10 Skills That Prove You’ll Be An Excellent Cloud Product Manager

Source – forbes.com

Demand for product managers with cloud computing skills and expertise continues to be an area of rapid hiring growth. It’s common for hiring managers, directors and vice presidents to spend at least 20% of their time every week working with in-house recruiters, writing & editing job descriptions and interviewing candidates.

McKinsey & Company’s May 2017 article Product Managers For The Digital World provides insights into how product managers can excel in their roles, defining a framework for assessing product management maturity. The McKinsey framework is useful for planning a career strategy in product management. Ultimately product managers are the CEOs of their products. They take ownership of all aspects of the products, guide future development, and are accountable for their products delivering exceptional value to customers. Critics point out that product managers lack budgetary control and direct authority over departments. That’s a valid criticism. It’s been my experience that the best product managers are adept at influencing budgets and gaining cooperation across cross-functional teams. The following graphic from the article illustrates the differences in the dominant archetypes of product managers:

Of the three archetypical product managers, the Technologist is often in the most in-demand given their ability to quickly turn concepts into prototypes. Technologist-oriented product managers with the ability to empathize with prospects and customers, then turn their insights into working code, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and wireframes are in high demand today. All three archetypes need to continually be growing their expertise about the market and talk regularly with customers. McKinsey also provides six areas or dimensions that measure a product manager’s maturity. For cloud product managers to succeed they must also excel on a seventh dimension that isn’t shown but must unify all the others, and that’s time management:

McKinsey Global Institute: Product managers for the digital world

Top 10 Skills That Prove You Will Excel at Cloud Product Management

The following are the top 10 skills that prove you will excel at cloud product management. If you are interviewing for a cloud product management job be sure to have examples of each of these ready and interweave them into the interview:

  1. A track record of translating empathy for customers into excellent user experiences.Success is all about overwhelming customers with value, and having empathy for what they’re trying to accomplish.Translating empathy into apps that are intuitive, fast, and delight customers matter most. Knowing how customers will react when there is a change in the app is invaluable. Knowing and caring about the customer stories driving everything from feature selection to user interface design is key.
  1. A passion for the product and the value it delivers to customers. Passion is the catalyst that will make any good product manager great. It’s an intensity to excel on behalf of the customer and serve them with excellent experiences and a product they trust. This passion drives product managers to create relationships across departments, seeking others who also believe in their product vision and the value it can deliver to customers.
  1. Goal-driven with expertise in using analytics, metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress. Knowing how to use GooddataGoogle AnalyticsKissmetrics, and Optimizely is essential for product managers to track progress over time. Being able to compare each and explain why one is superior to another for a given project helps to save time and get results faster. Product managers need to deliver insights that further support product roadmaps and the product vision. These analytics apps help to accomplish that.
  1. Are persuasive writers, capable of defining a product’s vision and market requirements in addition to creating white papers and presentations. Being able to articulate a product’s vision and persuade diverse teams across the company to take action and support it is one of the most valuable product management skills there are.Translating empathy for customers into actionable roadmaps is key to succeeding in product management. Creating evergreen content, or content that is the cornerstone of a product strategy is also a key skill. Product managers who blog and have published on their area of interest have an advantage over everyone else interviewing for a position.  
  1. The ability to define successful new product requirements and go-to-market strategies that consistently increase sales. Understanding the market, competitors, and constraints that force trade-offs in product requirements are key to getting results in product management. Understanding which phase of a product roadmap needs to happen when and why is essential. For senior-level product management positions, it’s critical to have expertise from development through product being phased out.
  1. Enjoys taking the initiative to attack the biggest problems facing their products, and doesn’t stop until the problem is solved. Self-starters excel at product management, especially when this quality is combined with insight into what needs to change quickly to make a product successful. An example of this is when a new cloud product needs order numbers, pricing, and sales collateral to launch. Taking the initiative to make sure the needs of their products are being addressed in other teams is critical. Assertiveness, initiative and a continual drive to get the most important areas of a product successful is a valued skill set and attribute in product management.
  1. Understands how critical Emotional Intelligence is to their success, the success of their team and their customers. Engineering, product management, sales, and marketing attract many of the most articulate, brilliant, and passionate people in cloud computing today. Debates can escalate quickly. When product managers have a relatively high level of Emotional Intelligence (EI), they’re able to discern how best to respond in debates and how they can manage emotions of their teams effectively. I have every new product manager I hire or who is transferred to my group read Travis Bradberry’s excellent book Emotional Intelligence 2.0. We go over their quiz results from the end of the book during one-on-ones. Product managers need EI to excel in their roles. A key takeaway from doing this: product managers are learning to say “no” to work another team needs to be doing giving them more time to focus on customers.
  1. Enjoys learning and has personal development goals for themselves. Cloud technologies and platforms are changing at a mercurial pace right now. Knowing about the current technologies and how they potentially could impact product strategies and user experiences is essential in product management. By being committed to always learning and always growing, every time a product manager has to present in front of customers, industry conferences or internal teams their content is fresh and interesting.  
  1. Has a direct communication style and is focused on collaboration. In a typical day, product managers speak with over a dozen departments and teams. Being direct, clear and empathetic helps to make these many conversations productive. The same holds true for conversations with customers. Being direct, open and seeking to understand their needs are the fuel that drives great products.
  1. Decision-making style balances the need to excel at delivering customer value within internal constraints. The trade-offs of which features will deliver the greatest value to the customer at the lowest cost is a continual decision product managers need to make. Prioritizing features by their value versus cost and then communicating these priorities needs to happen often.
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