A product team without a product manager is a bit like an orchestra without a conductor. No matter how talented the musicians, the sound would quickly devolve into dissonance without a conductor’s lead and guidance. Much like the orchestra conductor, a product manager must conduct the communication and workflow between all the units and departments within a company to ensure everyone on the team is aligned toward the same goal: satisfying the customer, meeting their needs while reducing their pain and increasing their gain is their most important job.
The internet has completely changed how people find products that meet their needs, so the emphasis on product management has grown exponentially. It’s to the point that now, the primary difference in what sells is not just the best-marketed product, but the orchestration of marketing, design and delivery for product companies.
To handle a role as complex as this, a skilled product manager should have a clear grasp on how the rapid growth of technology usage in company processes requires that good product management grow at the same pace to stay in the game. The product manager’s finger stays on the customer’s pulse and understands how to execute the product roadmap to stay on top of the market trends, while keeping an eye toward long-term success.
Experts say critical elements have changed in the job market in the last two decades. Today, everything is connected to the internet through protocol services, and as a result, product management is rapidly developing. It’s highly analytics-based and it has birthed many new techniques. This is what is meant by the internet of things (IoT).
In the last 10 years, product management has become a much more highly sought-after position because it involves all the latest technology, it’s very well rewarded financially, and it’s a breeding ground for future C-suite executives. Those aspiring to become a product manager should know they’d be in great company– Jeff Bezos (Amazon,) Kevin Systrom (Instagram) and Marissa Mayer (Yahoo) all began their careers as product managers before they became CEOs.
Below are five necessary skills that an aspiring product manager needs to know in order to step into that critical role that can be the difference between a product’s success or failure:
- Learn to navigate in and out of the engineering, marketing and sales teams. A product manager can identify and tackle risks for bringing a new product to market. Product managers own the decisions surrounding what the team should do, understand the risks associated with what the team will do, and know how to reduce them. A person who embodies these abilities is highly sought after in product management, but rare to find. The solution is to increase the pool of skilled people who can focus on what the work should be, what should be built, and how to address the risks associated with bringing that product to market as well as new or burgeoning risks to existing products.
- Learn to work as an influencer, not a direct supervisor. The product manager navigates between the customer, the marketing team and the engineers. He is in the middle, helping everyone move in the same direction without being in commanding control. The product manager has to learn to manage through influence, creating a convincing argument and road map of how the different functions within the teams should interact. He knows how to influence his team with clear arguments about the customer’s exact needs, how those needs affect the product, and why.
- Learn what is customer development, and how to do it. Customer development is not about good advertising or targeting people within a certain demographic. It’s about rapidly bringing products to market that meet the needs of people, targeting the jobs they do and providing a product that helps get that job done. Product managers keep their eye on the target—getting a product to market cheaper and faster, while integrating the customer’s needs and wants from the beginning and throughout the process.
- Learn product design to create great customer and user experiences (CX/UX). Design was once something that was considered only after the functionality and the targeting of a product. Now, design is considered to be equally as important as targeting and development. A skilled product manager must learn how to design using Design Thinking and other customer and user experience techniques, including Empathy, Ideation and Wireframing, to create the exact product the customer has in mind. Gone is the old paradigm of “form follows function.” The quality of a product was once evaluated first on the basis of its performance, then about its design and adaptability. Today, design is still central to assessing the quality of a product, but extends into a critical question: What is the design experience? A product manager’s skilled guidance can be the difference in ensuring a favorable answer to that question.
- Learn Agile and rapid prototyping to manage risks, your primary responsibility. Leveraging Agile teams and design has effected critical change in how products are created. Through the use of Agile development, product managers need to deliver rapid prototypes that test risk, including usability and value as well as feasibility, marketability and scalability. Learning the design process and understanding the demand for a great design can be a differentiator. Product managers must know how to leverage for design experts and Agile teams, and learn the latest product design and development processes.
