How to become a good Product Manager
Product Manager role is my aspirational role. I would like to share how I came about this role and prepared for this role.
I was a regular software developer and moved up the ladder to become a technical lead. As a tech lead, I searched for the next career options I had and came across the digital Product Manager [PM] role. As I learnt more about the role from inspiring talks from PMs of google, LinkedIn etc, I was drawn towards it. Some of the Product Manager tasks were familiar to me. I followed few steps to prepare for this role and understand what i did not know.
This Blog has the steps I followed, to learn about the Product Manager role, understand the role, to prepare for the role and things that I will do as a part of my role as a Product Manager.
First lets understand what is required of a digital Product Manager
* The main task of a Product Manager is to take decisions while keeping in mind all the constraints.
* Product Manager has to empathize with the user and solve the real user problems
* Product Manager will have to prioritize, prioritize and prioritize. As the real world has limited resources, PM can solve only few problems and a good Product Manager will know which problem has to be solved over others.
* Product Manager has to support and positively influence tech team to create the solution he has in mind
* Data-default-data applies completely to this role. collect user data, analyze this data to make the user return to your product to make it user’s default product, this will make you get more data. work on this continuously
As shown in the figure above, Product manager is expected to solve a user problem keeping the user experience, insights gained from data, technology available and most importantly Business goals, metrics and ROI in mind.
Some steps to prepare for the Product Manager role:
• Understand the challenges and requirements of the role (Product Managers have to balance between the user experience, business goal, data available and the technology)
• Read about the different types of Product Managers (the user first, Business first and technology first) Different organizations need different type of Product Managers what is it that you aim to be, what relevant skill you possess etc
• Make it a habit to digest all the latest happenings in technology. Read all the daily and weekly content available online. Something new is always there to update you with.These will not only help you prepare for the interview but will also help you become a good PM. And lucky for us, there are various channels at our disposal–
o Read books from industry leaders
o Listen to TED talks and subscribe to Youtube channels of inspirational PMs
o There are great pod casts that I follow to understand the trends, to understand the new frameworks that are being used for example to keep users hooked etc. This is a good listen when you are on a drive
o Online Magazines like TechCrunch, Medium, TheAtlantic Technology, Digg, etc are places to be every morning.
o Follow Mind the Product type of conferences to connect with PMs around the world
o Signup in PM specific groups in social media platforms like LinkedIn, follow feeds from inspirations PMs, innovative company like Google etc. These people set trends and be there to hear from the horses mouth.
o Apps like Cohortplus are great to ask quick suggestions for product changes and learn about PM job openings
• Some companies require the PM to be in-house developers but most companies hire external/ laterals as PM and mandate a MBA degree as requirement for the post. So if you are serious about the role, and have very little business acumen it is advisable to go back to school and gain some valuable insights. MBA program will definitely open you up for a lot of other possibilities too.
• Reading has no weight-age over practicing. Do make it point to get an internship experience to further understand by doing what you are signing up for. If you are lucky and you land an internship with a company that is PM driven, you are sure to further fall in love with the role.
• Try your hands on making your own application. There are simple and easy to use tools available to code visually and you get a feel of UX and UI in the process. Gets you thinking of how and why other PMs are designing in a certain way. Create your own free website and tag it to your Google analytics account to learn a little about analytics.
• Analyze all applications you use with a critique hat. This will definitely come a long way in interviews.
Thought process and approach for any PM task
As a Product Manager, if I were to launch an app, I would follow the following series of steps. This is broadly how a PM is expected to think and keep in mind all these various spheres before making any suggestions to change any product
1. Company Goal – Understand the company goal in launching an app.
For Example for Uber it is – connecting riders with safe, reliable, convenient transportation and creating a platform for riders and drivers to meet.
2. Market research – Product Manager would rely on existing research data and data from other sources to get a detailed understanding of the industry
• understand the industry growth potential
• understand what the product scale would reach
• understand how similar or different we want our product to be
3. User Research – During User research some of the points to study are:
• How, when and why are the users using the service now?
• What are their pain points in current system?
• How will the app help them?
• What part of the process is the app replacing?, Is app really necessary?
• What is the value proposition to the users?
• Do different types of user segment exist?
• Which segment of users will our app cater to? (only smart-phone users through mobile only app or should we consider a solution for all mobile users?)
• What should be our channels to communicate to the users?
• What are the language, culture and habits of the users?
4. Product Road Map –
• The personas of users should be finalized.
• The core metrics for the app should be defined.
• Insights from the research should be shortlisted and Ideas should be brainstormed keeping the user pain points and metrics in mind.
• Ideas from other stakeholders should also be collected, validated and added to the pool of ideas.
• The ideas that help impact the main metrics should be prioritized and a road-map will be derived. the right events/data points to be tracked [Analytics] when the app is launched.
• The concept and the detailed specification document to be prepared by the Product Manager and reviewed. At this stage, the user interface will be finalized ( after the prototype has been shown to users for feedback) and the mock-ups will be available for integration with the app.
• The launch strategy for each idea/feature will also be finalized [ i.e. will it be launched to all users or will it be A/B tested for a small set of users or what will be the metrics on which the A/B test will be concluded ?].
• The prioritized list of features should then be discussed with the other stakeholders [including Tech team].
5. Product Development – Tech team will use the detailed requirements that are provided [with use cases and user flow diagrams, detailed product mock-ups and wire-frames] and come up with their timelines. These timelines will be reviewed. Based on the timelines, the road-map will be tweaked and finalized.
• Product development for PM will involve supervision at every stage of development of the app. Right guidance and support is given to the tech team to complete the development in time as per road map.
6. Minimum Viable Product – Get the team to develop a MVP with a small set of features for the users to start with. This can be further upgraded with small and independent features after user feedback and continuous development.
• For every additional feature, Cost vs Benefit analysis is done to decide if the feature is needed and is it justified, and does the feature fall in line with the product vision? These questions must be answered.
• After the app is ready, it should go through user acceptance testing (UAT). The other stakeholders, some users and Product Manager will check the app and provide feedback
7. How to launch? – The final version of the application can be tested in a small geographical area, with few power users to start with (for example: Bangalore city, IT employees). Feedback from these users will be used to enhance the app before further roll out to other geographical areas.
8. Metrics to gauge – The Success/ failure of the application can continuously monitored through data points.
9. Contingency plans – If things don’t go as per plan then there has to be a contingency plan for product to deal with every possible situation that can arise. This has to be made before the product/feature is launched
Having shared some of my learning and things I follow, I want to say that as I write this blog, I am yet to land into my dream role. But I am confident my structured preparation will get me where I want to be because I believe if you follow something with passion the universe will conspire for you to have it.