10 Skills Product Managers Should Have in 2021
As a product manager, it is your responsibility to keep your team in check during the entire product development cycle, regardless of the circumstances.
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In 2020, managers had to supplement their skill sets to meet the needs of changing workplaces. People had little choice but to adjust to a remote set-up. The working world as we know it shifted. Both employees and managers had to change the way they operated. This prompted a rise in project planning software and video calling.
Product managers have always required communication, organization, and technical skills. Now more so than ever, their vast skill sets are in demand to keep businesses on their feet. This article aims to highlight these essential skills. We will look at the part they’ll play going forward in the aftermath of 2020.
Product Management in 2021
The duties of product managers don’t change when remote working — but the challenges do. Working with technology, for instance, can pose many difficulties. It’s important to come to grips with new technology. It will save you from making a faux pas, such as googling "how to retract an email in Gmail".
Some other challenges include:
- Learning new tools to bridge productivity gaps: New software pops up at every turn. Product managers have to navigate many new platforms to test which will work for them. Software such as ToDoList and Canny can boost productivity among team members. Employees need to learn these from scratch in some cases.
- Finding ways to work together: Collaborating while working remotely isn’t the easiest feat. Yet innovative software has made the process of moving from the office to the home a lot easier. Take video conferencing solutions and collaboration apps. They create an environment for the team to come together and share ideas, no matter where they are in the world.
- Managing time without providing direct supervision: Procrastination is a threat to productivity. Managing time can be difficult when your employees don’t have to check in with the team at any point during the week. Product managers should arrange frequent meetings to go over tasks. This helps everyone to stay on track when trying to meet deadlines.
- Virtual interviews about the product: Before 2020, product meetings involved in-person meetings with stakeholders. Now, these interviews are all virtual. This can be a challenge when trying to explain the product. Particularly if people want to get a feel for it with the product in their hands.
10 Skills Product Managers Should Have in 2021
Employees have experienced a drastic change in the way they communicate. Emphasis is now placed on video calls and group chats and less so on one-to-one discussions and in-person meetings.
Some prefer to communicate in person or on the phone. In this case, the move to group messaging platforms could prove tricky. Other team members prefer to discuss projects on these group messaging platforms. They may find video calls taxing. Some may feel uncomfortable with meetings 5 days a week. As a product manager, it is your responsibility to find and strike a good balance.
This is where skills in transparent documentation are useful. Team members can access the information they need with documentation. It allows them to do their jobs with ease. The team may be working from project boards, each with its own annotations and notes.
Product managers need to be clear and concise with the way they communicate. They should ensure they keep things organized and up to date. So, use project planning software to update your team members. Don’t be afraid to hop on a video call if something needs further explanation. When typing an email, use bullet points and try to keep it as brief and concise as possible.
Communicating with intention and authority is the key. You will get your point across while maintaining the respect of your team members.
Empathy is a critical but overlooked skill when it comes to product management. 2020 was a year that turned many people’s lives upside down, and that disarray has continued into 2021. As a product manager, it’s your job to create as comfortable a work environment as possible. This will ensure the product journey isn’t disrupted. Having compassion and empathy in such difficult circumstances goes a long way.
No employee is adapting to their new life of remote working the same. Check-in on colleagues and team members. Create an open and honest place for discussions. This enables you to understand your employees. You can send open email invites to anyone who wants to join you for a 1:1 chat. Clear your diary for a couple of hours a week to make time for this. Ensure the mental wellbeing of your team comes first through simple suggestions. For instance, encouraging regular screen breaks.
You also need to have empathy for a crucial stakeholder — your customer. Your business operations have moved online, so they can no longer speak to you in person. It’s up to you to ensure they are still receiving great quality service. Schedule calls to update them on the progress of projects. Let them know they can reach you anytime, which can be useful when remote working. Send regular emails to keep them in the loop. It can be disconcerting for the client when business operations change. It’s your job to reassure them that you have everything under control. Do this through consistent communication.
A vital part of the production process is market research. Analyzing the target audience to determine which products they will respond well to. It will also let you know where there may be a gap in the market for new products. Analyzing feedback is easier when you have tools to help you. Canny lets you focus on feedback from specific customers. And you can build data segments tailored to your business.
Before 2020, gathering data and product reviews was a more personal job. Product managers worked with focus groups and product testers in person. It allowed them to get a good idea of how well-received a product was. Now, these feedback meetings take place online. Using video conferencing tools can make the move to online that much smoother.
A core skill to have as a product manager in 2021 is adaptability. There are a plethora of unpredictable and changing factors when remote working. This means you may take on tasks that weren’t assigned to you. Remote working may cause your job role to evolve. You could even have to brush up your sales skills and learn ecommerce 101.
