Product management is both an art and a science. Some college classes may equip you with related tools (e.g. market research, finance), but the most important skills of product management are “learned in the trenches”. This blog outlines some of the lessons I picked up over 20+ years of doing product management. I hope you will find these lessons useful!

1. How I came to be a Product Manager

A bit of background about my own path to product management. Like many other PMs I started as an engineer. But then came my MBA studies and opened my eyes to a whole new world.

2. What is Product Management?

The role of a PM is all too often loosely defined. In many organizations it is a “catch-all” position with no clear responsibilities. Let’s take a look at what a PM role should be.

3. Skills, Experiences and Roles

People arrive at a PM role from multiple directions. Some came from engineering; others from customer support; and there are those who came from sales. Here’s a list of skills a PM should have, or develop over time.

4. Gathering Product Requirements

How do you identify “customer needs”, or market trends? Rely on analysts reports? Evaluate requests from  sales people? Adopt new ideas that came from engineering? Gathering requirements is one of the most critical PM tasks. Done right – and the product is a success. Done wrong – well, let’s not talk about that.

5. Prioritizing Requirements

It is easy to generate a long, detailed list of requirements – often referred to as the “laundry list”. But you can’t have it all. Your development team can squeeze only so many features into the next product release. So how do you choose the ones to focus on?

6. Negotiating with Engineering

A PM may perhaps define requirements, but engineers are the ones who implement them. Surprisingly, those engineers have opinions and priorities that sometimes conflict with yours. So how do you “cut a deal” with your engineering partners – the ones who actually build the product?

7. Daisy Systems: an anatomy of a blunder [anecdote]

Success is not guaranteed forever. Here’s an example of a company once successful, who failed to interpret a key customer requirement – and paid a heavy price for it.

8. Winning Office Politics

Nobody in their right mind likes “politics”. But unfortunately where there are people – there are politics… As a product manager, you should master the “rules of the game” and learn how to steer decisions your way.

9. Pricing – Your Path to Profits

There are few decisions a product manager can make that influence profits more than pricing. Let’s discuss approaches to determine the ‘right price’ for your product or service.

10. Actona: pricing a new product category [anecdote]

How do you price a new product category? Especially when there are no similar products, or any market history to learn from? This is a case where “value-based” pricing strategy came in really handy.

11. Positioning and Messaging

Product managers should help craft the ‘messaging’ for their product, and influence its positioning – i.e. customers’ perception of it.

12. Words that Make or Break your Positioning [anecdote]

Choose your words carefully. A single word in the marketing message can influence the success, or failure of your product. Here are two examples where this actually happened.

13. What’s in a Name?

Naming your company or product is crucial to your <verbal> branding strategy. Treat naming as a process, not a momentary inspiration. Start early and work in earnest to select a proper name.