The rise of digital has companies everywhere looking for tech experts with limitless drive and uncompromising vision. What else do those in this often underappreciated position need to succeed in modern business?

Product managers have existed in tech since even the first waves of consumer-facing
electronics, like radio and television. But this profession has garnered a lot of attention recently due to the exponential and unprecedented rise of digital. From the internet, to gaming, to social media, to mobile, it’s still the job of the product manager to find the right mix of consumer adoption and market disruption.

The success of a product hinges on the strategic knowledge of multiple disciplines — business, technology, and experience design. Product managers have to ensure that their given product meets business objectives, understand how the product will be built, and create an elegant and compelling experience that fulfills the user’s needs. Most people with the title have mastered one or perhaps even two of these subject matters, but what distinguishes the good from the great managers is the complete comprehension and proper application of all three.

Great product managers are inherently curious people: they notice things most overlook, pose questions most never think to ask, possess an outstanding attention to detail, and are unapologetic when it comes to following their instincts. The need for all these strong personality traits makes product management more of a way of life than a profession. While others worry about flaws in the way things are done or in what’s being proposed, they focus on an uncompromising vision, wondering not if their ideas will come to fruition, but when.

Prioritizing, Driving and Managing

Effective product managers prioritize, drive, and manage their assignments throughout the product life cycle. The activities in this process include defining the vision, devising the strategy, creating the roadmap, feeding the development, executing the launch, and comprising the go-to-market strategy.

Vision, Ideas, Leadership

This job takes a strong understanding of the market — no strategy for a product’s release, no matter how strong the prototype is, will be effective if it doesn’t consider the context of that given product’s market.

This understanding can be an effective check on a product manager’s vision. Being a pioneer and pushing for “blue-sky” strategies may turn out to be best solution, but if your instincts tell you that consumers aren’t ready to adopt, it might be best to save your big ideas for a better time. That being said, product managers can’t fall behind the industry curve, either. There’s never any guarantee that a product will be successful, and the job requires taking significant risks if real innovation is to occur.

Championing the Product

Product managers are the product CEOs, and they’re often the de facto decision maker when it comes to potentially game-changing questions about their project. They own the product from concept to launch, and are very much in-tune with user adoption, user responses, and market penetration. As important business leaders, great communication skills are crucial to their and their product’s success. Fostering and managing relationships — between teams and team members, company and client, product and user — is at the core of product management.

Product management is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs in a digital organization, an ongoing process of iteration and amelioration. No one product will please all users and solve all problems, but the great product managers are able to quickly synthesize information and convert it into a practical, powerful vision. This vision lays the groundwork for all subsequent work that ensues not only on that product, but for much of the company’s future work.