The six must-have Skills of a Telecom Product Manager25. April 2017 Published by Raphael Doerr
Product managers are often called the ‘product CEO’ of an organization. Not surprising, because they are in charge of products and their whole life cycle – from concept to the follow-up product. A product manager in the telecom industry for example, takes care of development, production and marketing. On the one hand, he knows how to sell a device in the best possible way, while on the other hand the product and production line are still profitable.
Whether you are called product manager, product CEO, or maybe even product owner or product life cycle manager, as I heard several times before – in the end, the success of a certain device is your responsibility. To do your job efficiently and successfully, there are six important skills every telecom product manager should have or acquire.
Be a team player
Product management is teamwork: nobody can bring a product to market all by themselves. It starts with deciding on the product concept together with the management team. But also during the development phase, while the technical department thinks about the implementation of features, and it’s your task to guide the process without losing sight of the core product characteristics. And what about the preparation of the market entry together with marketing and sales colleagues? Even after the launch your job isn’t over. You cooperate with customer service to collect product feedback from customers and stakeholders, for example to create a follow-up solution. In short, it’s an ongoing process in which you’re the focal point for all departments involved in product development.
Know the market
Are you working for a company that operates in multiple countries? Make sure you gain insight into the needs of your key markets. Successful product managers are capable of exploring different countries and markets, and of adapting products to local needs, working methods and the competition. That’s how you sell a complete business solution. Don’t forget about localisation and translation of documentation and guidelines either. A good product manager knows his markets like the back of his hand.
The key issue in the telecom industry? Don’t stand still! While the entire business environment is moving forward, you can’t permit yourself to fall behind. To be market leader is to think about new exiting solutions – that’s what customers expect from you. Fortunately, as product manager and focal point, you are perfectly positioned to gather innovative ideas from both internal and external parties. Conduct market research to collect feedback from end users and don’t hesitate to ask resellers what problems they’re experiencing with your devices. Don’t be deterred by ‘impossible’ innovative ideas. You might be able to hire external expertise, form a partnership or launch an ODM product.
Think like a business owner
A product manager needs to be innovative, but also has to think like a real business owner. How? By keeping the customer in mind and giving him the best possible solution, for the best price. In fact, it’s best if a product manager takes an independent position. He or she needs to prevent seeing things from a developer or marketer point of view. As a product manager, it’s your task to guarantee that a product’s key features are realized, not lost because of savings or miscommunications.
Know your product
Besides knowing the market, an extensive knowledge of your own products is crucial. In my case, there is a world of difference between product management for base stations or DECT handsets. Since base stations are IP based, they contain more software. The biggest effort in the life cycle is to make these IP based systems work together with the external world. In other words, you have to adjust to requirements from customers, operators and providers. Handsets, on the other hand, are more stable in terms of features. In this case, design is a key element that might be crucial to convince end users to buy a certain handset. That’s why we talk to end users frequently and use their feedback to implement and improve products. A smart product manager knows the focus for every product.
In an ever-changing world it’s important to adapt to changing customer and market needs quickly. Agile development allows you to learn from stakeholders, reprioritize requirements and react more quickly. Together with his agile development team, a product manager ensures efficient activity and time management – based on changing demands instead of a predetermined schedule. In the meantime, he also guarantees that the focus of the product is not lost in the waves of agility.
Product CEO, product owner or product lifecycle manager: whatever your job description says, the six skills mentioned above should be part of every product manager’s curriculum.