How to Become a Great Product Manager

So you want to know how to become a great product manager? Well, you’ve got some brass, because this is a very difficult field to get into. This is mainly due to the confusing nature of product lifecycles, which aren’t the linear repetition other lifecycles in many business sciences tend to be.

We’ll get to that in a minute. First, before we get into how to become a great product manager, we need to talk about what you’re getting yourself into. You’re familiar with the term “crap rolls downhill”, surely. Well, this means that in many cases, when something goes wrong, even outside the scope of product management’s responsibilities, they often take a bite out of the blame. Yeah, it’s really like that sometimes.

It requires a special kind of patience and a special love for logistics, and the ability to handle complex solutions for unexpected crises that other disciplines do not. It also requires a sense of psychology to come to grips with demographics and branding, and it requires a bit of artistic flair. It also, in the case of brick and mortar retail, requires a willingness to travel in many cases.

So, if you want to become great at product management, the first thing these days that you’ll need to excel at is ecommerce, which is rapidly taking steam out of the brick and mortar machine. This form of commerce comes with a load of its own problems, bringing in a need for skill with user experience, web design, and other technology-related issues.

But, maybe you’re not ecommerce, or exclusively such. Well, as I said, you have to love to travel, because you’re going to need to go to your retailers, and see how they’re placing the product, to make sure it stands out, is easy to find, and actually presents itself effectively to the customer.

This is where that sense of art comes in too, because you have to understand eye tracking and customer experience here. That’s difficult to get a grip on, but the harder thing is …

The lifecycle, which we’ve discussed a few times in detail. The product management lifecycle isn’t just a simple, self-contained life cycle like in other fields. While there is a broad, sweeping cycle that restarts when a product rebrands or gets changes made. But some of the components of the lifecycle are mostly uninterrupted, and another way of looking at this cycle is the transition from design, to production and distribution, to the customer experience phase.

We’ve already explained this cycle at length, and it’s as hard to explain as it is to come to grips with, but if you want to become great at this field, then this is your biggest hurdle – to come to grips with a cycle that’s everywhere at once. It, honestly, confuses a lot of product managers who’ve been in the field for years and, after getting into the swing of things, kind of redefine it to make more sense for their style.

Of special note is that if you want to know how to become a great product manager, then you also need to have a good sense of timing for rebranding and when the time is right to halt production to apply the new stuff from R&D and customer input as well. It’s not an easy field.

Mark is the Lead Author & Editor of Spectechular Blog. Mark established the Spectechular blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Product Management.