The path from development to product management

A reader asks:

What should I know about moving from a developer role to product management?

First, congratulations! You’re about to see the world in a whole new way.

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The great thing about product management is you work across all parts of the organization—development, marketing, sales, services, support, finance, and the executive team.

The secret to success is to know the potential customers for your product better than anyone else. Your job, particularly with development, is to explain the personas and their problems. The who and the what. You’ll want to be very cautious of telling your team how to solve the problems. Your challenge will be your technical background will lead you to describe exactly how you think the problem should be solved.

And don’t forget that your “product” is more than software. The product is what people buy, so they probably need services and support as well as software.

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The ideal scenario is to set up a design group—yourself, a user experience person, a developer—to review your market requirements and determine the best approach for solving those problems.

In the short term, the way you earn credibility with your team is market expertise. Your development peers will likely attempt to pull you into design and specifications but that’s the life you left behind. Longer term, market expertise will help you communicate with the rest of the organization. You’ll be able to tell stories of how real customers use the product to solve real-world problems.

You already have strong technical expertise. Now you’ll want to expand your skills in market, domain, and business. For more on the four types of expertise, read my (free) ebook: Product Management Expertise.

Pictures courtesy of pictofigo.