CEOs and technology leaders are identifying the role of product manager as one of their top talent priorities. Although the most populous function in product creating is engineering, the product manager function has risen to become a high-leverage, central function. CEOs see product managers as conductors who know how to define strategy, understand the customers and their needs, prioritize, and then drive to outcomes. Understanding the keys to successfully navigating the roles and responsibilities of being a product manager can make you qualified to take your place in one of the fastest growing, most lucrative careers on the job market today.
The Project Management Center of Excellence (PMCoE) and the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) have partnered to develop two distinct ways for aspiring product managers to become champions of change with internal and external collaborators and influencers.
This one-of-a-kind, multi-disciplinary master’s degree targets the skills and knowledge needed for modern product management across the entire product lifecycle and fills the market gap of individuals ready to take on this vital and coveted role. The online master’s degree program is designed for part-time and full-time students worldwide, from entry-level to senior-level professionals.
This MPPM degree is unique in many ways:
- 100% online, self-paced coursework
- 15 month, two 3-credit courses per 12 week term, part-time program
- World-Class Curriculum
- Award-winning faculty
- No GRE Required
- Only $23,500 for the entire program
The degree combines online experiences with award-winning faculty, self-paced coursework and connections with the University of Maryland community to link innovators from around the world. The curriculum was built by faculty experienced in the practice of product management and courses emphasize experiential learning and practical skills with the following 10 courses.
- Innovative Ideas and Concept Development
- Strategies for Managing Innovation
- Business Modeling and Customer Validation
- Innovative Thinking
- Data Analysis and Decision Making
- Managing Product Development and Production
- Marketing and Selling Innovations
- Negotiation and Problem Solving
- Financing Innovation and Growth
- Building and Leading Innovative Organizations
Learn more about the Master of Professional Studies in Product Management (MPPM) or sign up for an information session.
For those that need to get up to speed quickly and don’t feel the need for the in-depth, robust knowledge of a master’s degree program, The Project Management Center of Excellence (PMCoE) and the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) also offer on online Product Management Professional Certificate though edX. The certificate consists of five separate online courses which allows individual students to sign up and start the courses when they want and at their own pace.
The five skill-building courses included in this Professional Certificate in Product Management include:
- Product Management Fundamentals
- Achieving the Product-Market Fit
- Designing the User Experience
- Data Science and Agile Systems for Product Management
- Modern Product Leadership
Each course is free for the first four (4) weeks and takes approximately ten (10) hours to complete. For a small fee, edX/UMD provide a Verified Certificate which provides proof for an employer, school or other institution that the course was successfully completed.
Learn more about the Product Management Professional Certificate and enroll today.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THESE EDUCATION OPTIONS
“Completing the Master’s degree program or the Professional Certificate is extremely important because we have had new product managers thrust into the role without any formal training about what product management is,” says Dr. James V. Green, director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Education for the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute at the University of Maryland. “The Product Management field is open, fertile ground to those who can think creatively, love solving problems, and are endlessly curious—but need guidance to hone in on those skills.”
“The professional certificate is aimed at working professionals that need to learn about Product Management very rapidly, while the master’s degree offers a much more comprehensive and in-depth discovery of the subjects and graduates from the program will have much more hands on knowledge,” stated John Cable, Director of the UMD Project Management Center for Excellence. “People are interested in becoming a product manager, but they are finding that there aren’t many resources or programming that are accessible and affordable to build this credential,” Cable says. “These two curriculum options provide the resources that aspiring product managers absolutely need to succeed.”
CEOs and technology leaders are identifying the role of product manager as one of their top talent priorities. Although the most populous function in creating a product is engineering, the product manager function has risen to become a high-leverage, central function. CEOs see product managers as conductors who know how to define strategy, understand the customers and their needs, prioritize, and then drive to outcomes.
Earn your competitive advantage in this most lucrative and rewarding position. Determine with of these two education options works best for you and enroll today!