What Makes a Product Manager Great vs. Just Good

A product manager is a critical link in the product development chain to ensure successful delivery. A great product manager aligns their product’s goals to meet the goals of the company or client. This article takes a deep dive into the responsibilities of a product manager and highlights tips to scale up from a “good” to a “great” product manager and maximize the overall impact for your company.

Modern Responsibilities of a Product Manager

The roles and responsibilities of a PM extend in different directions. Product managers are responsible for bringing the market vision of a product into reality by leading cross-functional teams that are responsible for developing the product.

The product manager has a core responsibility to create a strategy to deliver the product within the agreed-upon timeframe and specifications. They collaborate with the customer to create a roadmap for product development and delivery. The PM also prioritizes development tasks for the team and manages dependencies across releases to accomplish product milestones.

How PM Responsibilities Will Change in the Coming Years

Technology will be one of the main factors transforming the responsibilities of a product manager. Here are a few high-impact trends to be aware of:

  • Instead of manually creating reports or tracking tasks for the customer, we can expect tools powered by artificial intelligence to automatically generate high-quality roadmaps.
  • PMs will be expected to be technologically literate, if not capable of some coding. This will help them lead the team while keeping up with all the technical jargon and work involved in developing a technical product.
  • PMs will be expected to be “data literate” to understand the data that the customer provides and ask relevant questions regarding the same. This clarity will help internal stakeholders obtain maximum data clarity and avoid roadblocks while interpreting data.
  • PMs will be expected to possess experience with cross-functional product management roles like a technical PM, core PM, or growth PM, enabling them to scale up in their roles and responsibilities depending on the dynamic distribution of projects.

Responsibilities of Different PM Roles

Technical PM

Technical PMs can help establish the technologies, tools, and processes for handling all aspects of a project for the customer or organization. Technical product managers are in charge of the full life cycle of projects (from idea generation through deployment), driving delivery to completion, and negotiating timelines with respect to technical dependencies to support the launch of a product.

Core PM

Core product managers are focused on enabling new use-cases in the product that are being developed. The core PM provides solutions to delivering long-term value by solving customer problems. They focus on driving larger deliverables from inception to market release and integrating distinct features and capabilities in the same.

Growth PM

Instead of owning a specific set of product functionality, growth product managers are more focused on metrics and measurable business outcomes by driving more value from existing products. Growth PMs play a major role in enabling the business to grow in a sustainable manner. Their sole aim is for users to attain maximum benefits quickly, from already existing products.

Key Traits of a Good Product Manager

Here is a roundup of the key characteristics of a “good” PM:

  • Ability to define and launch products that meet and exceed client and business objectives
  • Cross-functional team leadership skills with the ability to foster communication between internal stakeholders
  • Written and verbal communication skills for conversing with the client or customer
  • Subject matter expertise in the product that the PM is developing
  • Knowledge of various industry verticals to establish accurate roadmaps for timely deliveries, SCRUM knowledge, and an understanding of Agile/Waterfall methodology
  • Specific knowledge of how to monetize the product with your target user base

A good PM always follows best practices like:

  • Daily SCRUMs to designate and overlook the team’s tasks
  • Weekly retrospective meetings to understand what went right, what went wrong and what could have been done better.
  • Daily client calls to update the client on the progress of the project and maintain transparency
  • Always staying in touch with the internal stakeholders to understand any roadblocks and find immediate resolutions for the same
  • Planning timelines with adequate buffers to fix bugs and other issues that may arise
  • Depicting timelines clearly for internal stakeholders to help them plan and manage deliveries
  • Weekly demos with the client to demonstrate project progress
  • Ability to make timely decisions and take immediate action in case of a blocking issue
  • Strategic decision-making to develop a product of the highest standards

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How to Go from a Good PM to a Great PM

Here is a roundup of our special tips, competitive edges, and uncommon approaches for standing out from other PMs:

