Hard Skills For Business Management – We often hear about the need for soft skills in product management. Still, any discussion of the product his manager’s soft-her skills assumes that he or she has already mastered the hard-her skills, which are the specific competencies required for the job. But what are the hard skills required for product management?
In this post, we’ll cover some of the hard skills we believe every product manager should have. But first, let’s clarify the difference between a product manager’s soft and hard skills. Ashok Bania, director of product management for popular meditation app Headspace, recently shared with us his two definitions.
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“Hard skills are very much related to your role and the work you do. They are your technical skills. , how much you know about models, how much you know about statistics, etc. But soft skills are not directly related to your job, they are useful in almost every job and personal life. Communication, time management, focus, etc.” — Director of Product Management, Headspace, Ashok Bania
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So what are the hard skills a product manager needs? He has compiled a list of six critical hard skills every product manager should master.
You don’t need a degree in business or finance to become a product manager (though it doesn’t hurt). However, you should have some fluency in business basics.
For example, you need to know the difference between revenue and profit, budgeting, cash flow, and how to read the income statement (P&L).
As a product manager, your role requires knowing the details of product development. As part of that, we monitor other internal factors that may affect development. Further, suppose a stakeholder asks you to discuss earnings for a particular product over a particular period of time or to provide a forecast of future earnings. Then you need to know how to read, interpret and clarify these details. By doing this, you will not only be able to provide more value to your organization, but you will also be able to connect more with people within your company who may be interested in future products and ideas.
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Product management is a broad field. With so many different ways to approach product development, it can seem overwhelming at first.
One of the most important hard product management skills is (surprise!) a basic knowledge of industry best practices. Product managers are encouraged to learn about different frameworks, processes, and methodologies. Many product managers conduct research, develop strategies, communicate plans, coordinate development, and provide feedback and data analysis. Fortunately, smart product managers have already done much of this work and codified it into various product management strategies.
Understanding different product management frameworks is a great place to start. In The Ultimate Guide to Product Management Frameworks, we’ve outlined the top frameworks to help you become a better product manager. Dig into some of the frameworks on this list and learn the different strategies you can use to research product ideas, acquire new customers, delight existing users, and other things you must do as a product manager. Learn a myriad of things.
One of his greatest tools for product managers is the product roadmap. Certain roadmap software can be powerful tools in a product manager’s toolbox. This tool makes it easy for product managers to organize complex ideas. Mastering this tool is essential for product managers to develop plans, effectively communicate plans to various stakeholders, and coordinate development.
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Panelist girlfriend Isabelle Berner, senior product manager at Pivotal Labs, told us in our webinar, Essential Skills All Product Managers Must Master, that one of the product manager’s greatest responsibilities is ruthlessness for prioritization. I said that it is to become a powerful force.
This is important to make sure our engineers are working on what matters most. But, as Isabelle explained, this means “a lot of our work is saying no to sales, marketing, customer support and even stakeholder requests.” increase.
Knowing how to prioritize and politely decline requests that might overrule your product’s strategic priorities is a special skill. Yes, it probably covers the gray area between hard and soft skills. The webinar panel itself was torn on how to classify it.
An objective prioritization framework can help you make many prioritization decisions. And a working knowledge of these frameworks and when and how to use them is an important hard skill in product management. However, mastering this ability is important enough that product managers deserve to be on this list of product management hard skills, mainly because it allows them to apply science.
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As we’ve pointed out many times here, product roadmap decisions should be data-driven, not entirely intuitive (no matter how sharp your intuition may be). Data helps alert product managers to market opportunities and threats. It can direct development resources to the right places to focus, and it can also help validate product and feature ideas before allocating resources.
“Data can catch you off guard. You may do research and think: I told my story and made a business case.” If you present it to someone who is skeptical, they can easily poke holes in your plans. “
Like Kevin, we believe that proficiency in metrics, analytics, and research is a difficult skill that every product manager should develop.
You don’t need a degree in economics to become a product manager (though that’s fine), but you should at least have a basic level of understanding in the field.
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Think of it this way. Economics studies how people and societies put scarce resources to other uses. As product managers, we almost always have this problem in one way or another. There are too many requests for our team to handle and we don’t have enough time on the planned start date or the budget to hire the necessary personnel.
A basic understanding of economics will go a long way in understanding the concepts you’ll use every day in this career. These concepts can include trade-off needs, cost-benefit analysis, future consequences of current actions (think technical debt!), and more.
This was a big problem for our panel. I also covered this blog before: Should product managers be technical? In other words, product managers working on technical products, like Ashok Bania at Headspace must have a relevant background?
Annie Dunham’s Director of Product pointed out certain situations where a career experience in the technical field would benefit a product manager. For example, if you manage a product designed for technical users such as engineers, having a technical background will help you empathize and understand them better.
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But Annie, who has a technical background, also talks about how her engineering background can be a weakness when she transitions from engineer to product manager. “We had too many technical conversations,” she explained. This means that her technical product manager risks wearing an engineer’s hat and losing focus on the big picture strategic issues she should be focusing on as a product manager.
We believe the answer is to improve your technical skills by learning to code and taking online courses in your technical area of expertise. This will give you a better understanding of your product, your users, and your technical colleagues. It’s a hard skill worth honing, and you don’t need to start over and get an engineering degree (unless you want it, because it can be beneficial).
Weak or underappreciated product management skills, such as comfortable working with others, excellent listening, and her skills, can help a product manager’s career. We recently reported that a product rep with #1 skills said her colleagues lacked prioritization skills. Prioritizing skills fall somewhere between hard and soft skills.
Watch the webinar “Recruiting and growing successful product teams” to learn more about the skills product leaders look for when hiring.
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You should also learn at least some hard product management skills. These typically include research skills, an understanding of how a business operates, and a general knowledge of product management best practices. Once you have a solid foundation of hard product management skills, you can focus on improving your soft skills to become a well-rounded product manager.
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