61: The 16 most important technical skills every product manager needs

In addition to the ‘soft’ skills I discussed in the last post, a good product manager also needs ‘hard’ skills (product management techniques).

Read on for my list of the 16 most important technical skills a product manager needs.

(There is a point to these two listicles. It’s coming next post.)

Defining product vision – being able to describe clearly, concisely and memorably how your product will make life better for people

Managing stakeholders – working with the broad group of people who influence or are affected by your product

Making the business case – hopefully not a long document full of assumptions and outright lies, rather an rolling assessment based on evidence of how the product will make money, or at very least remain sustainable in the long term

Forming a multidisciplinary team – ensuring that the product delivery team has the right skill sets needed throughout to make the product a reality

Writing epics and user stories – not just a task for product managers, as everyone on the team should be writing epics and user stories, but ensuring the stories written are focused on the user outcome (achieving real-world goals that matter), not the output (features and widgets), and driven by hypothesis

Prioritising epics and user stories – ensuring you and your team are working on the most urgent and important things, bearing in mind that priority and urgency will continually change with the circumstances and as you learn more about the problems you’re trying to solve

Using a user story and bug tracking tool – whether it’s a spreadsheet, a bunch of Post-It notes on a wall, or a more specialised online tool, making sure that it conveys information clearly, accurately and helpfully to the team and anyone else who’s looking (hint: transparency is a good thing)

Participating in Scrum / Kanban / Lean Startup / other delivery methodology of choice – you should know when and how to use different delivery methodologies depending on how well you understand the problem and its solution (some methodologies are better suited for discovering answers quickly when uncertainty is high, others for efficient, repeatable output when uncertainty is low)

Setting SMART objectives / KPIs / success criteria – whether it’s a personal objective or a broad product goal, everything you do should be testable and measurable, otherwise how else will you know you’ve succeeded or finished?

Analysing and interpreting data and metrics – no escaping it, you need to be fluent with extracting information from data in an honest and unbiased manner

Planning how to migrate users from an old thing to a new thing – you’ll have smaller user transitions between major product iterations and bigger transitions when you retire a product in favour of a replacement

Launching a product – even if you practise continual deployment, every now and again you’ll need to launch a new thing and make a bit of noise

Retiring a product – knowing when it makes practical sense to decommission an old product, and actually doing so

Managing product roadmaps – an effective form of communication for your team (and anyone else who’s looking) covering today’s best guess at how you’re planning to get from here to where your users need your product to be in the future (and how you know when you get there)

Public speaking – whether it’s one-to-one, a team daily scrum, a stakeholder meeting or a public address, you need to know how to take the needs of your audience into account and communicate effectively

Promoting your product – not just advertising, but evangelising to anyone who’ll listen why your product matters so much to the people who use it

What do you think of the list? Are there any product management skills you think are missing? Or any you think shouldn’t be there at all?

Sound off in the comments :-)


Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management by Jock Busuttil

“This book has been a genuine game changer for me”
– pb (Amazon)

“I wish this book was published when I started out in product management”
– KejiA (Amazon)

Agree? Disagree? Join the conversation: