In today’s fast-paced and technologically advanced business environment, product managers are crucial in driving innovation and delivering successful products.
Traditionally known for their market research prowess and strategic thinking abilities, product managers are also expected to juggle technical skills. While they don’t need to become experts in every programming language, a solid understanding of critical technical concepts can significantly enhance their ability to collaborate with engineers, make informed decisions, and drive the development process forward.
With that said, here are 5 technical skills that are highly valuable for product managers in today’s digital landscape.
1. Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
SDLC serves as a framework for guiding the entire process of creating, deploying, and maintaining software products. It encompasses various stages, from the initial ideation and requirements gathering to coding, testing, deployment, and ongoing maintenance.
Understanding how software is built and the challenges faced at each stage allows product managers to give practical instructions and understand the technical feasibility of their product ideas.
However, this does not mean they need to learn how to write code or become software engineers themselves; there is a huge difference between the responsibilities of both these jobs.
A product manager, in the context of product manager vs software engineer, is primarily the strategic guru, the market wizard, and the one who knows what the hungry customers want. They define the product roadmap and prioritize features based on customer needs, and leave the nitty-gritty of coding and debugging to the software engineers.
On the other hand, a software engineer writes code, designs algorithms, conducts testing, and ensures that the software product meets technical standards and functional requirements. Their primary responsibility is to handle the technical aspects of software development.
But product managers should have a basic understanding of programming concepts, such as functions, variables, and loops. This can help them communicate effectively, bridge the gap between the technical and business aspects, and make decisions that align with the overall product strategy.
2. Cloud Tech Basics
Cloud computing has revolutionized the way software applications are built and deployed. They provide unprecedented scalability and flexibility for businesses. By leveraging cloud-based solutions, product managers can ensure their products can handle sudden growth, meet customer expectations, and adapt to changing market dynamics.
Cloud technologies also offer cost optimization benefits, mainly through the pay-as-you-go model. Product managers can avoid upfront infrastructure investments and effectively balance cost considerations with product requirements.
Some typical cloud technologies that can be extremely valuable to product managers include:
- Amazon Web Services
- Microsoft Azure
- Google Cloud Platform
3. APIs and Integration
Many products rely on integrations with third-party services or APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Take social media, for instance. Popular social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook offer APIs that enable developers to integrate their applications with these platforms.
You can link your Spotify profile with your Facebook account and discover your friends’ peculiar tastes in music. Or you can link your Instagram account to your Bumble profile to impress potential matches with your filtered-to-perfection selfies.
APIs are the backbone of countless innovative products and services. The possibilities are endless, from weather apps that pull data from meteorological APIs to financial management platforms that integrate with banking APIs. It’s all about collaboration, sharing information, and tapping into a world of possibilities without reinventing the software wheel.
This is why product managers should have a foundational understanding of APIs, how they work, and their role in connecting different systems. This knowledge can be the key to unlocking innovation, evaluating integration opportunities, and ensuring the product functions smoothly with external platforms and services.
4. UX/UI Design
User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design principles are at the heart of creating exceptional digital products, and they play a significant role in product success. Statistics suggest that high-quality UI can boost conversion rates by almost 200%, and good UX can double this—up to 400%!
Apple has become a market leader despite not always having the latest specs or cutting-edge technologies. From the iconic iPhone to the sleek MacBook, the critical factor that sets Apple apart is its relentless focus on delivering exceptional UI/UX design.
In fact, Steve Jobs pulled the calculator app from the iPad weeks before its release because he hated the design of the app. Today, the iPhone, Mac, and even the Apple Watch have built-in calculator apps. But still, there is no official calculator app for the iPad.
Apple said that they’d rather not do it unless they can come up with an app idea that genuinely redefines what it means to use the calculator on an iPad. This shows how vigorously Apple is committed to prioritizing user experience and creating intuitive interfaces and why it has cultivated a loyal customer base and a distinct brand identity.
Product managers should learn to:
- Focus on the user: What are their needs? What are they trying to accomplish?
- Make it simple: The simpler the design, the easier it will be for users.
- Use concise language: Avoid using jargon or technical terms.
- Maintain a consistent design: This coherence will help foster familiarity and build brand image.
This knowledge allows product managers to work closely with designers and envision products that resonate with users.
5. A/B Testing and Experimentation
A key aspect of product management is testing and iterating to improve product performance. Product managers need to perform controlled experiments to measure the impact on user behavior and conversion rates when introducing new features or functionalities.
Let’s take a little trip back to 1985 when The Coca-Cola Company decided to spice things up with the New Coke, a reformulation of their classic Coca-Cola drink. They boldly launched this new concoction without the safety net of comprehensive A/B testing.
Instead, they relied on internal taste tests, thinking they were onto something big. But they horribly underestimated the power of nostalgia and the emotional attachment people had to the original Coca-Cola taste. New Coke faced immense backlash when it hit the market. The lack of A/B testing and failure to understand their consumers led to one of history’s most notable product failures.
A strong understanding of technical concepts empowers product managers to effectively collaborate with development teams, make data-driven decisions, and navigate the complexities of modern product development. By continuously expanding their technical skill set, product managers can drive innovation, optimize product performance, and deliver successful products in today’s fast-paced and technology-driven business environment.