to the claim that Product Managers should 'do whatever it takes to ship the product.'
On closer examination, however, Catherine identifies 3 roles PMs should be able to play if needed.
When there is no dedicated program or project management function, the Product Manager owns the delivery estimate and helps ensure engineers are working as efficiently as possible.
When an organisation doesn’t have a product marketing manager, that means the responsibilities of product positioning, launches and sales collateral are split between the Product Manager and Marketing team.
Product Managers will always be expected to participate in many of a UX Designer’s activities, so it helps to be able to run a usability test or explain your vision in wireframes.
Ken Norton explains his 'Discipline of No' in conversation with MixPanel.
In Summary: Although technical knowledge is critical for a career in Product Management, Ken Norton learned that one of the more powerful skill sets is developing a discipline of saying no. It's not about shutting down ideas, it's about sticking to what’s important and removing barriers so real priorities gain momentum.
Being unable to say no creates ambiguity. When you’re not clear on what you’re saying 'no' to it creates 'decision debt', which affects a team’s focus and motivation. There are only a few things a team can really focus on, so saying ‘no’ to one thing is saying 'yes' to something else.
Making no decision is worse than saying ‘no' and forcing a decision is part of a Product Manager's job description. Product Managers have a powerful currency when it comes to bringing people together with the sole purpose of resolving issues.
Product Management requires flexibility. Being able to adapt, to alter your focus or tone depending on the audience, is the cornerstone of effective communication.
The Way of the Dragon, by Chris Lukassen.
In Summary: Chris, author of 'The Product Samurai', breaks down 5 distinct levels of Product Ownership and outlines how the dedicated student can move between them.
You're a white belt if management defines your product's vision and strongly influences your Backlog. White belts only execute and translate business requirements into tech speak. You're a yellow belt if you manage stakeholders and translate the product vision into a Backlog.
Becoming a green belt requires more than just skills, it requires organisational maturity. The product vision becomes the shared responsibility of the Product Owner and management (who are no longer involved in the backlog or daily activities.) Blue is where you start taking the lead and the rest follow, where your decisiveness as a Product Owner comes to the fore.
Black belts are the equivalent of a startup inside an enterprise. The Product Owner consults with management but is empowered to take calculated risks, 'fail fast' and activate the environment.
A blueprint for success, from ProductPlan's Andre Theus.
In Summary: Product Management is a marathon, not a sprint. For your product's sake, you can’t afford to win the battle and lose the war. Arguing with your engineers or (God forbid) customers is counter-productive. Your success as a Product Manager rests on your strong relationships and credibility over the long-term.
Disagreements are fine and can be constructive, but when disagreement turns to argument it's vital to remove the emotion. Simply giving someone an opportunity to vent their frustration can diffuse much of it.
As a Product Manager you are often going to have to work with limited resources. Making reasonable compromises to preserve your relationships and strengthen your credibility over time is a smart strategy. Likewise, you should never forget your role as a 'credit funnel' - channelling praise down into your team as frequently as possible.
Ultimately, the most valuable tool in your arsenal will be your ability to always remain calm.
It falls on the shoulders of senior PMs to position more junior Product Managers for success, says UserVoice's Heather McCloskey.
In Summary: A good Product Manager needs to know who does what to get things done. Point out the key stakeholders and which managers need to be looped in.
List the most important people to meet with and give them a list of 3-4 distinct topics they should cover with each person. A half-hour with an account manager or sales engineer is more valuable for understanding the business than a deep-dive into the architecture of a database.
The best teaching moments come from real-world examples. Take a recent product decision and break it down. After a few weeks, a new Product Manager should be able to give both a sales pitch and a product demo.
There’s nothing like face time with a customer to help a new Product Manager understand the target market and how the product is being used in the real world.
You can use your experience to temper expectations, point out resistance they’ll face and low-hanging fruit where they can score an early win.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a product roadmap, says ChartMogul's Vinay Seshadri.
In Summary: Vinay aligns his approach to product roadmaps with the 'story' of the product, from early stage to growth to scale.
In the early stage, you should focus mainly on what the customer wants, but always debate the 'how'. It's important to move fast, so the quickest feasible solution to a problem or need should take priority.
Once you have Product/Market Fit, company goals should play a role in feature prioritisation. You need to consider your strategic direction and begin to depart from what your customer base is asking for. It might feel counterintuitive, or even irresponsible, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to grow.
When you start scaling, it's time to focus on what engineering wants. Unless your product is extremely simple, technical debt will begin to raise your cost of development, so this stage is about handling and whittling it down.
A key skills masterclass, from Tinder's Jeff Morris Jr.
In Summary: In Jeff's view, Product Management is more of an art than a defined set of responsibilities.
Getting your product greenlit for development in the first place requires a number of key skills. These include selling your ideas (like a founder pitching to a VC), ensuring your goals align with those of the company, mocking up screen flows and prioritising your ideas effectively.
When evaluating ideas, it's vital to focus on identifying those with the highest impact. Jeff categorises his into 5 buckets: growth, activation, engagement, re-activation, and revenue.
If your product ideas impact revenue, while preserving the core user experience, you're guaranteed to be taken seriously wherever you work.