Digital Product Managers: What They Do and How to Become One
Product management is one of the most exciting positions in tech. As the people who oversee the entire life cycle of a product, product managers (PMs) must deliver on various tasks, which require them to integrate diverse skillset ranging from customer development, product architecture, and UI development to supply chain planning.
Why Become a Product Manager?
The product manager personifies the success of the product team. Many executives at top global companies, such as the current CEOs of Google and Amazon, started their careers as product managers. Many entrepreneurial product managers apply their experiences to either join a startup team or launch their own ventures.
With the benefits of this role being so high, many software engineers, salespeople, and business types have jumped on the product manager bandwagon. And not surprisingly, these folks draw upon diverse backgrounds, from engineering to liberal arts.
6 Essential Skills for Product Management
The key to being a successful product manager does not lie in having deep expertise in any one field. Instead, PMs must have an ability to build and demonstrate expertise in:
Design and road mapping
1. Lean Processes
Product managers need to know how to define value streams within a company and the value chain of a supply chain. Understanding value stream mapping enables product managers to see the critical steps to serve customers or develop a product. Once identified, the processes can be systematically improved with a plan-do-study-act (PDSA), also called plan-do-check-act (PDCA), process to increase the throughput and reduce waste using Lean Six Sigma and the Theory of Constraints.
LEARN LEAN SIX SIGMA
Lean Six Sigma is a system for process improvement. Learning Lean Six Sigma proves that you have developed advanced analytical and processing skills to eliminate problems and defects.
2. Marketing Analytics
Market research plays a significant role in the work of a PM, especially at the start of a new product. Product managers use marketing analytics to examine what factors contribute to certain user behavior online (such as making a purchase on an e-commerce site or downloading an app) and how these factors influence the users’ decision-making process. These consumer insights help illuminate the overall customer experience. It gives PMs a better sense of the market, and its unique customer needs so, in turn, PMs can develop great products with a strong product-market fit.
3. Design and Road Mapping
A robust product roadmap establishes the direction and product vision. This roadmap not only describes what you’re building but also why. The best road maps are not lists of features but problems to-be-solved to improve performance and customer experience. With this foundation, product teams are prepared and empowered to move products from concept to market and iterate to build up those markets and market segments.
4. Adaptive Systems
Within the product development process, creating prototypes, testing, and iteration is essential. Here, the PM employs lean and agile processes and architectures to test hypotheses of the product and enable performance at scale. This way, the product team can capture opportunities and optimize products to meet changes in market demand in response to the latest technology developments, and speed up delivery to the market.
5. Stakeholder Management
Product managers must draw upon the collective thinking of their team and the organization. This is not trivial because PMs typically do not have team members (such as software developers) reporting to them directly, nor do they have authority over legal, marketing, and sales teams. Most of the work must be accomplished through influence, implemented by building and leveraging organizational and social networks. A team must understand and buy into digital product management thinking. Doing this requires strong negotiation and evangelism skills to bring people onboard and adapt a product to fit the business
6. Team Leadership
The ability to move quickly and deliver in complex or innovative environments depends on strong cross-functional teams. A product manager demonstrates team leadership in a variety of ways. First, a product manager helps develop processes and frameworks that empower teams to hurdle challenges and progress toward goals. Product managers are also skilled at illuminating how the contributions of each team member accumulate and tie to key business goals, objectives, and results, which make the work meaningful for all.
Discover the Master’s Degree in Product Management
The online Master’s in Product Management from the University of Maryland helps build the knowledge, competencies, and relationships to lead the product life cycle from discovery to delivery. Consisting of just 10 courses, the entire graduate program can be completed in 15 months with courses that follow the product development life cycle and reflect the work of today’s product managers.
The program is designed to accommodate aspiring and active product managers to grow in this profession and emerge as skilled product leaders.
Unlike other business master’s degree programs, this degree requires no GRE, GMAT, or letters of recommendation, allowing motivated prospective students to enter this program and start working toward their product management career goals.
To learn more about this innovative master’s degree program, visit the program page and complete our form.
Last updated: August 2022