There's an ongoing debate in product management, how technical should you be? Some say very technical: many PMs have backgrounds in software engineering and credit their ability to know and understand code as a big part of their success as a PM. Others say you don't need to be technical. Some say you in fact should not be technical. After all, it’s the people they’re working with that handle the technical work.
That’s exactly where your technical skills come in, to ensure you’re having a good discourse with all departments that influence a product.
Briefly put, product managers can only answer the team’s questions once they’ve grasped a set of technical skills at their basic level. In other words, you’re going to have to understand and talk about certain tech topics although you’re not in charge of technical execution and decision-making.
In this guide, we’re going over the product management technical skills you need to know and how technical you should get with each one.
Technically, a product manager should be able to understand how technology works and how it can impact their product. This means knowing about databases and networks, what makes them tick, how they work together as well as any other technologies that are relevant to their product or business.
You might think that a product manager should be able to do everything — but that isn't always the case. There are plenty of technical skills that can help you in your role, but not all technical skills are useful for a product manager’s role.
So how technical do you really need to be?
Here are 10+ technical skills product managers should start developing:
Data analysis skills are required for product managers to make informed decisions about the success of products, and to interpret data for marketing purposes. The most common use of data analysis is in market research, but it can be applied to any aspect of a product's lifecycle from development through to post-launch support.
Product managers who have strong data analysis skills will be able to:
Database management refers to the organization, configuration, and maintenance of large sets of data that are used by an organization or its individual members.
Product managers need to have strong skills in managing databases because they often work with large amounts of data related to their products. The more complex the product, the more involved it becomes for the product manager.
One day you could be working with data in a spreadsheet, the next day pulling it from a database to build out an analytics platform. But if you don't know how databases work — or even how they're different from spreadsheets — you'll quickly find yourself struggling with them.
The ability to code is a valuable skill that is becoming more and more important in the software industry. From web developers to mobile application developers, the demand for people who know how to code is increasing every year.
As a product manager, you’ll be expected to take a lead role in guiding the development of new features or redesigning for existing ones. This means you will need to understand how different technologies work and how they can be used together to create something new and useful for your customers.
But that doesn't mean that all product managers should be software developers. Product managers simply need to grasp how software works, how to communicate with developers, and how to work with them. They should know what tools are available, what they do, and how they work to avoid common software team challenges.
Automating your work is a great way to increase productivity in your team. This can be as simple as setting up a Slack bot that sends a message when someone opens an issue, or as complex as setting up a continuous integration build that runs every time you push code.
Automation and no-code tools can help you avoid getting overwhelmed or pulled in multiple directions. They do this by automating routine tasks so you don't need to worry about them anymore — or worse, by saving you time when you could be focusing on more important things like designing new products or getting buy-in from stakeholders.
Product managers also need to be able to understand how to run no-code tools like Zapier, IFTTT, or Trello to make it easier for them and their team members to automate tasks on their own. For example, if a product manager wants an email reminder sent out when someone mentions a certain keyword in a comment on social media, they could use an IFTTT recipe that sends that comment along with a link back to the post where people can read more about it.
A/B testing is an essential skill for product managers as it helps them make data-driven decisions and improve the performance of their products.
Product managers should know how to A/B test if they want to be successful in their careers. By nature, product management is a data-driven profession that asks for decisions to be made based on data. You’ll also be tasked with communicating with stakeholders about the results of A/B tests and further acting upon these.
Keep in mind A/B testing requires a deep understanding of your product, users, and business goals. But it also requires specialized skills in data analysis and statistics that many product managers simply don't have.
Prototyping skills are especially important for product managers who are working on a new feature or redesign, as it can save time and money. It also helps to get feedback from customers and internal stakeholders before putting the project into production. It's a way to test ideas and make sure they work before building something more substantial.
Prototyping also helps product managers quickly iterate and develop their ideas. By creating a prototype, product managers can quickly make changes to the product design and functionality and test them out. This allows product managers to develop their products more quickly and efficiently.
Finally, this skill allows product managers to demonstrate their product to potential investors, partners, or clients. By creating a working model of the product, you can show potential investors, partners, or clients the potential of a product and its functionalities. This can help secure funding or other resources needed to develop the product.
As a product manager, you’re constantly analyzing data to determine the right products to develop and market. To do this, you need the right information at your fingertips.
Tools like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are an indispensable tool for anyone who works in product management. Not only can Excel be used to create charts and graphs but it can also be used to analyze data, which is essential for product managers.
Excel worksheets can be organized in different ways, such as by project or by category. This allows product managers to see all the relevant information in one place and make sense of it all. It also allows them to create simple visualizations of their data, which helps them understand it better than if they were just looking at numbers alone.
With the increasing need for product managers to understand and communicate technical concepts, a lack of technical writing skills can cause problems.
The ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely is critical for product managers. Product management is not just about writing blogs but also communicating the thoughts, ideas, and solutions that the product team has come up with to potential customers.
Technical writers help product managers with their writing skills by helping them write better content that conveys more information than it would take to explain it on paper.
As product managers, we often have to think about the “whole” of the product to get things done. This means that we need to understand how the various pieces of our product fit together — how they are connected and what they do.
To do so, we need an understanding of the way products work at a high level. We also need to understand how different parts of the product interact with each other so that we can make informed decisions about how certain features should be prioritized and implemented.
Product architecture is essential to understand because it allows you to create a roadmap that will help you effectively manage your product development lifecycle.
It also helps you communicate your vision to others, which is crucial if you want to build a team around your vision and make sure everyone understands what they're doing.
DevOps has become a major buzzword for organizations looking to improve product development. For product managers, it's an opportunity to expand their role beyond the business side and get more involved with the actual product development.
Product managers are a crucial part of the DevOps team, but they may not always realize that. In fact, some product managers may feel like their role is being taken over by development or engineering. However, product management is still very much needed in the DevOps process.
In fact, the product manager should be involved in every stage of development and deployment because it’s their job to understand what customers want and how they’ll use a product once it’s released. With this knowledge, they can help make sure your software is designed with them in mind — which will make it easier to use and improve customer satisfaction.
Just like with the other technical skills on this list, you don't need to be an AI expert. This is obviously a very hard technical skill to wade into, but it's a major trend right now and won't go away. Some fluency around how tools like GPT work and what the opportunity and limitations are will be really helpful to any product manager.
LaunchNotes has AI-powered sentiment analysis capabilities to help you generate product feedback as well as an AI-based editor for writing product announcements.