Technical Acumen: a Product Manager’s Superpower 🦸

Bhavya Singh
10 min readSep 4, 2023

Ever felt like you’re drowning in a sea of technical jargon during cross-functional meetings?

Do you often find yourself nodding along in tech discussions, hoping no one realizes you’re not entirely sure what’s being said?

Have you ever wondered if enhancing your technical acumen could be the key to unlocking your full potential as a product manager?

Lots of PMs have been in the same boat during their careers. The tech landscape is evolving at lightning speed, and staying in the loop with all the newest buzzwords and trends can sometimes feel like chasing after a speeding train. Despite this, there are ways to become a more tech-savvy product manager. Let’s kick things off with the basics in this article.

As David Pereira says “Having tech knowledge as a product manager doesn’t mean coding at the same level as a software engineer. It means understanding how to connect the dots and ensuring a sustainable business and tech balance.”

Hello beautiful fellas,
Welcome to the
Daily product management show! 📺 I’m your host, Bhavya, and I’ll be bringing you fresh insights & ramblings on product management every week! 👋

We will delve into the essential technical knowledge that PMs need to stay ahead in the game. Make sure you check out the cool resources I’ve added in at the end of this blog to dive deeper into each of the essentials.

Understanding the Basics

1. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

At the core of product management is the understanding of PLM. This involves managing a product from its inception, through design and development, and finally to its retirement. PMs should be well-versed in the principles of PLM to ensure a smooth product journey.

2. Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

A PM must have a working knowledge of SDLC to collaborate effectively with development teams. It’s like a roadmap that guides how software gets made, from idea to finished product.

Collaboration Gold: PMs and dev teams need to speak the same language. Knowing SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) is like having a secret code that lets you work together seamlessly.

Smooth Sailing: When you grasp SDLC, you understand how software gets born, grows, and thrives. That’s vital for steering projects in the right direction.

Spotting Hurdles: With SDLC savvy, you can spot potential roadblocks early on, making it easier to avoid delays and keep your project on track.

Fix-It Wizard: When hiccups happen (they will), your SDLC know-how helps you troubleshoot and make informed decisions on the fly.

Data Analytics

3. Data Interpretation

In the digital age, data is gold. PMs must be skilled at interpreting data to make informed decisions. They should be able to analyze user data, market trends, and other relevant metrics. Let’s dive into the world of data interpretation —

Imagine you’re looking at a big pile of numbers and graphs. First, focus on the main metrics that matter most to your product’s goals. Got those? Great! Now, spot any trends — are the numbers going up, down, or just chilling? Don’t forget to keep an eye on any outliers, those sneaky data points that don’t play by the rules.

And here’s a nifty trick: use visual aids like charts and graphs to make your data come alive — humans are wired to understand pictures faster than rows of digits.

Finally, always ask yourself the golden question: “So what?” What does this data mean for your project? That’s the key to turning numbers into actionable insights. 📊🔍

4. A/B Testing

It’s all about discovering what works and what doesn’t, & using that to make better decisions. Compare two versions of a feature or design element to determine which one performs better. A PM must understand the statistical significance of results. A/B testing isn’t a one-and-done deal. Keep iterating, tweaking, and testing. It’s like honing your cooking skills — you keep adjusting the recipe until it’s perfect. Embrace the power of A/B testing, because it’s your ticket to making data-driven decisions and crafting a killer product that users will adore.

But here’s the catch — don’t go A/B crazy! Keep it simple, and test one thing at a time. Too many variables can muddle your results. And remember, you’re not Gandalf; you can’t A/B test everything. Use it wisely, and your product will thank you with happy users and booming success.

I have written at length about experimentation here-

Coding and Development

5. Programming Languages

To be a tech-savvy product manager, you don’t need to be a coding wizard, but a sprinkle of programming knowledge can do wonders. First off, grasp the basics — understand what different programming languages like Python, JavaScript, and Ruby bring to the table. It’s like knowing the flavors of ice cream; you don’t need to make them, but knowing what goes well with your product can be a game-changer.

You don’t have to write code, but you can speak the developers’ language. This helps in translating your vision into something real. Imagine telling your devs, “Let’s use Python for this task because it’s faster,” instead of “Do the thing with the thing, you know?”

Also, coding knowledge helps you make better trade-offs. When you know the nitty-gritty, you can weigh options effectively. Say, you want a fancy feature that might slow down the app. Knowing some code, you can discuss with your team and find the sweet spot between pizzazz and speed.

Remember that bugs are part of life in tech. When you know coding, you can empathize better with your devs when things go haywire. Plus, you can roll up your sleeves and dive into bug squashing if needed.

6. APIs and Integrations

Think of APIs as your product’s menu. You’re ordering ingredients (data) from different restaurants (services), and you want them to arrive at your table (app) just right. It’s all about timing, format, and making sure everything’s fresh (up-to-date). Understanding API documentation, versioning, and rate limiting go a long way in building products.

Let’s talk about error handling. Murphy’s Law loves APIs, and things will go wrong. So, be ready with Plan B, C, and even D. Think of it like a survival kit for your product. Know how to handle rate limits, timeouts, and gracefully recover from API hiccups. Your users will thank you when things don’t break into chaos.

APIs can be vulnerable, so you better armor up. Learn about OAuth, API tokens, and encryption. Protect your users’ data as if it were your heirloom’s secret recipe.

Cybersecurity

7. Data Security & Privacy Regulations

Remember, users care about their data more than you think, so always be the guardian of privacy. Know your compliance ABCs — GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA — because ignorance ain’t bliss, it’s costly fines. First off, understand the types of data you’re dealing with — personal, sensitive, or public.

