Ask a veteran product manager how they got into the field and how they became an expert. They’ll probably tell you it was luck and a lot of trial and error. We’re aiming to fix that. But first, let’s start with the definition of product manager…
Most software-powered products built today are the result of conventional design processes driven by engineering and technology. In these organizations, engineers build products around specific technologies with the hope that “if you build it, they will come.” Involvement in the design process by the customer or end user is seen as a process checkbox to complete or an opportunity to confirm pre-existing biases. While these technology-driven solutions may provide value for their customers, they often overburden them with nonessential features, poor quality and unnecessary friction.
On the other end of the spectrum, we find software products created by cross-functional teams led by product managers. Products created by these teams offer just enough features and functionality to meet the needs of customers and end users because customers are placed at the center of the design process. The customer is not considered an afterthought or a box to check. As a result, these teams deliver well-designed and well-crafted solutions that are seamlessly integrated into the lives of customers and end users which drive their continued loyalty and satisfaction.
What is a Product Manager & Why Does it Matter?
Product managers are those professionals who match customer needs with product form and function. By using specific frameworks and methods, product managers discover insights into customer behavior which they use to drive product development. Working as leaders in cross-functional teams, product managers put customers at the center of product development so that solutions can be fit for purpose. To become a great product manager requires an individual to master a broad array of expert competencies and a specialized set of tools through regular study, practice and reflection. This is not a one-time educational experience, but a lifelong journey of professional development one takes over the course of their career.
If all you are building are simple web pages, then relying on the judgment of engineers or other well-intentioned (but unqualified) enthusiasts is probably good enough for your needs. However, if what you are building is a legitimate, software-powered product that helps people complete important jobs — anything from the flight control systems found on jumbo jets to apps that schedule home delivery of food and prescription medicines — then it is no longer acceptable to allow amateurs to “wing it” and hope for success.
Real product management is a profession — one that requires a specialized mindset and unique tools. If you have not acquired this mindset, and its corresponding set of tools, then you — and your company — need to level up, and you need to level up fast. There are just too many customers struggling with products they don’t love, or companies wasting time and money on building products customers don’t need, to let the amateurs run the show for much longer.
How Do Product Managers Level Up Today?
In our experience, most people acquire the specialized skills, knowledge and experiences necessary to be a successful product manager through a lengthy process of trial-and-error, combined with good timing and luck. Again, if all you are building are web pages, then this strategy is probably good enough. However, for those who recognize this approach is insufficient to get the job done, there are alternatives.
- Do-It-Yourself (DIY): in this context, DIY would be reading the core books and literature associated with modern product management. I would also include watching high-quality YouTube videos of these authors speaking at different industry events as part of DIY.
- Pros: relatively low investment, broad exposure to ideas and practices
- Cons: no practical application or synthesis, time consuming
- Microlearning: sites like Udemy and LinkedIn Learning have created platforms for educators to develop and distribute a great deal of content around product management. However, what is often found on these platforms is generally too low-quality and too basic for the professional or, if it is of high-quality, it is disconnected from a broader program of continuing education.
- Pros: cheap, small investment of time, targeted to specific topics and/or issues
- Cons: no advanced content, little to no instructor-student interaction, quality is highly variable
- Education programs from an accredited university: most major universities, colleges and community colleges, now offer product management certification programs or offer product management courses. While the quality of these programs is generally higher than what one would find on the microlearning sites, these courses tend to emphasize introductory concepts that most working professionals can find elsewhere, spend too much time on theoretical concepts not relevant to working professionals, or share practices that were state-of-the-art . . . five to six years ago.
- Pros: well-known and trusted brands, educators with academic credentials and qualifications, consistent quality
- Cons: academic focus with limited practical application, not up-to-date, no advanced content
- Certification offered by an industry-provider: in this category, there are two broad classes of providers – industry leaders who want to advance the practice of product management and some sketchy providers who just want to sell you a certification. Let’s focus on the legitimate educators because this class has the influential product management thought-leaders who’ve written the books and have the industry experience. For those looking to rub shoulders with famous authors and conference speakers, a one or two-day course is an attractive option. However, if you are looking for a long term educational experience that goes deep into a broad array of product management competencies, you’re not going to find that in two-day class.
- Pros: cutting edge of product management thought and practice, delivered by professionals active in the industry, short duration
- Cons: some are quite expensive and overburden learners with unnecessary practices, transactional in nature, tend to be superficial
Let’s Make Product Management a Profession
At Applied Frameworks, we are passionate about elevating product management to a profession. It’s our mission. To do this requires specific, role-based education that provides the crucial skills and experiences to think and act like a product manager. Excellence is achieved through practice, repetition and reflection in the context of doing the real work of a product manager. Further, we recognize that in order for product managers to advance professionally, they need to develop relationships with experienced practitioners who can offer timely feedback, valuable insights and encouragement as they advance in their craft.
It’s with these goals in mind that we’ve developed our Product Management Accelerators — we accelerate your growth as a product management professional with expert level content that cuts through the mountains of foolishness and bad advice found on the Internet. Unlike a two-day class, we deliberately go deep into the core product management competencies: innovation, strategic thinking, tactics, execution, and leadership.
Here is why we feel our online, on-demand program of continuing education is the right fit for a professional Product Manager:
- Works on your schedule: because we’re an on-demand program, you can come and go as you like. You have one year to complete this program, so there is no need to rush. If you ever need to take a break for work or family, we’ll be here when you’re ready.
- Develop a relationship with your instructor: in most online courses, instructor interaction falls into two camps – a premium add-on or just another name on a Zoom call. In our program, you can expect from four to five hours of synchronous and asynchronous one-on-one interaction with your instructor as you work together to achieve your professional and personal goals.
- Earn a certification: our program is divided into three certification tiers — certified, advanced and expert — based upon your experience and professional needs. With our Product Management Accelerators, you earn a certification based on validated practice of what you apply in the real world, not by completing an exam or showing up for two day class.
- Just useful stuff: our multi-tiered certification program provides you with just enough information and frameworks to support the jobs and responsibilities you have today… and those jobs you’ll have next month. We’re not going to overburden you with esoteric theories or obscure practices that you are never going to use. When you need more, just advance to the next level.
- Learner friendly: most online education is boring and prone to distraction. We know our learners are busy, so we designed all our lessons to be delivered in small chunks using our proven C6 approach to online education. We constantly adjust our program to make sure it offers superior ROI for time invested.
- Built by experienced product managers: all the frameworks, practices and guidance we offer in our Product Management Accelerators is based on what we do each day as product managers. Each course is organized around a practical, real-world product management challenge where you apply what you have learned online to your own team, products and customers.
- Reasonable cost: to earn a certification with us, you don’t need to take out a loan or go into debt. Instructor interaction is a requirement to complete your certification, not a premium add-on. Pay as a single lump sum or make three equal payments divided over three months.
- We are Scrum and Agile experts: some product management programs are dismissive of Agile while others offer a superficial treatment. With over twenty years of experience with Agile, and experience developing continuing education programs for the Scrum Alliance, our program embraces Scrum and Agile so that you can succeed in this environment.
Whether you are looking to land that dream job or just top off your skills with expert knowledge, our Product Management Accelerator can get you to your destination faster.
How to Get Started with our Product Management Accelerator
The Product Management Accelerator is a new product. We’ve spent the last two years developing the curriculum, assignments, assessments, and instructor engagement model to make this product as good as it can be.
We’re excited to share more details with you — and we want to hear what you think.