  1. Manage expectations with project stakeholders: Whether they are cross-functional teams or the client, PMs should walk them through concrete data points to outline expected outcomes and set realistic timelines.
  2. Perfect your verbiage: Communicate about the project's progress, highlight product opportunities in the market, and outline time to market in a friendly and helpful way. Refrain from constant highlights around project budget, risks, tight deadlines, and so forth. There is always a way to push for the right priorities, but without conveying a sense of panic or stress among team members.
  3. Listen: Listen to the issues faced by stakeholders and teammates and avoid imposing a personal opinion. A great PM will always try to be a part of mitigating the issues rather than reprimanding the team.
  4. Own the agenda: Walk away from every meeting with a clear set of action items for the team, the client and yourself.
  5. Be flexible: Do not impose your work ethic on a teammate. Let them work in a way that suits their work ethic, and watch their productivity increase. Get familiar with each team member's strengths and weaknesses so that you can assign tasks accordingly.
  6. Be future-minded: Look over the project plan weekly and identify the gaps in your project with respect to scope, time, and cost. Analyze where you are versus where you should be, and take into consideration the deadlines and project constraints.
  7. Obtain product approvals in phases: This will showcase product progress and help you understand the next course of action. Similarly, find a tactful way to highlight the consequences of inaction on approvals from the client's end.
  8. Keep up those PM certifications: It's always smart to learn and expand your knowledge base.
  9. Embrace automation: Get familiar with tech tools that can handle your planning and roadmap responsibilities so that you can focus on other relevant tasks. Also, sharpen your technical skills and try to stay current in the tech space.
  10. Results first: Instead of following a strict discipline of project “deliverables”, focus on project outcomes that will have a real business impact at the end.

How a PM can Maximize Their Impact Within the Company

If you're looking to increase your value to your current team, we recommend two primary strategies:

  • Demonstrate to business partners and senior leaders how each product you're building can strategically move the company forward and create advantages within your market.
  • Make strategic connections across the organization. If your product runs into an issue during development, you need to know who can help you find a quick resolution. The team will look up to you for guidance in such times, and you will have no need to panic if you already have connections that can help you.

How to Adapt Your Approach Depending on Your Company's Stage of Growth

There are typically 3 stages to a company’s lifecycle:

Stage 1: Startup And Development

In this phase, the company is relatively new to the market. This is the time where completing a product quickly can establish traction for the company in the market. In the initial months of the company’s growth, a PM will be expected to make quick decisions, handle uncertainty and change requests with precision, and work with entrepreneurial personalities to take a project to its completion.

Stage 2 : Growth And Expansion

This is a phase where the business is financially secure and is generating a steady source of income. In this phase, the company’s goal would be to stand apart from competitors. The PM can be a useful asset in re-contracting clients to gain more projects for the company. This sense of trust on the client's side can generate a network effect within your market and build your reputation.

Stage 3 : Maturity

This is a phase where the business has been in the market for quite some time. In this phase, the company’s goal would be to cater to the widest possible range of project types. The product manager needs to level up their knowledge, technical skills, and people management abilities to equip themselves to handle increasing complex or niche projects.

Building a Strong Relationship with C-Level Executives

C-level executives focus on attaining company goals and are interested in the company’s overall performance. This performance can partially be tracked by utilizing metrics that a product manager records in his project. These metrics or KPIs include customer growth and repeat clients, customer reductions, product related measurable goals, and so forth.

A product manager has the required skills and business insights that can assist the C-level executives in understanding the “why” behind a product's development and how it relates to organization’s growth. A PM can highlight how the product goals support the overall company vision. Reviewing the roadmaps set for the product can also help C-level executives understand how the product will drive the business forward and in turn establish a strong relationship of trust between the C-level and product manager.

PMs Are More Important Than Ever

This article has demonstrated how a PM is an important asset to the company, but it is not enough to just be a "good" product manager. Companies should prioritize scaling up their product managers to be ever-adaptable, irrespective of the project handed over to them. A great product manager has the potential to take a business to new heights!

If you're looking to hire expert product management and software development fast, Crowdbotics offers managed app development services from vetted PMs. We can work as part of your team or build custom apps from scratch – whatever works for you. Get in touch with us today for a detailed estimate and proposal.

Originally published:

November 19, 2020

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