Are you the product manager you want to be? Platform Edition

In my case I am a platform product owner by title but according to Matt LeMay in product management you will need to be ready to go above and below your station. I read an article a couple months ago asking, “Are you the product manager you really want to be?" by Julia Nechaieva (Lorien) that established a framework around the common tasks of someone in a product management role. Based on their broad range of contacts Julia determined there is a wide distribution of skills in product management and each role can be vastly different.

Platform Product Management Skillsets

Platform Skillsets

Unfortunately, due to my limited graphic design tools I neglected to adhere to the different shading of the strength of each skill. I did apply a gradient, but it is consistent across all elements.

The most common skills used by me are:

  • PM Artifacts
  • Research
  • Engineering
  • Program Management
  • UX
  • Data Analytics

PM Artifacts

In my role the most impactful contribution I can provide is my ability to write, communicate, and persuade to others the goals of our new platform. For me PM artifacts such as visions, strategies, one-pagers, six-pagers, presentations, public speaking, and simple one-on-one communication does a significant amount of the heavy lifting for any initiative that I want to embark on. One area I failed in recently was not realizing that when something is going poorly it is time to present ideas on how to improve the situation. Looking back at my times as an individual contributor I was more accustomed to people above me having more knowledge and expertise or owning and controlling the work frame. Now there is an expectation that when a direction is failing that I provide an alternative which is empowering and relieving.

Research & Engineering

This combination is important, but I vary in how much time and effort I can spend in these areas. While I personally need to stay up to date on technology changes and be familiar with how things work and are evolving in my day to day my other responsibilities prevent me from adding value at the code level. I rely on software engineers that can act as product-minded engineers. The typical understanding with person that owns a product is that they might have either the answers or the best understanding on what direction the product needs to go. For platform components asking the product owner to choose what implementation of dependency injection to provide would be a disservice to our customers. For myself I am willing to put into the marketplace a guess and let my customers tell me if it is wrong and needs to be fixed. The greatest strength I and my team can provide is the depth of empathy in understanding what makes software development burdensome. With the caveat that we can often allow implementations to be too difficult or require too much knowledge because when we’re developers we are rewarded for solving complex problems. It seems silly to simplify something further than we are used to.

RoleActivityLow Level Code DecisionDeveloper Platform
Product OwnerDefine and prioritize the what. Final authority on what is provided.People want to test in their specific way we should let them. Prioritize the work to be done.I want scheduled tasks, low ceremony configuration, I do not want developers to care about the details. I want a Heroku with even less choices. Push to the marketplace and gather feedback and iterate.

Program Management

This is an area I am actively working on and historically has not been an interest or passion. I think project management is an important skill and there is a flow and rhythm to doing it well. Looking back at my previous roles it was usually clear what the next work unit was to complete, and I was not required to solve the project puzzle. I am looking forward to learning more about how to keep advancing on this skillset and it is a large part of introducing significant change in an enterprise.

UX and data analytics

UX and data analytics are the more minor skills. Simply because the high technological focus doesn’t require as much user interface designs currently until our platform is much farther along. For data analytics there is a time and place for its usage, however, the current set of platform tooling does not benefit from understanding of usage analytics currently. I’m hopeful for more use as the new platform takes shape.

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