5 key competencies of a product manager

A typical product manager role is defined as the ‘GM/CEO’ of the product. It is an entrepreneurial role to drive business, long term customer satisfaction and competitive advantage.

But what are the competencies that are associated with effective and successful product managers? Linda Grochels – a top author and executive educator at Wisconsin School of Business calls out these five

  1. Drive business results –
  2. Deliver results through people
  3. Ensure market driven direction
  4. Guide product ‘fit’ and function
  5. Manage multiple priorities

Drive business results – Product managers need strong business skills to manage a piece of business. Setting a clear vision and strategy, converting this strategy into a plan with measurable objectives in terms of revenue and growth and having solid financial knowledge and decision making are some key skill that will enable product managers to drive business results

Deliver results through people – Product managers usually don’t have direct authority over people, but requires product managers to deliver results through people. This means product manager needs to be able to lead upward, downward and sideways. They need to be effective communicators, both oral and written. And they also require perseverance and fortitude.

Ensure market driven direction – A key aspect of a product manager’s role is ensuring long term customer satisfaction. This can be achieved by ensuring product is guided by the market’s and customer’s needs. The product manager must not only have an ‘intimate’ understanding of customers, but must be the champion for the customers and advocate for the market within the organization

Guide product ‘fit’ and function – To deliver for the customer’s needs, and drive competitive advantage for the organization, product managers have to create a superior product and offering. This requires solid technical and operational knowledge and skills. Product managers have to drive technical product specifications with a view of ‘what’ the product has to do and not necessarily the ‘how’.

Manage multiple priorities – Finally, product managers must be able to see the big picture while managing details and schedules. To manage multiple priorities, time management and project management are essential skills.

As product managers, we all need a ‘roadmap’, and over the years I have used a simple responsibilities matrix (shown below) as an effective tool to guide myself and other product managers building software products.


5 key competencies of a product manager

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