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Monday, July 29, 2013

Product Manager: building blocks

Unlike marriages (as many say), product manager evolve from experience. So here are some running thoughts on what constitute a good product manager or what really helps in building a strong character of a product manager.

Product Manage: Building blocks

Level 1: Fundamentals:
  1. Project intrinsic: Aspects of project management like development process, project RAID, critical path, resource optimal utilization, release milestones etc. These are important to judge the feasibility of timelines and deliverable.
  2. Stamina: ability to put in long hours and does not constraint to 9 to 6 / business hours. For a product manager there is no stat or finish line, life moves in circles with new milestones in each lap. Another way of stating this is leading by example on how hard (detailing) a individual can work and how much could he/ she deliver.
  3. Articulation: One of the most desired aspect or quality that is expected in a product manager is the ability to express oneself easily in clear and effective language. This is aspect that has maximum influences on effectiveness of a product manager. Remember effectiveness of a team directly depends upon the effectiveness of the product manager. Also, good articulation requires good observation skills and this is what helps in drafting clear and elaborated requirements.
  4. People management: Critical and most challenging aspect of product management. A product manager must learn to get the work out of a team that does not report into him. Influence  or use authority or may be by showing some carrot, whatever it takes get the work done.

Level 2: Acceleration
  1. Business acumen: Knowing commercial aspects of a business is very important. The purpose of product is profit and unless the product is not designed to delivery profit it will not live long life. Features that will help improve the top and bottom line of business should be implemented on priority and which features will lose money should be avoided. Unless a product manager has business sense he/ she will always struggle to deliver successful products.
  2. Technologist: A tech-savvy product manager is always in a better bet than a non-tech savvy product manager. As a owner of the product, the product manager should have foresight to judge upcoming technology changes that might influence the product road-map. While there are always other departments in the organization that will help take the technical decisions, a product owner must never be ignorant of the technology. This is one area that will help him/ her have better command or influence over the engineering team. 
  3. Domain expertise: More than anything else, domain expertise is about effectiveness. An expertise that directly translates into the successful implementation of a feature in the product. If there is anything that will help you differentiate your product from the competition, it is your in-depth understanding of the domain in which you operate. Domain expertise is key in driving use-cases / usage scenarios and helps in giving your product a mature look.

Level 3: Maturity
  1. Analytic skills: Problem solving skills, working out on innovative solutions or coming out with altogether a very different way of delivering the same thing. All these help your product get an edge above rest and you edge above your internal and external competition. Analytic skills are judged very frequently by stake holders, in meetings, talks, mails or even in requirement documents. There is no go but to improvise your analytic skills on regular basis.
  2. Negotiations skills: Product managers are supposed to lead the cross-functional teams within the organization. This requires them to see both the world, world of technology and world of business. What it means is that being a bridge between the technology and business, a product manager is required to deal with sales, operations, engineering and various other departments. Challenge here is that each of them would be talking of their priorities and unless product manager negotiate effectively the product road-map would get hijacked. Negotiate keeping product and organization priority above rest and convince stake-holders on release plan is of paramount importance. Believe me, unless a product manager picks up this skill his/ her life is short in the organization.

Level 4: Excellence
  1. Passion: The ultimate ingredient of effectiveness, of success and of excellence is the passion. Passion reflects in sense of owning. I own this product, its my baby and I am responsible for its success. Passion is seen when a product manager do not draw lines that limits his/ her responsibility. My product is my responsibility, I am always in-charge and there is nothing about the product which is not of my concern. Technology, User experience, customer feedback, deployment issues, whatever it may be, I am here to deliver best.

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