Adaptability should be part of team culture. Showing a willingness to dive in and take charge of any project or situation that needs your help makes you a valuable asset. Team members should prepare to switch plans and make quick adjustments to workloads.
As a product manager, you oversee the product journey. You analyze what the consumer wants. Then you work with the product development team to make their desires a reality. After the product release, you also have a vested interest in the product life cycle, from launch to sale.
Organization is an essential part of the managerial toolkit. Without staying organized, you risk missing important details. You’re at home with no team surrounding you with reminders, no whiteboard, and no sticky notes on your office walls. You have to change the way you keep yourself organized.
This involves providing easy and convenient access to files across teams. As well as a system for updating databases and accountability for these processes. Whether you work in one of the best call centers in the UK or a small tech firm, organization is essential. Invest in software to help you keep everything in one place. Particularly if you are finding it difficult to stay on top of your remote workload.
Stability is key to the production process. Managers act as a stabilizing anchor for teams. You need to create a stable environment for a project to thrive and bring out the best in your team. Keep team sizes consistent. Certain tasks require a specific number of people working on them. So stick to that — if you find a formula that works well, there’s no need to change it.
Stability also includes knowing what software works for you. Your team won’t appreciate having to learn new software often. Find an all-in-one solution with integrations to your existing tools. That way, things feel consistent for your team members.
A vital element of any production process is being able to sequence tasks. These tasks are then communicated to outside parties, such as suppliers and customers.
Task management software can help to ease the pressure for remote product managers. Especially for those who don’t have a lot of time on their hands. Project management tools such as Trello can help you keep up with deadlines. They also allow you to split tasks among team members and make important changes to products — for instance, a change in product prices or delivery terms.
Use software to help you focus on and automate some tasks. This improves productivity, freeing your time to concentrate on your team.
Going from years of working in an office to sitting at your home desk is a huge change for both you and your colleagues. Remain patient and understanding. Your team members are trying to navigate their way around their new working life too. Give your team a day or two to understand your new software before assigning them tasks. They may need to get used to the design and layout before they feel confident to take on projects.
What's more, many of your suppliers will be experiencing the same monumental shift. The way to navigate these changes is through client relationship management. Ensure you’re keeping each other informed, and be honest when something isn’t working. Don’t chase your suppliers before the deadline. Allow them extra time (where you can) if they fall behind as they become familiarzed with new technology.
Have patience and perseverance when it comes to product management this year.
Product managers are there at each stage of the product journey, from liaising with the market research team to the launch and marketing of the product. At every stage, there will be a team with their own set of tasks and roles within them. Product managers need to be able to delegate at each step of the production process.
For example, have someone in charge of the Amazon inventory management software at the warehouse. They can receive and sign off on raw materials. Appoint a lead designer for the graphics. Trust them to create great artwork for your final approval. Delegation is about trust.
Not delegating your tasks means you’ll spread yourself too thin. So, conduct regular meetings with your team. Don’t be afraid to assign tasks that you no longer have the capacity to complete.
10. Technical Know-How
As a product manager, you need to bring your A-game when it comes to technology. That includes cloud automation solutions that could help business operations — not to mention, the rest of the team should be proficient as well.
Integration platforms as a service (IPaaS) could be part of this solution. Cloud-based platforms connect a mismatch of tools. They can form one unified option for product managers. Platforms such as Flock and Ahrefs can integrate with your CRM system.
This has a direct impact on customer experience and satisfaction. Imagine the team synchronizing on tasks and specific projects. The benefits of this productivity will pass on to the customers. Take a remote call center, for instance. The team delivers such effective service by utilizing contact center software and IPaaS.
Product managers need to stay up to date on the latest tools and platforms to get the best out of the team.
Building Product Management Skills
Product managers can use a few tactics to continue building their skill set. These tactics include:
- Shadow training: This is on-the-job employee training, whereby you observe a trained or experienced employee. As a manager, you may be looking to grow your people management skills. You can shadow your senior managers. Gain insight into how they organize themselves and the team.
- Hackathons: A hackathon is a design sprint-like event. It’s for those involved in software development or production. You’ll work with graphic designers, developers, domain experts, interface designers, and more. The end result will be a functioning product in record time.
- Independent side projects: There’s nothing wrong with expanding your knowledge away from your main day job. Indulging in independent side projects helps you grow within your role. It also allows you to experiment with new ideas and bring them to work.
2020 was a turbulent year. Now people in all fields and positions have the opportunity to use the new year for the better. To reacclimate to changing circumstances. Especially those in managerial roles. These skills aren’t by any means new. But recalibrating them to the needs of a new environment—even a new workforce—couldn’t hurt.
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