8 Product Manager Hard Skills: Best Practices for Improving Your Professional Development
So you’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, and watched all the videos.
Now you feel like you know product management inside-out.
Do you think hard skills are just for people starting out in product management?
Not so fast!
There are some hard skills that every product manager should have before they start executing on their day-to-day tasks.
In this post, we will discuss the 8 hard skills of a good product manager and read on till the end to know the best practices for your professional development as a PM.
This article covers:
What Are Hard Skills and What Are Soft Skills?
Before you write a job description or design a learning program, it’s crucial to thoroughly understand the difference between hard skills and soft skills.
How can you train or hire for something that is only a vague concept?
Fortunately, the difference between hard skills and soft skills is pretty clear.
Hard skills are those talents and abilities that can be quantified.
They are usually specific to a particular job, and they can be learned through schooling or on-the-job-training.
For example, if you are a web developer, your ability to code is your hard skill.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are those hard-to-define characteristics that are popularly known as ‘people skills.’
Soft skills are not only for one specific job but are universal to all types of work.
For example, your soft skills as a web developer could be your ability to communicate, collaborate with a team, and so on.
While hard and soft skills both contribute to success in product management, hard skills are easier to measure.
This is why they often take precedence when hiring or recruiting for a job role.
Think of hard skills as those you list on a resumé or the areas in which you hold certifications.
Soft skills are those that help you build longer-lasting co-worker and customer relationships.
The importance of hard skills vs. soft skills should not be underestimated.
What Are the Key Hard Skills Needed for Product Management?
Basic Business Competency
This is a hard skill every product manager needs to have in order to function effectively.
As a product manager, you’ll need to analyze market data and understand financials so that you can make appropriate decisions about the direction of your products.
A business-specific degree will help you pick up the necessary hard skills on-the-job. However, your market and product knowledge should make it clear that you can speak their language.
It is crucial to be able to work in the light of the information that you have to optimize on profit-making strategies.
You have to keep a tab on factors beyond technicalities and specifics to keep everything in control for the product development.
Data analysis is a hard skill that helps you identify the needs of your customers and gives clear feedback on how products can be utilized.
You need to be able to analyze and interpret data correctly so as not to mislead yourself or any other stakeholders in the company.
That’s especially easy to do in eCommerce, by reviewing the analytics & reporting of your previous sales.
Data analysis is important because it gives clear feedback about how product managers can improve their products and align them with customer expectations.
There are many soft skills that contribute to success as a product manager but hard skills such as data analysis goes a long way.
Data analysis is an ideal example of a hard skill you should have to be successful at your role as a product manager.
Product Management Knowledge
The main challenge in the product management process is to start and initiate the development of a product.
There are optimum strategies already in place and therefore the knowledge of the same reduces a lot of learning costs.
One of the tools to have an efficient system is to make a roadmap of the product.
It is not always necessary that a roadmap of a product should be in terms of Gantt charts only, but it can vary from project to project depending on business requirements and market conditions among others.
With this hard skill, you will get information about how user research helps in solving customer problems by creating an effective solution for them which is sustainable.
Product Managers are always looking for ways to improve their product.
This hard skill comes in handy when problem solving with customers about any issues they have with the product or service you provide them.
The hard skill of being able to identify and articulate specific problems is also important because it helps one focus on how they can improvise and bring in maximum efficiency.
This may seem like a basic requirement and not particularly a hard skill, however, there are multiple tools available with the advancement of technology that need constant revision and training in terms of research.
All forms of data are vital to be recorded and known because data is information and information is power.
Being able to communicate hard data and statistical information is a huge plus for product managers.
Research can help you sway people with hard numbers as opposed to just an opinion or idea about the future development of their product.
Product managers must be able to prioritize and organize their own work as well as that of the other members on the team.
This can be as simple as maintaining an excel spreadsheet or using prioritization frameworks.
It’s hard for product managers at first because they are expected to manage everyone else without being managed themselves.
This largely depends on one’s roadmap and the strategies they have involved in developing one.
Product manager must ensure that everyone on the team is working in a direction that is in sync with the roadmap envisioned for the product.
Knowing economics will help product managers to understand the market well.
It is a must for good management of resources and profit maximization to keep costs down while increasing revenue opportunities.
In addition, understanding economies helps them have an edge over other players when it comes time to negotiate with suppliers or business partners. This also enables better planning during hard times.
You do not need a degree in economics but you should definitely take a course or two to understand the basics.
Knowledge of the Product Itself and Its Development
One of the hard skills product managers need is to have an in-depth understanding of what they are selling.
This means getting as much information as possible about the product itself and its development process, from A to Z.
Such a thorough understanding enables them to determine whether or not it truly satisfies customer needs and if those customers will continue to use their product.
The hard skills mentioned in this post are all important for product managers.
If you want to excel at your job and end up with an impressive resume that is sure to leave a mark on any future employer, then start working on improving these hard skills today.