25 Mar 2021 20:35 IST

Key strengths to acquire as a product manager

Collaborative managers who can keep abreast with changing customer needs can move up in no time

Industries have had to turn over a new leaf and catch up with the latest and sudden transitions in the traditional work culture. Product managers have to restrategise their business goals and understand current needs to keep with the changes brought by the pandemic. Many companies realised the importance of investing in skilled product managers and the impact on profit they have.

For aspiring product managers, this might be the perfect time to build a skill set in demand. According to the latest Anderson Economic Group (AEG) report, hiring professionals will need around 88 million employees in project management-oriented roles by 2027. An intriguing highlight from this report is that China and India will designate more than 75 per cent of all project management-focused employment.

Now, this question arises — Who is fit to be a product manager? In terms of educational background, the product-oriented domain bears no discrimination. From freshers to professionals in a job transition, anyone can pursue a career in product management. However, by investing in the right resources, individuals can hone their skills and become experts.

Product managers wear many hats. Let us discuss some skills that can help enthusiasts stay ahead of the pack!

Effective communication

Product managers are mediators who come up with product strategies satisfying customer demands while adhering to the brand vision. These ‘ideators’ must be well-versed in communicating product ideas and customer feedback to their employers adequately.

Focused leadership

Product managers need to be collaborative and decisive, leading the team with what has to be done to build a product successfully. It is their responsibility to keep track of the team's progress and direct them to get closer to the desired outcome.

Marketing and research

While product managers are not marketing specialists, they need to keep abreast of the latest business trends. Carrying out a thorough research about the current market condition helps understand the target audience and place the product to garner maximum attention.

Finance knowledge

Product managers are mini-entrepreneurs, and must carry out financially sound decisions that fit the existing budget and fetch maximum profit to the organisation. They need to know their way out from problems like scarcity of resources and tight budget.

Ability to prioritise

Product managers cannot afford to miss the forest for the trees. They must know which processes and decisions to prioritise in any given situation to ensure success.

Apart from the skills mentioned above, one needs to be proficient in multiple other skills too. But an essential prerequisite is a 'can-do' attitude.

An interesting point of focus is that product managers often rise as successful CEOs in the future. They make great CEOs, thanks to the experience they gain during their journey. Sundar Pichai (Google & Alphabet), Susan Wojcicki (YouTube), Stewart Butterfield (Slack), the list can go on. But, what are the kinds of jobss that this field offers? Let's find out.

Associate Product Manager

At the entry-level, employees get hired as Associate Product Managers (APM). They work under Product Managers (PM). As an APM, they learn from their seniors and build a strong foundation to pave their way in their career.

An Associate Product Manager's daily responsibilities may involve performing competitive research, analysing data, and determining requirements for features as per directions.

Product Manager

A Product Manager (PM) keeps a tab on the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition of a product line. A PM works closely with the Group Product Manager, the Senior Product Manager, or the Vice President of product, depending on the company layout. After three to five years of professional experience, APMs can get promoted as PMs.

Product Owner

In some firms, agile teams have both a product manager and a product owner. The product owner works in very similar ways to a product manager. Both these professionals split the roles between themselves for smooth functioning and a lesser workload. The tricky part is deciding who is responsible for what functions? It depends entirely on the company and the way they go about with their work.

Group Product Manager

The Group Product Manager (GPM) handles the leadership of a team that takes care of a particular product group. It is the senior-most, non-executive job role that a product manager can have. A GPM is responsible for managing other product managers. Group Product Managers work under Product Directors or Vice Presidents and hold five to eight years of experience. The regular responsibilities of a GPM involve research, strategy, and product development.

Director of Product Management

The Director of Product Management reports to the Vice President of Product, the CEO or Business Unit Leader depending on the organisation size. A product manager with around ten years of experience is fit to be the Director of Product Management. This role requires extensive management experience and the ability to collaborate with executives and multiple cross-functional leaders.

The Director of Product Management articulates a clear product vision for the future and prioritises investments that provide greater business-benefit for the company.

Vice President of Product Management

Mostly, the VP of Product is a role that established organisations offer. The position demands a professional experience of twelve years. The VP of Product works with a C-level executive and keeps track of large initiatives and develops what will create maximum value to the business. This role's daily tasks include keeping cross-functional teams in line.

Chief Product Officer

The Chief Product Officer (CPO) works directly with the CEO and is responsible for all product-activities inside a business firm. A CPO has work experience of ten to twenty years.

The CPO sets the overall product strategy designed to achieve the corporate vision. The CPO sometimes plays the role of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) as well. Here, they manage the marketing and development of the product.

These were some job profiles that this domain offers. While the field is demanding, it provides the opportunity to embark on an ever-changing adventure. Of the many qualities required, being 'boring' is not on the list.

The 5i framework holds an important position in the product management life cycle. The 5 'i's in the framework stand for ideate, innovate, implement, industrialise and improve. All five of these factors enable the development of a successful product. Focusing on the 5i framework, Jigsaw Academy, and Indian Institute of Management Indore offer a six-month online postgraduate certificate programme in product management comprising 180 hours of instructor-led mentorship.





(The writer is Co-founder & CEO, Jigsaw Academy.)