The Essential Skills Behind Successful Product Managers

Articles Posts about SCS, Product Management

By Matthew McGrath

Business people in the office

The role of a product manager can come across as a little mysterious and ambiguous. 

They oversee a product launch, but do not belong to any one department in an organization, like, say, IT, marketing, or sales. Still, successful product managers bring products to life with a clear idea of why a company’s products matter. They also keep every stakeholder and their needs in mind while ideating or developing a product.  

But before we get into the weeds about essential product manager skills, let’s clear up the ambiguity around this role.  

What is product management? 

It is an organizational role that oversees the developmental lifecycle of a new product while coordinating between different internal stakeholders. Product managers analyze consumer needs and align them with a business’s goals using problem-solving and critical thinking. This creates a product that is consumer-focused yet profitable for a business.  

If it sounds a bit like walking on a tightrope… then you’re right!  

So, why go into a product management role? 

Despite what may initially look like a challenging role (which it is), it also is a highly rewarding one. For early career starters, it offers a specialization that could go on to define a large part of their professional lives. For more experienced hands, it’s a skillset that will prepare them for more senior positions in an organization.  

The essential product manager skills for success 

  1. Understanding the stakeholders – their viewpoints, pain points and needs 

Something as significant as launching a new product requires the involvement of numerous stakeholders like customers, managerial staff, marketing, engineering etc. And a product manager needs to understand the needs and perspectives of each of these players.  

They do this through data analytics. They’re able to sort through data collected at various consumer touchpoints, pick out the important insights and communicate them effectively to everyone involved – keeping everyone on the same page.  

  1. Cross-collaborating between departments 

As a product manager, you have many resources at your disposal. It’s on you to use them wisely at each step.  

For example, in your research phase you discover that customers want a 15-inch laptop with every single port and none of the weight. But company stakeholders find that product too expensive to develop. On consulting with your engineering team, you come up with new techniques of weight relief and manage to pack in all the essential features that the laptop needs. Now, you work with your marketing team to announce what a breakthrough this laptop really is. This is only possible when you know your teams and their strengths.  

  1. Growing your technical and cross functional skill set 

A project manager needs to have a wide set of skills to communicate and manage people across departmental boundaries. You may not be required to code but knowing the essentials will get you a long way. Similarly, successful product managers are competent in business, technology, data analytics, project management, marketing, and UX design.  

Along with these technical skills, having cross-functional skills like communication, emotional intelligence and conflict resolution are essential to managing a team of different personalities and skillsets and establishing you as a successful leader.  

  1. Being action-oriented (with an eye on the big picture) 

Having a clearly defined strategy is necessary for any successful product launch, but capable product managers are also adept at “thinking small.” That is, thinking just one or two steps ahead and writing out concrete actions they need to take to circumvent imminent problems. By switching from a strategic mindset to a more action-oriented mindset quickly, product managers can take decisive actions all the way through to the product launch.  

 Develop your product manager skills at the School of Continuing Studies 

The role of product managers is constantly evolving. As part of the Certificate in Product Management at the School of Continuing Studies, you’ll build the skills you need to get your product management career started.  

You’ll learn from experienced industry professionals and work with a group of like-minded and ambitious peers. At the end of the program, you’ll work on a capstone project with a real company and test and hone your skills solving real-world problems.  

Learn more about the Certificate in Product Management. Next enrollment begins September 2022.