The growth of the mobile app and software industry over the past few years has been remarkable, to say the least. It wasn’t too long ago that building a mobile app or tinkering with a software product was just a pastime or hobby for many developers. What was once a hobby is now a flourishing industry.
With the growth of businesses focused on offering mobile app and software products has come to a need for a more broad range of skill sets to deliver on products that stand out in a now saturated marketplace. The skills traditionally associated with mobile app development have typically been back-end and front-end programming skills. While the programming languages and tools used have changed with the growth of the industry, the emphasis for team members working in this field has been on gaining software development knowledge.
However, with the rise of frameworks and libraries that make app development faster, more efficient, and easier to implement, the demand for highly specialized programming or software development skills has shifted slightly. Increasingly, firms are in need of product managers that are familiar with different parts of the development process. Product managers have a more generalized skill set, with knowledge of User Interface (UI), User Experience (UX), marketing analytics, software development, management, and logistics.
Wielding this broad base of knowledge means they are able to communicate with different departments efficiently to make sure all team members are working in unison to accomplish company objectives. It also means that product managers can effectively communicate the needs of different departments with one another and ensure that milestones set by the executive team are being met.
Given the democratization of libraries, frameworks, and programming tools that developers have at their disposal, what many companies look to as a way to stand out is the talent required to successfully implement these tools. Moreover, firms need these tools to be implemented in line with company goals and timelines.
It’s perhaps for this reason that educational institutions like Flatiron School in Brooklyn are offering boot camps specifically to train students for the skills they need to become product managers. For more on that, see this article from Fast Company. Since product management is becoming increasingly relevant, here are some tips to improve your product management skillset.
1. Familiarize Yourself with the Programming Frameworks and Libraries on Offer
Part of being a good product manager is knowing enough about the technologies on offer to reign a development team in and make sure they are utilizing the tools at their disposal to meet company timelines. This is especially true considering that many developers will introduce unnecessary technologies to satisfy their own intellectual fascinations. Sometimes in development, less is more, and good product managers should know about the tools that can simplify and streamline development cycles.
Learning the basics of these technologies also means that you’ll be able to speak the same language as the development team. You’ll be able to understand the problems they’re solving, and the technical causes for any delays. You’ll also be able to offer guidance and possible solutions based on your communications with other departments.
2. Do a Deep Dive Into User Experience and User Interface Design
Good product managers have a great handle on User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design concepts. These important principles can scale across different departments in an organization. Implementing good design, for example, can improve retention rates and other important marketing metrics, hence their relevance to marketing. They are integrated into software development by ensuring that technologies used are consistent with making a product user-friendly and intuitive, hence their relevance to development.
According to Pranjal Bora at Digital Authority, mobile apps and software products that don’t incorporate great design are destined to fail. This is because regardless of market demand, technological IP, or any other factor if a product suffers from poor design, people simply won’t use it. Especially given the democratization of software tools and the saturation of the market, if a competitor offers a more user-friendly and intuitive product, they will inevitably capture a greater market share.
To improve your UI and UX design skills, it can be helpful to look at case studies of products that have been successful in implementing the great design. Many people don’t realize, for example, that the founding team of Airbnb had design-heavy backgrounds, and many experts attribute the enormous success of the company to superior design.
Perfect Your Communication Skills
As this article from Entrepreneur Magazine puts it, good product managers are the “glue that holds teams together.” By being an expert communicator, they are able to relay ideas, problems, goals, and sentiments across different departments and individuals with different backgrounds. Many CEOs underestimate the amount of work associated with communicating with development, marketing, and executive teams to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
As a result, the product often suffers. Good product managers make sure this doesn’t happen. By seamlessly connecting the different moving parts tied to a project, they make sure that all relevant parties are working together as a cohesive whole. This strengthens the bonds of different team members and minimizes downtime or lags in communication.
Brushing up on your soft skills, including interpersonal communication, reading, writing, and public speaking can be a great idea. Some boot camps for designers and product managers have even integrated improv exercises into their curriculum to help improve the soft skills of their students. Taking an improv or public speaking class can be a great way to make sure you are communicating as effectively as possible across different team members.
4. Become a Pro at Creating a Great Corporate Culture
As one article from Forbes puts it, good product managers manage their company culture as well as manage the product. What this means is that if a product manager is only focused on getting a final say on decisions that pertain to the product, they might neglect to consider their working relationships with other team members. It often happens that product managers continually clash with developers, engineers, or data scientists by not hearing them out and considering their point of view.
This gridlock can lead to a lack of progress and slow down development cycles. A good product manager will be able to hear out relevant team members and come to a decision that makes sense based on everyone’s point of view. A common mistake product managers make is assuming that their job is to make the decision they feel is best for the product while steamrolling any concerns other team members have.
5. Become a Great Listener
In reality, to create an excellent corporate culture, a good product manager must be an expert listener. He or she should consider all team members’ points of view and come to conclusions that make sense across different departments and strategic goals.
Becoming a good listener will also mean that you will be able to incorporate the feedback, input, and insights of all team members when crafting and communicating a vision for the product. Being able to create a compelling vision and rally team members behind that vision is key to a product manager’s role. That all starts from being able to listen and consider the input of a diverse team.
In sum, being a good product manager is a continuous process and one that requires ongoing learning and development. Using some of these tips should help to make sure that you’re always learning and adapting to changing trends.