When we talk about a product manager’s role and job description, there always seem to be some overlap with other departments. Moreover, it becomes very difficult to define the exact profile that will be fit for the job role. To add to this different type of softwares require different traits in the manager who manages them.
Are you a product manager at Google? Coming with an experience in the world’s most desired company, can it be assumed that you will be a good product manager for all software products?
The answer is no. There are qualities of a product manager that makes him / her suitable for a particular kind of product. It is very rare to find a product manager that can fit into all product management roles.
I have tried to cover type of products and relevant product manager qualities / traits required.
There are three classifications of softwares that I have used in this article:
1. Shipped Vs. Online
2. Early Stage Vs. Mature
3. B2C Vs B2B
These products are unique and present a different kind of challenge because it is hard to update them after launch. With the advent of internet, this gap is getting filled but nor all software installations are updated. For example, not everyone auto updates the installation of Microsoft Office or Windows Media Player. Thus it becomes very important to get the product first time right.
As a result, the product release cycles are longer and the products require a high level of project management and continuous coordination between teams. Detailing the specifications to the last level while planning for product features is an integral part of the PMs job.
PMs who are good at project management, program management and have an eye for the last level of information do well on shipped products.
One advantage of online softwares is that features can be removed / added on the fly. The changes become visible to your users and they start using them as soon as they are made live to the users. This gives an opportunity to product managers to try out concepts and experiment to reach to the conclusion quickly.
PMs who are scrappy, not inclined towards perfection, who have multiple views on resolving same problem do well on online products. Because online softwares collect a lot of data as compared to the offline softwares, it becomes mandatory that these PMs are skilled with data analysis and design experiments.
Early Stage Products
The biggest purpose of early stage products is to get market feedback and validation or proof of concept. Thus time to market becomes very important for such products.
PMs who are not perfectionists, can strip down the features to MVP and are more inclined towards doing things fast and may be the dirty way do well on such products.
Mature products present a different kind of challenge to the PMs. Most of the features essentially are incremental improvements over the previous version of the product. Moreover, the biggest competitor of a mature product is the previous version of the same product. There would be hundreds and thousands of ideas that would be in pipeline either waiting for their turn to come or put on hold.
PMs who are more keen on improving things than innovating and who like working with already collected user feedbacks do good on mature products.
These products have a limited number of users as compared to B2C products and most of the users face similar problems. The product features, improvements are primarily driven from customer feedback and engineering and technology does not have much in designing the features.
A product manager who likes to do customer research, talk to customers and do brainstorming with them does well on these products. PM should also have an inclination to do market research and keep up pace with the competitors.
In B2C products, engineering plays a key role in deciding the road map of the features. Moreover, user behaviour data becomes highly important in deciding the improvements and innovations.
PMs who are good at converting idea (from engineering) into a complete product and who have an eye for numbers and can find patterns in it do well on these products.
So what kind of product manager are you?