Unobvious skills required by the product manager

Original author: Taruna Manchanda
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Let me reveal the secret that is hidden in the management of products - at least, they don’t say it out loud: we don’t care too much about vocational skills. And what skills are we talking about? Product requirements? Surveying users? Understanding interface design? Knowledge of business and technology?

In fact, these skills more than it seems at first glance. And to become a good product manager, you need a lot more than just to know about interface design, business management and technology.

A few years ago, when I started my career in product management, almost every search query was like, “ What are product managers doing? Or what skills do a good product manager need? "Led to the following Venn diagram:

Source: What is a Product Manager?

In this diagram you can see that product managers work at the intersection of technology, design and business - and that was enough for me to understand what I need to learn and what I have to do. As a result, I began to desperately collect materials on these topics, and in less than a year I read more than fifty books — at about the same time I set a personal reading record: three books a week.

And then reality struck me - in other words, I plunged into real work.

Having launched a lot of products, shedding a lot of tears (real ones) and having experienced many difficulties, I finally realized that product management is much more than business, design and technology. The last three areas of activity - only a partthe work of the product manager.

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In essence, my job is perseverance, impeccable patience, constant emotional battles and the ability to always hold the tail with a gun!

Having spent almost four years in the field of product management, running and taking part in launching very successful projects with some of the country's brightest minds, I gained a lot of experience: I made mistakes, I failed. More than once at the end of the working day I wanted to be able to cope better - and now I know what it is “better”.

So, what lessons can be learned from my experience?

Lesson number 1. Product managers can not be sad

Sounds weird, huh? How is this: do not be sad? Is it necessary to be constantly happy? And what is the point in general?

An ordinary day in the life of a product manager is not sitting quietly in a corner and thoughtfully writing a document with product requirements, not at all ... All the day, there are always questions from designers, developers, business questions ( you could guess, yes) . And yet - a lot of meetings, conversations, discussions of various ideas and objections.

A product manager is like a sales person who talks endlessly on the phone: you need to shine every second! This is a kind of work where you need to interact with dozens of important people for the project with different characters, temperament, motivation, needs, and emotional state. Is it possible here to allow yourself to gloom? After all, you need to constantly show yourself from the best side and charge others with vigor. There is no place for sadness. Tired, burned out, lost enthusiasm? With this attitude, you will not “sell” anything.

The ability to hold the tail with a pistol in this work is the most important thing, friends. And I'm not joking.

Lesson # 2. The product is not your child.

Many where you can hear the opposite: the product, they say, should be perceived as your own child. To take care of him, to grow, to love (and protect) him as if it were your flesh and blood. Allegedly, you need to give your unselfish love, attention, all your strength - just as you would if it were your child.

In fact, this can not be done, and there are two reasons for this.

First: is it normal for you to kill a child who did not meet expectations? Will you eagerly listen to criticism directed at your child?

Not? Then stop considering the product as your child. This is not a child - it is a product. It is necessary to work and try to make it successful, but at the same time it is necessary to completely eliminate it emotionally. To have an emotional attachment to him, as to a child, comes to nothing.

Secondly, the child sometimes needs round-the-clock attention, but the product - for its own good - is not.

Sometimes you need to disconnect to be able to hear something important. To think outside the usual framework, you need to go for them. To find a niche for the product that is not blooded with potential competitors, the “ blue ocean ,” you need to break away from the current state of affairs.

Why do I say that?

Because managing products means constantly improving them. This means giving up bad ideas, products and functions, and sometimes even killing a product that does not work as expected. If at the same time experiencing any feelings towards the product, you will stop hearing criticism. And even, perhaps, you will go into a dull defense and will not be able to correctly perceive the reviews and opinions of users. And this, of course, is a bad approach to product management.

So from now on — for your good and the good of the product — begin to see the product as it is, namely, as a business to meet the needs of customers.

Lesson # 3. Want to get a sense of job satisfaction right away? Do something else

Slightly above, I compared product management with work in the sales department. However, the key difference here is that at the end of the working day a feeling of satisfaction does not come. The goal is accomplished, the deed is done - and the ringing of coins is not heard.

What is done today will not give a tangible result instantly - neither today, nor tomorrow, nor even six months later.

A path that has no end in sight. Do you know what's worst? You do not sign a contract, you do not sell, you do not write code, and you do not develop a design ( in most cases ) - therefore, a feeling of satisfaction from the task at the end of the working day rarely visits you. Very rarely!

In this case, you will constantly make some improvements, generate ideas, come up with optimizations and make the right decisions - again and again!

To do this, you need a lot of patience - to bring things to the end. To constantly learn. And in order to get results that, in turn, become the starting point for the next optimization cycle.

So if you want to get instant returns from work, perhaps this path is not for you.

Note. Too much patience is also bad: the product manager should be inclined to act, not wait, and be impatient enough to strive to bring products to the light as soon as possible.

Too controversial, huh? And I did not promise that it will be easy.

Lesson # 4. Learn to seek truth, not self-assertion.

As a product manager, you usually have to offer incredibly good ways to solve user problems — they should be better than existing solutions at least four times. On the way to this goal, it is necessary to conduct a lot of research on the formulation of the problem, finding the target user, determining the scale of the problem and the existing set of solutions.

In the course of their work, product managers often hypothesize which solutions are better suited and try to reinforce their vision with additional research on how well a specific approach will help solve the problem of users. In the process, documents are compiled, a product hypothesis is formed, a project vision is recorded, and some impact analysis is carried out.

And so far, so good. But at some point, having spent weeks (sometimes months) in search of a solution to the stated problem, you end up attached to your own idea. And here the problems begin. Having become attached to a solution, the product manager, as a rule, begins to look for confirmation of his reasoning from others - but not a true assessment. Having invested in the idea, we become attached, and this includes the work of defense mechanisms - very humanly!

Here's what I advise you to do in this case: instead of asking if something will work, ask to tell you why your idea might fail. Do not settle for one weak reason - demand three, and weighty ones. After talking with a dozen people this way, you will get thirty points of view, different from yours - good food for thought!

But do not forget to approach this with the mind: not all of these thirty points of view are correct, not all of them are important and operatively realizable. The meaning of the exercise is only to force oneself to seek the truth, and not to assert oneself.

Lesson number 5. Syndrome "I did my part"

This is the most important lesson of all - and perhaps the shortest. I started the story by saying that in the field of product management, vocational skills are not very important. But it also means that a flawlessly compiled document with product requirements and the most valuable of the proposed ideas become unimportant if the product does not “fly up”.

The first time I was easily and quickly frustrated. And I justified myself in front of me like this: “ But I did my part of the work ... ” ( Surprisingly, all these years, the bosses trusted my opinion and allowed me to act independently - that's why I had to justify myself only before myself .) I described the requirements for the product, talked with customers, conducted technical discussions, I did that, did it ... but the product did not see the light.

The product manager is the main conductor of the project: you cannot “do your part,” and then lie back in your chair and watch the gears spinning.

To get ahead you need to dive into the project with your head. This means that the product manager cannot “do his part” and do something else. You need to get involved in the whole process: help a specialist who cannot find a solution, find enough data to develop excellent functionality, thoroughly study the product and help the marketing and sales departments understand it - so that they understand what, to whom and why are selling. In fact, all the tails of the project are not up to you - on your conscience. This is your part of the work, and it is large enough so that everything else depends on it.

Lesson number 6. Hey, artist! You are not doing a product for yourself

Too often we fall into the illusion that everyone is like us. It starts to seem to us that there are two types of people in the world: some are like us, others are not like us. And all like us, of course, think and behave like us. And this means that if you have a problem, then people like you have a problem. And it is so large and widespread that it requires a solution. And as soon as this decision comes out, you, of course, will hear from all sides: “ Here is the money, take it! I waited so long for such a product to appear! "

But this does not happen.

In practice, the above means that the world in our imagination needs to solve the problem so that its solution has commercial value. We begin to solve our own problems with such enthusiasm that the angle of view is narrowed, and we cannot adequately assess the size of the market. We are not trying to look for existing solutions - which may well be! And, perhaps, they even cope with the task better than our hypothetical product.

And since we are familiar with the problem ourselves, we tend to mistakenly believe that we know everything about it, and there is no need to ask others if such a problem really exists - as a result, the angle of view narrows even more.

Do not do it this way! Do not make products for yourself. Raise your head, conduct a fairly extensive study:

  • Do enough people run into your problem so that their solution has commercial value?
  • Is the problem large enough to create a solution for it?
  • What solutions already exist and how much better will your option?

Note. Facebook, one of the most successful projects of the digital age, appeared due to the fact that someone decided to satisfy their own needs. But this solution quickly found a large market niche. You need to be able to stop in time and not overdo it with studying the problem.

Lesson number 7. Product launch - not time to celebrate

I confess that this sinner is following me.

Weeks of research, then weeks of work on the actual product, then weeks of preparation for launch. Finally, the day of launch: didn’t we deserve the opportunity to rest, to celebrate?

Of course, deserved.

The only catch is that many take it too seriously. We think it's done. It seems that the moment has come "... and they lived happily ever after . "

Very similar to a wedding, huh? But at the moment of celebration, real work is just beginning. As in the case of marriage, the real test of the relationship with the product starts from the day when it enters the real world - this is no longer an idea, this is a real product, which sometimes can even be touched.

When the product is released, you will find out what all the efforts and months of research are worth. Find out how well your decision fit the customer base. And after all these discussions and negotiations, will you hear the ringing of real coins. Product launch is the beginning of serious work.

Yes, I am excited to be excited about the launch of the product on the market - this is normal. But you need to celebrate when the first customer takes advantage of it, when the first payment comes to the bank account, when there are more customers, and with them more money in the account!

Time to celebrate - when the idea worked, and your product found its place in the market. And yet - when the clients themselves begin to advertise and in fact sell your product.

Note. Celebrate is good. Celebrate the passage of important stages - too. But it should be remembered and understood which message is behind your celebration: “We have reached the goal and finished!” - or “We welcome a new chapter in the life of the project!”

About the translator

The article was translated into Alconost.

Alconost is engaged in the localization of games , applications and websites in 70 languages. Language translators, linguistic testing, cloud platform with API, continuous localization, 24/7 project managers, any string resource formats.

We also make advertising and training videos - for sites selling, image, advertising, training, teasers, expliners, trailers for Google Play and the App Store.

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