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As business leaders fill more Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, and Data Analytics positions in their organizations, the need to ensure alignment between tech and other functions is being recognized as an urgent priority and gap in many enterprises. 

Today, where most companies are product-centric companies, the Product Management function must collaborate with almost every other team in the organization. The role of Product Management is therefore becoming more critical than ever.

In our latest playbook for a Great Product Team webinar, Aubrey Cattell, Vice President of Product at Adobe, shared his insights on the evolving Product Manager role with Cary Fulbright, our Head of Enterprise Marketing.

How the Product Management Role has Evolved

When Aubrey started his career, product managers were essentially like brand managers at consumer packaged goods companies. They ran the P&L and were also marketing managers but played much less of a role in product definition and specification. 

However, product management has evolved into a role that consists of not only figuring out how to delight users with new experiences, but also how to change the business trajectory. 

While product managers in startups try to answer questions like, “What problems are we solving?” and “How are we going to build this?” those in bigger companies strive to find new ways to spearhead business transformation.

What Makes a Great Product Manager?

Good product managers ship products that delight users, but great product managers transform businesses. Today, product managers must think in terms of both the user experience and the greater business strategy and ensure these create a profitable long-term business.

It’s also important to put the user in the center of the product strategy and spend more time in the problem space. When product managers get too attached to the solution, then they stop thinking in terms of the customer problem and evolving that point of view.

Finally, when building new products, product managers have to be thoughtful about sequencing. Great product managers first think about the future vision and then backtrack to figure out the required order of events to prove out their model.

Essential Skills for Product Managers

Aubrey finds that it’s often quite easy to find product manager candidates who can define user requirements that speak to the customer problem and build prioritized roadmaps. 

However, the soft skills are harder to come by. Great product managers have a strong point of view and can assert that vision. They’re not just great listeners; they also hear what isn’t being said. They try to understand what user needs are, rather than just listen to what the users say they want.

The hardest skill to build for product managers, according to Cattell, is product vision. 

When product people focus on “shipping,” or hitting the product launch milestone, they can often lose sight of setting the broader north star for the team. Part of building a product vision is to suspend disbelief and imagining what doesn’t exist. It’s to stop thinking about the next immediate thing, but rather something further out in time. This kind of thinking is what rallies teams together and is a mindset Aubrey tries to cultivate in his team.

The Product Mentality

The main thing Aubrey looks for when hiring a new product manager is an abiding passion for solving customer problems and, ultimately, shipping products. That mentality isn’t just limited to building an application. It can be for building a front-end marketing experience, a platform that will power a number of experiences, and many more.  

In this time of rapid digital transformation, having a robust product management team to align stakeholders and support your organization’s growth is a competitive imperative. 

Dive deep and learn more about Aubrey’s insights on growth hacking, product champions, the do’s and don’ts of Product Management, and more in our Playbook for a Great Product Team webinar.

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