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Top 11 In-Demand Product Manager Skills

Product managers need to be constantly upgrading their product manager skills to stay competitive when job searching or moving up in their organization. 

Listed below are the top eleven skills for 2020. Make sure to brush up on them heading into a product manager career move.

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills for Product Managers

Before we review the top skills for product managers in 2020, a quick note on the difference between hard skills and soft skills and the role of each type for product managers.

Hard skills, also referred to as technical skills, include learned skills in creating a product roadmap or product strategy, writing technical specs, or programming skills.

Soft skills include leadership, prioritization, and interpersonal skills.

A successful product manager will have a mix of both types of skill sets. Technical skills are important for developing and designing products, and soft skills are crucial for leading the product team and getting products through the product lifecycle efficiently.

List Of Top Product Manager Skills For 2020

Below is our list of the top product management skills. Study them closely – they’ll be important if you are planning a career move in the near future.

Understanding of web development

While product managers don’t necessarily do coding or programming, an understanding of the process is useful. Knowing the product lifecycle is one thing, but being a good product manager means that you also care about the context you’re working in.

This understanding can give product managers a better grasp of timelines, project scopes, and ease of scaling a product up or down. Also, product managers with development knowledge will be able to better liaise with their engineering team and development team.

Analytical skills and critical thinking skills

This is a must-have. Product managers must be able to analyze information and data and provide actionable insights to their team. This helps them ensure products provide sufficient value. 

Decision making is a daily responsibility for product managers, and without the ability to think critically about and weigh their options, making smart product decisions is difficult.

Initiative

As product managers need to provide ideas for and create products, taking the initiative to start projects and get the rest of their team on board is crucial. This means that the best product managers also possess some project management skills in order to see products through product development to product launch.

Leadership

As with any management position, leadership skills are important for supporting and motivating your team. For product managers at all levels—not just senior product managers—leadership skills need to work in tandem with initiative to get products on the go and meet deadlines. 

Also, product managers often have to lead cross-functional teams that may include representatives from the development team, product team, engineering team, marketing team, sales team, and other teams. Leadership is important in getting all team members on the same page and working toward the same goal.

Flexibility

Priorities change daily in product management. One day a certain product is the priority, and the next it’s something different. Product managers need to be able to keep up with changes and stay flexible to ensure products are developed and launched in a timely and efficient manner. A crucial part of this is prioritization. Along with keeping up with daily changes, can you adjust your priorities accordingly?

Writing technical specs and requirements

Product ideas are an important part of a product manager’s role, but without technical and specific requirements, products can fizzle out and get stuck in pre-production. Being able to create technical product specs and requirements for new products provides a specific direction for your team.

Problem-solving

At their core, products are intended to solve problems. Great product managers need to create products that fundamentally achieve this. A problem-solving mindset is a key part of creating and brainstorming product ideas in the PM role.

Time management

Product managers are constantly splitting their time between different products and projects, as well as always adjusting to shifting priorities, as mentioned above. Time management skills help product managers juggle everything on their plate, while still completing tasks efficiently and pushing products through to launch. Time management skills can always be improved upon as you learn what works best for you.

Market Research

Having experienced and knowledge in market research is also important for any good product manager. When conceptualizing a new product, market research is critical to finding out whether there is a market or an audience for the product, as well as finding out how the product can best serve that market. This includes assessing customer needs and gathering customer feedback.

Knowledge of User Experience

While a product team often includes UX and UI experts, it is helpful for product managers to have some technical knowledge in user experience best practices. This will help the product manager speak in the same language as the product team and ensure mutual understanding of how quick or difficult a task may be.

Communication Skills

This is essential for product managers as well. Proper communication skills, including written and spoken, ensure the product manager can effectively communicate with and lead their team to get successful products launched on time and on budget. 

What skills make a great product manager?

Along with the above hard and soft skills, there are lots of intangibles that boost a product manager’s ability, like product vision, emotional intelligence, and asking the right questions. What skills do you find valuable as a product manager? 

There are lots of ways to build your skills, such as listening to podcasts and reading expert blogs. Keep upgrading your skills to stay relevant and effective as a product manager.

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