When crafting your product roadmap, bake security in from the get-go. Collaborate with your engineering team to set up robust user authentication and access controls. Think like a hacker (in a good way) — anticipate vulnerabilities and patch them before they become headline news. Staying compliant with data privacy regulations is non-negotiable.

User Experience (UX)

8. Usability Principles

Understanding the principles of UX design is crucial for creating products that users love.

  1. Principle #1: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
    Users don’t care about your product’s complexity. They just want it to work like magic. So, keep it simple.
  2. Principle #2: Know Your Audience
    Usability isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. Think about your users as diverse as a bag of mixed nuts. You gotta know who they are, what they want, and how they behave.
  3. Principle #3: Empathy Matters
    Walk a mile in their shoes, and you’ll design a product they’ll love.
  4. Principle #4: Visibility and Feedback
    Make sure everything’s easy to find, and give users feedback.
  5. Principle #5: Test, Don’t Guess
    Don’t just assume your users’ needs; ask them.

9. Mobile Responsiveness

In today’s mobile-centric world, product managers must ensure that their products are mobile-responsive. Understanding mobile design principles is key.

It’s not just about making your website or app look good on phones and tablets. It’s about making it work seamlessly on all those different-sized screens out there.

Make your content adapt beautifully to various screen sizes. Mobile users are impatient, so speed is a need. Optimize images, and minimize those fancy animations. Lastly, don’t ignore touch. Buttons should be fat-finger-friendly, and scrolling should be a breeze.

You could test how responsive your website design is with some tools like — https://www.browserstack.com/responsive, https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly, https://www.websiteplanet.com/webtools/responsive-checker/

Cloud Computing

10. Cloud Services

Get to know the big players: AWS, Azure, Google Cloud etc. Learn what each does best, like AWS being super scalable or Azure being great for big businesses. Dive into technologies like S3 storage and EC2 virtual machines. Get to know about the serverless setups, containers, and microservices.

  • Cloud Models- Grasp the fundamentals of cloud computing models, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Understanding these models is like choosing the right blueprint for your dream home.
  • Key Cloud Providers- Familiarity with major cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is essential. Understanding their offerings, strengths, and weaknesses helps in selecting the right cloud provider for hosting the product.
  • Security and Compliance- An understanding of cloud security principles and compliance regulations (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA) is vital to ensure that product’s data is stored securely and complies with relevant laws.

11. Cost Optimization

Product managers should know how to optimize cloud costs. Wasteful cloud spending can severely impact a product’s profitability.

First, wrap your head around your cloud provider’s pricing model. Understand how they charge for storage, compute, data transfer, and all those fancy services. Once you’ve cracked that code, set up some budget alerts to avoid any nasty surprises. Dig into your cloud dashboard and spot those instances and databases that are just chilling- idle resources. Turn ’em off, or even better, automate it! Use auto-scaling to flex up and down based on demand. There are some nifty third-party apps that can help you analyze your spending patterns and suggest ways to tighten the belt.

Agile Methodology

12. Scrum and Kanban

Product managers often work within Agile frameworks like Scrum and Kanban. A grasp of these methodologies is essential for effective project management.

Scrum, picture it as your organized game plan. It’s all about sprinting towards your goals in short, intense bursts. Understand your product backlog, break tasks into bite-sized pieces, and sprint towards success. But here’s the catch: be flexible, adapt to changes, and hold regular stand-up meetings to keep the engine running smoothly.

Kanban is ideal for situations where work flows more organically. With Kanban, you maintain a continuous flow of tasks on a visual board. This method suits projects with changing priorities or frequent interruptions, keeping things hot and ready for whatever comes your way.

Scrum shines when you have a clear vision but need to pivot and adapt along the way. Kanban? Perfect for when your tasks vary in size and priority, keeping things fluid. Tailor your approach to your product, your team, and the project at hand.

For PMs, it’s not about knowing how to code, but more about comprehending the underlying technology that powers their product. This knowledge acts as a compass, helping to navigate the ever-evolving tech landscape with confidence & vision. When a PM possesses technical know-how, they can bridge the communication gap between engineers and stakeholders effortlessly, resulting in smoother collaborations and quicker problem-solving. It aids in making informed decisions, as PMs can weigh the feasibility and trade-offs of different features, thus optimizing the product roadmap.

Rock on, fellow & aspiring PMs! 🚀

I’m a product manager myself, and I know how hard it can be to find good resources on the topic. That’s why I started writing this blog.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below. And if you’d like to stay up-to-date on my latest articles, please follow me.

See you in the next one đź‘€
Happy PM-ing! 🚀

Resource galore:

  1. The Ultimate Guide to PLM Software | Arena: This is the ultimate PLM software guide to learn what product lifecycle management is, what it does, and how it is evolving
  2. 7 Reasons Why Companies Need PLM Software?: This article by Janani Paramasivam explains why companies need PLM software and how it can help your business thrive
  3. 6 Best SDLC Courses to Learn Software Development for Beginners and Experienced in 2023: This article by Javin Paul provides a list of the best online courses to learn Software Development LifeCycle (SDLC) from scratch
  4. A Guide to the Agile Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC): This article by Brocoders Team provides a comprehensive guide to the Agile Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
  5. Data-Driven Product Management: This article by Manav Chugh discusses how to become data-driven but not drunk on data. He shares his experience gained professionally and through courses, and explains that if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it
  6. How to become a data-driven product manager: This e-Book by Pendo.io provides insights on how product practitioners of all levels are thinking about data and how they view a product manager’s relationship with data

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Bhavya Singh

Product Manager Generalist | B2B/B2C SaaS | ISB | Hyper focussed PM on Growth & UX. https://www.linkedin.com/in/bhavyasingh | Comment on any blog for a 1:1 call