It feels good to see an active product management community on LinkedIn. I was going through this post by fellow product manager Mohamed Anees Jamaludeen about key attributes of a product manager. He mentioned market knowledge, communication & product knowledge. I felt that I could add a few more traits that would be appreciated of a product manager.
Ability to sneak into the customer’s shoes
This is not the same as getting poached by a customer. A step beyond market knowledge, customer empathy is the attribute that helps a product manager sense the pain of the customer (end-user or business). Without this, he/she will never be able to come up with a solution that matches market expectations. It also lets you co-create with customers and effectively latches them to your product. After all retention is key in this world of infinite attrition, isn’t it? And empathy leads us to a focus on customer satisfaction, and a passion to deliver great user experience. A product manager should take great interest in delivering a usable product – the one that users love to use and helps retain them!
Ability to answer What, When, Why
Product managers should be able to answer who, why, what for and also know where, when and how to sell their products. The ‘what’ can be communicated to stakeholders via MRDs/PRDs/User Stories and prototypes. The prioritized feature backlog conveys the ‘when’, while ‘why’ can be answered on-demand to those (usually one of management, marketing & engineering) questioning the feature or its priority. Processing answers to these questions with some integrative thinking can help arrive at a roadmap that delineates various phases of the product life-cycle.
Ability to Innovate
There is unresting competition that is toiling to deliver something different and more valuable, all the time. No matter how many players exist in your target market, a single feature can create enough disruption to get your product off-the-ground in no time. We are often perplexed when expected to innovate, but sometimes it can be as simple as re-organizing/simplifying a flow or automating a step via API integrations with another product. But as noted here for start-ups, innovation should keep coming from a product manager all through the product’s life-cycle and should not die after a initial burst.
Possessing the right Attitude & Aptitude
Attitude forms the core of all inter-personal skills and a positive attitude at the workplace demands optimism, experimentalism, lack of ego and unmatched passion. The PM should always be prepared for fire-fighting and capable of motivating the team to support such events. without panic, because when a product manager sneezes, the whole team gets pneumonia. Should be critique smart, but also appreciative of things that are good for the product. Aptitude is again a must: 99% problems are solved with a good mix of common sense and spidey-sense instincts. Aptitude and good logic also leads to creativity & great innovation.
Collaborate, Collaborate & Collaborate
Product management demands immense collaboration across an array of functions: from engineering-to-sales and finance-to-legal. Its not just about great oration, but the ability to succinctly convey expectations, listen, understand roadblocks & resolve them. A PM has to play the role of an integrator (that sounds so much better than a facilitator, right?), a listener, a translator, and a effective leader (basically possess the 4 C’s of leadership). Since everything that affects the product, affects the product manager, he/she has to participate in decision & make it work for the product: be it correcting a sales pitch or avoiding lawsuits.
The India Product Management Association (IPMA) has announced the inaugural event of its Pune Chapter on 29 Apr, 2011 (4-6 pm) at ICC Tech Park Pune. If you are interested, please register FREE at http://ipmapune.eventbrite.com/