Ever wondered how to become a product manager? Product management is a central organizational role. Apps. Video games. Fridges. Credit card plans. Every product that a company might sell, needs someone behind the scenes who’s responsible for inspiring the team, organizing the work, and making it the best it can be.
That’s the product manager. It’s their job to come up with the strategy for the product, figure out the roadmap to get there, research what the customers want and bring everybody together. They’re ultimately the person in charge, the mini CEO of the team. So to become a product manager you need to be able to understand the data, communicate it to the team, organise everything and be a leader.
But how do you get started learning all those skills? How do you make sure you know the role, inside out? In this article, we’re going to cover the first steps, so you’ll be ready to start a more in-depth course.
Learn to write a market requirements document (MRD)
There are two main documents that a product manager will need to be able to create. These are essentially the business plan for your product. The first is the Market Requirements Document (MRD).
This document is about the research and data about your customers. What do they like? What’s their demographic? What problems do they have in their day-to-day lives?
The four key things it needs to explain are:
- What is your product?
- Who are the customers?
- Who are your competitors?
- Why would customers want to buy your product?
The key is research
Looking into data science, and reading through example business plans will give you a good idea of the kind of detail you need here. The goal with this document is to make sure your entire team understands, clearly and simply, the background to what you’re trying to create.
So search online for examples, and read as many as you can. The more familiar you are with these kinds of documents, the easier it’ll be to create your own.
Learn how to write a Product Requirements Document (PRD)
The second document you’ll need to create is the Product Requirements Document (PRD). Unlike the MRD, which details the context and background, the PRD focuses on the product itself. What features will it have? What will it do? What’s the end result? And how does that link back to the user’s problems?
Once again, it’s worth reading a few examples to get a clear idea what you should include. But in this case, a PRD is much more individual than a MRD. Depending on your product, you might need to go into very specific detail about a certain feature.
Learn how to run a Sprint workplace
Most companies these days are working towards a more agile work style. The most popular of these is a Scrum Sprint. It’s a style where you take problems week by week, and prioritize the essentials. It’s fast-paced, and focuses more on short-term objectives and tasks.
There are a lot of ways to train yourself, but a good place to start is the Scrum Methodology website. You’ll find templates, software and training that will help you get started. You can also watch this Tedx talk to find out more about why it’s so important.
Spend time watching videos
There are a lot of resources on being a product manager. It’s a tricky position to search for, and it’s often best to instead search for videos around the skills you’ll need to learn, rather than the role itself. Here are a few videos to get you started.
- The PM Guy – A YouTube channel that focuses on how to be a product manager.
- Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action – This Ted Talk explains the key skills that product managers need to learn. This is just one of many that are useful. And it’s worth looking into his others, too.
- Yves Morieux: As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify – In this presentation, Yves talks through how and why you need to make your processes as simple as possible.
- Rory Sutherland: Sweat the small stuff – As an ad man, Rory Sutherland has an interesting perspective on the problems in business. And he describes how companies make a habit of investing lots of money, when small behavioural changes would be much more effective.
Read around the topic
There are plenty of ways to become a better product manager. Here are a few resources that will help get you started on the right track.
- Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love – Marty Cagan explains how exactly to set up your team to make sure you’re getting the best from them.
- The Hard Thing about Hard Things – A product manager is essentially an entrepreneur for an individual product in a company. So look at how Ben Horowitz ran his start up, and the lessons he wished he’d known.
- The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide – A very in-depth look at the practicalities of making sure your user experience is as good as it can be, whether you’re making software or fridges.
- Inside the Nudge Unit: How small changes can make a big difference – In the UK, a small department was set up that pioneered what is now known as behavioural economics. This book details the story of what they learnt. Great for leading a team, as well as improving your product.
Take a course
We’re launching a new boot camp specifically for product managers. It’s a five-day course that’ll teach you how to think like a product manager, and make sure you’ve got all the skills you need. From developing a product sense to learning key workflows. You’ll get to practice these skills on real projects, and get practical experience.
If you’re interested in learning more, sign up to our waiting list.