Hire a Product Manager Because he/she is “Technical”?

I sometimes wonder what makes a Product Manager successful? Is it the ability to communicate or the ability to understand technology?

Let’s start with the role of a Product Manager. Is the Product Manager the person who understands what the market needs and what problems the customers are trying to solve? Is the Product Manager one who creates a list of product features that customers want and translate them into a spec sheet that is then prioritized and then implemented by the development team?

I think a Product Manager is the product champion, he/she is responsible for discovering problems, proposing solutions, building business justifications, working with cross functional teams, setting priorities and schedules, articulating value propositions, setting pricing, enabling sales and making sure that there is a healthy pipeline of products on the roadmap. Clearly understanding the market and competitors as well as always focusing on demand creation are key to being an effective Product Manager.

I would argue that it is not a matter of having good communications skills. Though it is high on the list of skills required of Product Managers, it must be combined with a broad technical knowledge base. Obviously, there are lots of engineers with deep technical knowledge but they don’t have the ability to listen to customers and to understand their problems and to create solutions that solve them. The ability to facilitate discussions with customers and to create a compelling product requires the Product Manager to understand technical problems. Sure, the Product Manager doesn’t need to know the details of implementation, but he/she needs to know the tradeoffs and the impact on cost and schedule of each technical decision.

I guess that is the reason why it is difficult to find effective Product Managers especially in the Semiconductor industry.

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