Software Product Manager: the secret recipe part 1

Web product manager – software product manager: the secret recipe part 1

The Software Product Manager or web product manager – who is this person, what do they do for the company, and what are the characteristics of the perfect web product manager candidate? This topic is such a broad issue that I’ve decided to break it down into two separate articles. Let’s begin with the basics: definition and qualifications. The second part will be more tricky, but more on that later.

Definition

At first glance you might think that a Software Product Manager is just a regular product manager responsible for, well, software, as software is a normal product available on the market, right? That’s not entirely the case. Creating software as part of web development outsourcing has become such a distinctive industry that everyday nomenclature can have a slightly different meaning, which can obviously cause misunderstandings.

As Wikipedia states, a Software Product Manager or Web product manager is someone who “leads and manages one or several products from inception to phase-out in order to maximize business value. He works with marketing, sales, engineering, finance, quality, manufacturing and installation to make the product a business success (usually engineering and marketing). He has business responsibility beyond a single project.” That’s not even half the definition (you can look it up here), but it’s enough to get the gist, and at this point it’s obvious that a web product manager is someone with extremely interdisciplinary knowledge, almost like a Renaissance man! Let’s learn more about a web product manager.

Prerequisites for a perfect Software Product Manager

As mentioned before, a perfect Software Product Manager is someone who has business responsibility for a given product, and therefore has to collaborate with every team on board for the project. The required competencies can be summed into six categories: deep knowledge of the software being created, its purpose and target group, UX expertise, understanding of the software development process, business knowledge, marketing knowledge and experience in project management.

#1 Deep knowledge of your software

A perfect Software Product Manager must always remember that the software he or she is overseeing isn’t for its creators – it’s for the customers, or the users in general – thus he must know them well, understand their needs and expectations. How do you achieve that? Through good old-fashioned conversation and collecting feedback throughout the process. All of this should be done by the Software Product Manager themselves, as the vital data may be lost in transcription or summarization. The Product Manager should be able to mentally connect with the customer and to feel like a user.

#2 UX expertise

User Experience (UX) is a broad term that can be boiled down to the general feeling experienced by a user while using a given product. As it’s not quantifiable, there is no easy way to achieve great UX. It’s more like a never-ending process of testing what will and what won’t work with A/B testing, focus groups, etc.; however, there are guidelines to follow. Knowing them from top to bottom is essential for a Software Product Manager as UX can be a decisive factor determining success or failure. If users hate using your software, no matter how brilliant it is, it will fail on the market. UX expertise is a must for the perfect Software Product Manager.

#3 Understanding of the software development process

You can master all of the skills needed by a standard Product Manager, but without understanding the software development process you simply can’t be a Software Product Manager. That doesn’t mean that you have to be a programmer yourself to be a great one, you just have to have the ability to talk with the development team, understand how things work inside your software and why it works in the particular way it does. As a Software PM you will probably spend more time with programmers than with any other team working on the project, as these guys and girls are the ones physically creating your product, transferring ideas and plans into the virtual reality of code. You must collaborate with them fluently, without any hesitations, hiccups, misunderstandings or understatements whatsoever. When the time comes, you will be able to make the right decisions with this specific technical knowledge based on the context.

#4 Business knowledge

As I mentioned before, software is for users, but that doesn’t mean that your company can’t make a buck off of it. This is where your business knowledge comes to play. Your supervisors will expect you to make money, so you have to be familiar with such terms as KPI, ROI, ARPU, ASP, traction and much, much more. You will have to do plenty of financial analyses to calculate effective pricing plans. A Software Product Manager is also a part-time businessperson, simple as that.

Web product manager and software development lead photo

Web product manager and software development

#5 Marketing knowledge

A Software PM is someone who sits on top of all operations regarding a given product, including those that may not be done in-house, like marketing. If that is the case, it doesn’t change the fact that you will be responsible for managing collaboration with a company hired to promote your software. It’s similar to #3 – no one is expecting you to be a marketer, but you will be expected to talk with marketers and make vital decisions. Advertising drives trade, so you can see how critical your efficiency in this field fwill be for the product!

#6 Experience in Project Management

If you’re starting to think, “Wow, a Software Product Manager has nothing in common with a regular PM”, don’t worry! As the name suggests, a Software Product Manager is a PM after all, so Project Management skills are very much needed. Are you a champ in motivating people to work hard and do their job? Perfect. Are you able to achieve goals not by bullying but through inspiring people? Even better! Creating software for web development outsourcing and putting it on the market is a team sport, and you will be the coach. You have to find weak spots and eliminate them before they do any damage, manage crises, deal with conflicts and be a boss that everyone has respect for.

The secret identity of the perfect Software Product Manager In a web development outsourcing company

By now the point has been made that the perfect Software Product Manager seems like some kind of a superhero; someone with skills and expertise so varied that they can be called a Renaissance man or woman. So how can you describe them in one word? A mini-CEO (a little bit of cheating here, but you got the gist). A perfect Software Product Manager is someone who treats the product they are responsible for like a company they are running, therefore they know everything about it and are expected to make every vital decision regarding it, no matter the field of expertise needed. He or she has to be efficient in every possible aspect needed to make the product – in this case, software – a success.

To be continued…

What’s next? After laying out the basics and showing you the traits of perfect Software Product Managers, I would like to talk more about the job – what they do, how they work and how they put these six areas of expertise to work on the ultimate goal: quality web based application development and making users happy. Stay tuned!

Sensinum is a Polish software house putting together top-shelf software development services for companies, marketing agencies and teams. Have you thought about hiring subcontractor? Or maybe you’d like some help of a software house on your own project? Sensinum gives you both, guaranteeing smooth communication and highly skilled developers with experience in many advanced projects. See our offer by contacting us and consulting your software idea for free.

Sebastian
Sebastian Data Engineer / COO