What Makes a Great Product Manager

By Bobby Gill on July 23, 2019

In tech businesses, certain people often have to wear many hats – not only is this usually the case for startups, the same happens in larger businesses too. Some roles will extend beyond traditional requirements out of necessity. For a product manager, wearing multiple hats is an inherent part of this challenging role.

This demanding job requires a perfect mixture of technical knowledge, solid leadership skills, and excellent communication. If your business doesn’t currently have this role, it might be time to consider creating a position for this kind of talent. Let’s look at what a product manager does for a business and for you product managers out there, we’ll discuss the most desirable traits of top candidates in the market.

What does a product manager do?

A product manager is a liaison between your developers, engineers, and marketing teams – these individuals are responsible for curating product lifecycles from the idea phase through end-of-life. They work as a cross-functional team player who cultivates teamwork and ultimately, delivers polished products in a timely fashion.

If you’ve been a product manager for years, you should have a good grasp on what the role requires – or might require, as every company is a little different. For businesses considering creating a product manager position, the role can be described by outlining a few key responsibilities:

Developing a strategy for existing and new products. As a product manager, it’s often necessary to come into a company and begin by working with an existing service or item. This requires learning capabilities and developing a vision which needs to be communicated to the product development and marketing teams in addition to describing direction to stakeholders. For upcoming or new ideas, it’s much the same but this task requires strategizing how to build and launch the product or service by prioritizing the most pertinent tasks in both development and marketing.

Making an impact on release. Once development has concluded, launching the product with a bang leverages sales when done correctly. The value that’s been communicated to other teams should come out in various marketing collateral which will be used by teams to create and convert leads into sales. It’s also necessary to train support staff to use the proper language and communicate value when a customer requires assistance.

Developing ideas for new products or features. Analytics and customer feedback typically reveal desirable new features and also identifies problematic areas with existing products. This information should be incorporated into strategies for new developments and endeavors to improve existing products. It’s not always pushing a new idea – sometimes the role requires analyzing an existing solution and considering the best approach to improve upon the existing design. Here, prioritization is key as faults should be addressed first, followed by new features, and ultimately, new products or services

Managing daily workflows. Executing projects successfully requires diligent interaction with various teams to ensure everyone stays on task. Not only does the product manager need to be agile in tackling their daily tasks, but they also need to cultivate agility into development, engineering, and marketing teams. This means creating a flexible workflow so teams can pivot around feature development and bug triage when a problem surfaces. A baseline for prioritizing workflow should be established, but teams should also be coached on how to adapt around changes, especially when pressing technical issues need to be mitigated.

In short, the product manager is a cross-functional team member who plays a substantial role in managing or assisting different teams. This individual becomes the oil for the many moving parts in an organization.

“Good product manager bad product manager”

The traits of a bad product manager are much like those of other poor performers in different roles – it should come as no surprise that those who are disheveled and don’t play well with others aren’t ideal for this role.

The most glaring issue with a bad product manager is found in those who don’t command their project and allow push back from teams to delay or altogether halt a project. Project managers must be able to effectively challenge obstacles as leaders who work to resolve issues and minimize turbulence. As such, a great product manager is:

Remarkably well-organized. As a key player in a cross-functional role, the ability to organize tasks on behalf of all parties involved is essential. It requires a detailed understanding of timelines and the capability of each team to deliver portions of a project in a timely fashion. Ideally, finding a collaborative workflow management solution (or custom tailoring an existing service) that everyone can use is a product manager’s greatest ally. Collaboration software like Slack or Microsoft Teams is incredibly useful for categorizing discussion channels and working through tasks in real-time. Product management solutions like Asana, Jira from Atlassian, Monday, or creating custom workflows and automating tasks with Microsoft Flow are all good options. Just make sure to do your homework before settling on a solution as each is a little different!

Transparent in all communications. The notion of transparency is among the most important aspects of delivering information between staff and stakeholders alike. Beating around the bush or keeping viable information hidden from certain parties creates confusion which causes frustration. Being honest not only builds trust, but it helps keep everyone on task. Great product managers clearly set expectations and disclose information when obstacles arise. Without a ridiculous amount of luck, there are going to be occasional feature release delays and bugs – these issues need to be clearly communicated with the necessary parties in a timely manner.

Able to break down a complex vision into an achievable roadmap. Coming up with ideas is a great talent, but without a practical plan for execution, these notions either don’t get off the ground or the end result becomes like a Pinterest project gone wrong. Translating an idea into a successful product depends on the ability to delegate tasks to the appropriate teams, ensure timelines are on point, and that secondary plans are in place for teams to pivot when obstacles surface.

Demonstrates empathy for stakeholder, end-users, and developers. The foundation for success is the ability to truly understand the process, goals, and capabilities of various teams. This means comprehending technical processes as well as how to sell ideas to both stakeholders and customers. Product managers need to empathize with all parties as this helps define and shape priorities while keeping everyone as happy as possible. Naturally, you can’t make everyone happy all the time, but it should always be the goal!

Check out Blue Label Labs

A product manager has a tough job – for the right person with the right hard and soft skills to pull it off, it is a fulfilling role. It’s critical for product managers to perform at peak levels all the times, which is easier said than done! But for the hyper-organized, super-eloquent, and technically savvy, it’s certainly a rewarding role.

Get in touch with us at Blue Label Labs as our product managers are well-groomed to handle your development needs and work with your other teams to drive success.