Companies live and die by their product lines.
Yes, every single corner of your company matters. But your products are your foundation. Creating and selling them is the core function of your company. Your products bring in your revenue. They drive your growth. They set the direction for all of your sales, marketing, and strategic activities. Bottom line: If you don’t have a great line of products to bring to market, then you’re going to sink.
And—as a company—you can only bring a steady stream of great products to your market if you have great Product Management pushing them out. Not good Product Management. But great Product Management. It’s worth bridging that gap to set the strongest possible foundation for your company.
Why it’s Worth the Effort to Become a Great Product Manager
Now, that’s all well and good from the perspective of the company. But what about the individual who actually needs to go through the professional growth to make this happen— the Product Manager themselves? If you are a good Product Manager, why go through the work of becoming great?
Well, aside from just wanting to do as great a job as possible for its own sake, there is one other big reason to evolve from being a good Product Manager to becoming a great Product Manager… there’s a lot of financial upside waiting on the other side of that transformation.
If you look at the average salaries for Product Managers (on a database like Glassdoor) you’ll see a very wide range. The average Product Manager earns something in between $60,000 per year to $200,000 per year. That’s a huge variance. And while there are a few factors that go into which Product Managers get paid the big numbers, it mostly comes down to competence.
In short: Great Product Managers earn over 3x the salary of good Product Managers.
If potentially 3x-ing your salary sounds interesting to you, then read on. In this piece, we’ll step you through what you must do to take your good Product Management process and make it great— all by upgrading three core areas of your job:
- Your responsibilities
- Your skills
- Your software
Upgrading Your Product Management Responsibilities
To become a great Product Manager, you need to first rethink the scope of your responsibilities and expand them into an unexpected direction.
In most cases, a Product Manager at a decent-sized company will have a pretty-well defined set of responsibilities. They will:
- Drive the product strategy.
- Keep the product strategy aligned with the company’s overall strategy.
- Handle a lot of internal stakeholder communication and management.
- Perform tons of market research.
- Speak directly with their customers, and use them to validate product ideas.
- Monitor and manage the entire product lifecycle.
These are critical responsibilities, but there’s more to make sure you deliver a game-changing product line for your company than just taking care of the high-level visioneering. You also need to make sure all of the great products that you dream up and validate are actually delivered effectively. A great idea with poor execution isn’t going to help anyone—not your customers, not your company, and not your own career.
And the only way to ensure your product line is developed and delivered effectively is to expand your responsibilities out of the pure Product Manager role and to take responsibility for many of the activities and outcomes associated with a Product Owner.
The differences between Product Owner vs. Product Management are ambiguous to a lot of people. And the roles themselves are defined a little differently in different companies. But, generally speaking, it comes down to this— while a Product Manager is mostly concerned with high-level strategy and conceptualizing, a Product Owner is much more concerned with the operational and product processes that bring that high-level thinking to life.
Now, we’re not advocating you take anyone’s job here. We’re simply saying that if you want to be a truly great Product Manager, you must expand what you consider to be your responsibilities beyond the high-level thinking, and down into the nitty-gritty details of development, production, and granular testing to make sure the product you dreamed up actually meets your customers’ needs.
- Collaborating directly with the development team to translate your requirements properly into new products
- Constructing or at least overseeing the product processes
- Attending as many stand-ups and production meetings as possible
- Remaining in constant contact with the development team
- Governing the production processes to make sure they’re being executed properly
- Making sure the work the team produces can meet your customer’s needs in a provable, measurable, repeatable way
Your exact role in these activities will change depending on whether or not you currently have any dedicated Product Owners on your team. But the gist of it is simple— these actions must be taken, and watched like a hawk, to ensure the development and deployment of a great product line. If you wish to be a great Product Manager, then it’s on you to make sure that happens. You must add a suite of operational responsibilities to your existing set of strategic responsibilities, in a manner that is most appropriate for your unique organization.
And if you’re going to expand your responsibilities, you will also need to build some new skills to drive your new Product Management process.
Upgrading Your Product Management Skills
Typically, the core skills of Product Management revolve around developing product strategy based on customer feedback, aligning that roadmap to the larger company strategy, and maintaining intimate and positive relationships between the product teams and the business teams.
If you’re a good Product Manager, you will have a well-developed set of these “soft skills”. If you’d like to become a great Product Manager, you will supplement them with a set of “hard” technical skills as well.
Of course, you won’t need to learn to code as well as your developers. But you will need to develop a deep enough level of technical competence so you can communicate clearly with your technical team. You will need to develop a good understanding of technical constraints, and how they will impact both the products you’re able to make and the process you’re able to follow to deliver them. And you will need to be able to translate back and forth between the business and the technical teams with a greater level of fluency than you currently command.
You’ll need to develop a similar degree of working knowledge to other technical areas, like design, and UI/UX, and every other area you’ll touch as you get closer to the actual development and deployment of your products.
Thankfully, working knowledge of technical topics—from coding to CRO experimentation—is all you will need to develop, as the nitty-gritty technical work will still be performed by either member of your team, or by the right suite of software.
Upgrading Your Product Management Software
The standard set of Product Management software provides a pretty limited set of features that revolve around:
- Creating roadmaps
- Visualizing the product strategy
- Draw out launch plans and dependencies
- Sharing plans with multiple teams and stakeholders
- Providing a data hub where everyone looks at the same information
These are the necessary functions. And some of the better options will also collect, organize, and present customer feedback. But ultimately these tools do not provide functions that serve the expanded scope of responsibilities and activities that separate great Product Managers from merely good Product Managers.
We recognized this gap and built our own set of tools to fill it. Our tools are designed to help Product Managers get into the weeds of their product development, testing, and rollouts. We realized we needed to give them critical functions like:
- Server-Side Experiments: So they can any tests they can think of, on any platform, at any stage of the customer journey.
- Feature Flagging: So they can effortlessly deploy sophisticated, risk-free feature releases with just a few clicks.
- Progressive Rollouts: So they can easily roll out (or rollback) new features to the laser-targeted user segments that will love them the most.
Overall, we wanted to give Product Managers a simple platform that would help them take that jump from “good” to “great” through an intuitive user interface that they could learn in an afternoon.
How Will You Evolve from a Good to a Great Product Manager?
In this short piece, we’ve outlined a clear path to upgrade the core elements of your job as a Product Manager.
- First, you expand your responsibilities past high-level strategic activities, and onto managing the operational side of bringing your vision to life in your product line.
- Second, you fill the gaps in your hard skills to be able to effectively manage those new operational responsibilities— in particular, the hard skills surrounding the product
- Finally, you evolve your suite of Product Manager software past road mapping and strategy visualization platforms and adopt tools to manage and optimize the details of your product development, testing, and rollouts.
It’s a simple path. Are you ready to follow it and upgrade your career?