Building the right team can be just as crucial as building the right product and the product manager may be one of the most important hires.  The most effective PMs will have the right development skills, communication skills and collaborative skills to ensure the product is delivered on time and under budget. Often, the right hire can make the  difference between success and failure.

Product Manager on the job

When a company is just starting out, it can be easy for the CEO, or tech-focused founder to lead the product team. However, over time as the team grows, it is easy for product teams to start to falter. Having unclear overall goals of the product, or a lack of accountability on who is building what can cause huge delays and wasted budget. Additionally, it can be hard for the CTO to manage many teams and keep them motivated, focused and communicating.

However, the good news is that the right product manager can take absolute responsibility for ensuring the technology is completed on time and within budget.  The best PMs will be your point person and have strong abilities to manage disparate elements and diverse team members to achieve results. While some PM roles need to be in-house, many of these needs can be filled using a freelance product manager. This is because either the right person isn’t local or the need is shorter term.

When adding a new PM to your team, it is crucial understand the roles and responsibilities of the product manager and have a screening plan to ensure you find the right skills needed for your organization.

Product Manager advising a team member

Key Responsibilities for Product Managers

The role of the product manager can be unclear. While developers and engineers write code, and designers define the experience and look, the product manger’s role is less clear. Traditionally, a PM works to have a defined user experience, sound technology and support the overall business goals. The role is often summed up as ‘the CEO of their product’ which requires PMs to have a sound understanding of the tech they are building, understand the client’s need and what the ideal experience should be, while also ensuring the effort stays on time and on budget.

When hiring for this role, it is vital that the candidate has both short-term and long-term planning capabilities. They need to be able to understand what is happening the current build, while also planning for the future. The right candidate will understand the technology needed and the end user’s goals and objectives.  Here are additional traits to look for when making this important hire.

Creating Clarity

The best PMs are extremely talented at understanding all the various inputs, problems and processes, and synthesizing that information. He or she is then responsible for creating a straightforward plan for the team to execute against. If the PM does not set a strong direction, it can be easy for team members to lose focus or get distracted if they are required to look too far beyond their tasks. The best product managers are able to think strategically about what the business needs to build and what steps need to be taken to build it. They then create smaller tasks for each team member to accomplish.

Maintain Strong Communication

Working across several teams, it is vital that the PM is a strong communicator. This communication may happen in many forms, via chats like Slack, over email, in person, or even entirely remotely. Product managers need to be able to communicate with team members and stakeholders effectively to make for a smooth process. A survey of business leaders reports that team communication skills had the biggest impact on the quality of the final product. PMs know how to keep all the various teams and team members up to speed on where they are in the product build and what each person’s responsibilities are.

Additionally, the product manager needs to be an advocate for the technology and tools that the company is building. By cheerleading and supporting the building of the product. the PM can motivate the team to deliver great products.  Nearly two-thirds of successful tech projects attribute success to the supportiveness of the project leads.

In additional to supporting the creation of tech, PMs need to support tech adoption. When building internal tools, it is even more important that he or she push for adoption by team member, so that the company can get the most out of their tech investment. The PM should strive to create amazing tools, software and technology that make the organization proud.

Bring Leadership And Direction

Finally, one of the biggest responsibilities is to be a leader and provide direction for the team and entire company. The PM will set the vision for the product and also help determine the pace and tone of the development team, the creative team, and sometimes the entire management team. Because the PM can deliver products externally to clients or internally to the team, the role can fundamentally impact how work is done and what products or services are available to be sold. He or she can create the work culture based on how he or she communicates, delivers product, and overall leads the team.

Understanding if someone has leadership skills can be challenging during the interview process. However, there are some traits that stand out for amazing PM. Look for someone who is able to lead without having been directly given authority. Find someone who tells stories about taking blame when things go wrong and giving away credit when the team succeeds. Additionally individuals who work well under extreme pressure may show great leadership and great PM aptitude.

Product management team analyzing reports

The Cost of Failure Is High

While finding the right PM may be difficult and timely, it is a very important hire in your organization.  The cost of failure is high, and unfortunately failure is often the norm.  Research suggests that  less than 3% of companies report they successfully completed 100% of their products.

Finding the right product manager on your own, or with assistance, can mean the difference between a successful product, and organization, or a failure. Finding the right person – with the right skills – to manage your product is as critical as the technology itself.