What are the qualifications of a good product manager?
How do you define a product manager (PM)? What makes a product manager a good one?
The product manager is the magician in your company who is making things happen, always keeping in mind the top 3 product management ingredients.
Many like to call this magician as the mini CEO which is to some degree a true interpretation. He carries many hats, he operates at many levels and he is the glue factor of many entities of your company. And this is why it is so important to have a good product manager. You do not want to risk such a critical role by just assigning anyone.
Get a PM with strategy and vision
Product manager without a strategy and a vision is not a true product manager. He/she is an executor. The vision is needed to complement your big product puzzle with :
✔ Business value: This perspective brings back you down to earth when you or your team start flying in the clouds with dreamy ideas. You have a product because your customers need it not to satisfy your fantasies.
✔ Business model: This perspective brings back you on track when you or your team goes in the direction of a long and inefficient cycle leading to high costs and non-profit model.
In addition to the above key points, a good product manager needs to have a good understanding of the technical aspects of product development.
He/she does not need to know the nuts and bolts of implementation details, no micromanagement, please. This is unrealistic anyways given how fast the technology landscape changes and how a variety of different technical skills are needed. Leave this space to passionate developers, also when it concerns privacy protection policies in places like hospitals.
However, a technical background is essential if not vital so that product development decision making is based on solid grounds.
Then there are other important traits such as having an eye for design. Design or ergonomy of the product or the user experience as mostly called these days is not something to be overlooked. The design or the window of the product defines how satisfied the customer is and impacts the whole perception of the product. The product manager is not necessarily a design person but he/she can have a right arm person to fulfill the need and shall have a « sensibility » on design.
Do not forget interpersonal skills
Multi-tasking and good decision-making skills come handy when PM’s calendar is overbooked with :
- Customer demos
- Specifications editing/review
- Product testing
- Bug tracking
- Sales and marketing support
- Following up customer support
- Preparing for new releases
- Researching market status, understanding competition,
- Feature prioritization
- Evaluating and protecting customer data, metrics
- Handling cross-functional teams, and of course internal politics
To handle all these different activities, interpersonal skills play an important role. Talking about a bullet-proof product manager! All kinds of criticisms will fly over his/her head. Customer complaints will not be missing in the weekly routine. Dealing with so many company entities or personalities, he/she will definitely come across conflict of interests. It’s all about people, not about numbers only. He/she cannot survive without good listening skills being at the crossroads of different functionalities in the company.
Wow, it sounds like this product manager is a superman. While in real life, it is almost impossible to carry all these characteristics at the right balance, still, good examples of product managers will more or less have the main skills we talked about: technical understanding, business value thinking, user experience sensibility and decision making. Also in hospital settings, managing operations and all related activities is a key issue so product management must be taken seriously here as well.
I have seen many good PMs each having a different management style. Some PMs will be stronger in one area than the other areas yet the important thing is having a vision and keeping an open mind to improve oneself going along the journey with strong decision-making skills.