Digital Product Managers: What They Do and How to Become One

Digital product managers (PMs) oversee the entire life cycle of a product.

A PM must deliver on various tasks, which requires them to integrate a diverse set of skills ranging from customer development, product architecture, UI development to supply chain planning. The success of the product team is personified in the PM. In fact, several senior executives, such as the current CEO of Google, started their careers as a PM.

Successful PMs are often referred to as “rock stars,” chased by top companies and VCs from Boston to the Silicon Valley. Many entrepreneurial PMs parley their experiences to either join a startup team or to launch their own startup ventures. And, being a “rock star” means companies are more than willing to pay a competitive salary for a good product manager, with the average salary for Digital/Software Product Managers ranging over $100,000.

Essential Skills for Product Management

With the benefits of this role being so high, many software engineers, sales people, and MBA types have jumped on the PM bandwagon. And not surprisingly, these folks draw upon diverse backgrounds, from engineering, liberal arts to marketing.

The key to being a successful product manager does not lie in having deep expertise in any one field, but rather in an ability that we define as “Digital Product Management Thinking (DPMT).” DPMT in the digital economy is the ability to integrate analytics, business model, coordination, and design thinking, also termed as ABCD Thinking.

Consider the recent mainstreaming of ‘design thinking’ – once the exclusive purview of designers. Today, design thinking is a problem-solving methodology adopted by entire teams and companies. Similarly, product managers must draw upon the collective thinking of their team. This is not trivial because PMs typically do not have team members (such as software developers) reporting to them directly. Most of the work must be accomplished through influence, implemented by building and leveraging a set of organizational and social networks. A team must understand and buy into digital product management thinking.

And let’s not forget the final piece of the puzzle, a PMs ability to leverage processes, such as lean and agile development, to facilitate timely decision-making, and resolution of conflicts. Thus, a combination of soft skills (e.g. persuasion and negotiation) and hard skills (understanding technology, business economics and allied analytics) are essential for success.

The edX Questrom Digital Product Management MicroMasters program, developed by Boston University, provides the integrative ABCD Thinking and tools you need to successfully manage digital projects in the global economy.

The MicroMasters program consists of a series of five courses: (i) Product Management with Lean, Agile and System Design Thinking; (ii) Platform Strategy for Business; (iii) Social Media Marketing; (iv) Designing for Experimentation to Enhance Digital Business Innovation and (v) Business Analytics for Data-Driven Decision Making. It draws upon a combination of hands on exercises, testimonies from leading industry PM experts, and material from best-selling texts authored by faculty engaged in cutting edge research.

The program has been designed to accommodate both fresh graduates and mid-career professionals to take on PM responsibilities. Unlike other certifications with multiple pre-requisites, anyone can enroll in the MicroMasters program, and build their skillset along the way.

Successful products, such as the next generation of IoT devices or the global usage of software, such as Whatsapp, are agents of positive societal transformation in the digital economy. We hope that you will become a key enabler for such transformation, and become a PM rock star!

Enroll in the in the Digital Product Management MicroMasters program today! The first course, Product Management with Lean, Agile and System Design Thinking, begins on July 31.