Common misconceptions about product management

It’s safe to say that Product Managers often feel awkward when forced to describe what it is exactly that they do. The term is generic and hard to describe, and it’s no wonder that over the years it’s fallen victim to numerous misunderstandings and misconceptions. The role is in fact baffling to many professionals, including those actually being interviewed to become a PM. Here are 5 common misconceptions about Product Management and the responsibilities the job entails.

1.  It’s a soft skill

There are definitely a lot of people out there convinced that Product Management doesn’t require any particular skills. The field is often perceived as obvious, easy and essentially intuitive – when in fact, Product Management skills take time to craft – often resulting in quite complex or counter-intuitive environments.

This is also evident in hiring for the position. Recruiters usually see candidates straight from business schools and with no defined experience in the field. Like a vast majority of professionals, they assume that you can start your career in Product Management at any point in your professional life.

This point and many others are backed by many product managers – product management is much more than a collection of soft skills and a bossy attitude.

2. It’s mainly about features

People who have no idea about what the role of a Product Manager entails often imagine that it’s simply about adding new features to revamp the product in question. Smart PMs know that features aren’t the answer to everything, but their clients might be left unsatisfied after a meeting that didn’t include any proposals of specific new features.

The focus on product is a major business trend right now and Product Management is there to build the product, establish its audience and add new features only if they’re expected to bring tangible results.

3. It’s a one-man business force

Product Managers are often considered individuals that thrive on the work of others without adding any valuable input themselves. They’re the ones with the visibility; talking to executives and press alike – all great ideas are theirs and they’re the ones to drive them to completion.

In actuality, Product Management is a collective effort. Great PMs know how to communicate with specialists and make building the product a truly collaborative process. They carefully listen to others and incorporate their insights into product development.

This point is taken up in a post by Product Manager HQ, where they notice that many candidates think of being a PM as “being a mini-CEO of the product”, while in fact it’s the whole team that adds value to its development

4. It’s for professionals with no specific expertise

Many think that the daily responsibilities of a Product Manager revolve around simply accepting or refusing expert suggestions about product development. He or she has a specific vision, but no real understanding of the technology/skill/knowledge behind it – the job is really based on coordinating the work of others.

In fact, as John Vajda points out, Product Mangers usually have a deep understanding of the technologies they work with. They might not know all the details of the code, but can read it and have a firm grasp of the basics of the language and programming in general.

5. It’s easy

Finally, here’s one of the most prevailing misconceptions about Product Management – that it’s easy. One doesn’t need preparation or killer problem-solving skills. PMs depend on the knowledge of experts and never bother dealing with problematic aspects of products on their own.

The truth is that talking is easy, but completing a product isn’t. Product Management requires a lot of motivation in problem solving, an eye for details, as well as an incredible amount of patience in dealing with each layer of the product.

What is the source of all these misconceptions about Product Management? Gabriel Steinhardt explains in his popular LinkedIn post that the problem is complex and depends on a range of factors, from lack of subject matter consolidation to the rapid growth of technologies that lead companies into believing that Product Management is a collective term for diverse activities.

All things considered, these misconceptions seriously hurt professionals trying to develop their careers, and that’s why we should promote a better understanding of the profession (and enjoy more fabulous products).

Author: Kelly Smith works at CourseFinder, an Australian online education resource. She also provides career advice for students and job seekers and is passionate about the Australian startup scene.

Topics: Business Development, Management, and Product Development
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