What should a product manager do? And what are the key skills required?

What should a product manager do? And what are the key skills required?

Especially in B2B companies, the product management function is key to profitable growth. Despite its importance, and obvious stepping stone to business leadership, the role is often misunderstood or poorly defined. Is it anyone wonder that product managers often feel poorly equipped to make the most of their role? In my experience the outcome can be even worse – newly appointed product managers avoid the challenge and maintain the activities and behaviours of previous roles including technical support and day to day supply chain management!

Product Managers need to balance market needs with business capability

The core purpose of B2B product management is to optimise the tension between what customers want, and are willing to pay for, versus what can be made and sold profitably. A market-back approach is essential, but alone is inadequate. Strategy skills are key to identify the choices and establish rules for product line management.

What should a Product Manager do, Arkaro Buasiness consultants, Geneva

Products Managers must take a Market back view

Looking at the market side first, product line managers need expertise in Commercial Excellence for existing offers, as well as a deep understanding of the Innovation Process for new products. Do they have a clear understanding of value proposition design and familiarity with Jobs to be Done theory for example? Are they skilled in discovery and preference interview techniques to make the right design choices at the front end of innovation?

Product Managers drive Asset productivity

Turning to the other side of the tension are your product line managers aware of commercial asset productivity? Is there an understanding of optimising profit per unit of the bottleneck? — and how to find the bottleneck? – and how to measure profit? Pricing typically connects both sides of the equation. Is there a good understanding of managing industry, value and transactional pricing? – and who manages each?

Do the product line managers not only manage the current product portfolio – but also have a clear roadmap for the future?

What should a product manager do? And what are the key skills required?

Can product managers work across functions with the supply chain, operations and sales to deliver the desired customer – cash – cost trade-offs? Who determines the inventory policy to balance cash with customer service for example? Are they part of an effective Integrated Business Planning (IBP) Process?

Given such a broad skillset it is hardly surprising that many product managers do not feel fully equipped. Arkaro’s experienced independent consultants can train, coach and advise your organisation for success in the critical B2B function of product management.

.. But what do you think? 

We should be keen to see what you see to be important with this 2 minute online survey asking

  1. How important are the following product management skills in your business? (1 – not relevant 5 – business-critical)
  2. How capable is the product management function currently? (1 – no capability 5 – meets business needs)
  3. What are the biggest gaps that you see in your organisation that need to be closed?

Are there gaps to fill? We look forward to hearing from you!

Mark Blackwell, Arkaro