The growing importance of software product marketing managers

Making great products is not enough in software these days. The “build it, and they will come” mindset will no longer lead to success in this ever competitive space. As software products become more sophisticated and customers more discerning, the path to market acceptance has become much more complicated. Companies need different capabilities to navigate this more challenging environment, with sustainable success increasingly requiring a role devoted to understanding and priming the market—one known in the industry as a product marketing manager (PMM).

In this new era, where more and more companies are embracing product-led sales, PMMs can take some of the risk and guesswork out of successfully bringing a new product to market. They provide essential orchestration and expertise at each stage of the commercialization journey, both before and after the product gets into the hands of customers.

This shift in capabilities comes as software investors are changing how they measure success. From 2022 to 2023, 84 percent of publicly traded software companies saw their valuations drop,1 with more than a quarter experiencing a decline of more than 50 percent.

McKinsey examined the relationship between robust product marketing functions and revenue growth among the top 100 software companies by revenue. The findings affirmed the pivotal role of PMMs in helping their companies’ products propel growth. Companies in the highest revenue growth quartile have a formalized PMM function and exhibit, on average, a 25 to 30 percent higher ratio of PMMs to product managers (PMs) compared with those in the bottom growth quartile, averaging approximately one PMM for every 1.6 PMs. These PMMs also come from diverse professional backgrounds, with an average of roughly 11 years of experience across disciplines.

Despite the similarities in their abbreviations, the emerging PMM role in no way reduces the importance of the core PM job. But as that position’s responsibilities have expanded greatly and shipping software has become more complex, PMMs have started to play a key support role, acting as a strategic connector between the various functions involved in launching a new product. Based on our market experience, research, and interviews with a number of industry executives, we believe this role is poised to become a differentiator for the most successful software providers. This article examines the shifting market environment that has fueled the PMM’s growing importance, how the role can make a significant impact for companies, and what it takes for an organization to reap the benefits of the PMM capability from the outset.

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Can You Combine Design Thinking with DevOps in Software Engineering?

As we enter 2024, the dynamics of product management are shifting towards a blend of technological savvy, user-centric design thinking, and strategic agility. This article delves into the 15 essential product management skills that significantly affect how products are conceived, developed, and launched in today's market. These skills form the backbone of effective product management, from strategic thinking that aligns product development with long-term business goals to data-driven decision-making that ensures informed and impactful choices. Additionally, soft skills like leadership, communication, and stakeholder management have become indispensable in navigating the complex cross-functional landscapes typical of modern organizations.

Importance of Developing Strong Product Management Skills
Developing strong product management skills is crucial in today's fast-paced and competitive business environment. Product management encompasses a broad range of responsibilities that bridge the gap between the development team, stakeholders, and the market. The importance of these skills can be broken down into several key areas:

1-Understanding Market Needs
Customer Insight: Product managers with strong research and analytical skills can better understand customer needs and market demands.
Competitive Analysis: A deep understanding of the competitive landscape helps product managers position their products effectively, identify gaps in the market, and exploit opportunities for differentiation.
2-Strategic Vision and Decision Making
Product Strategy: Effective product management involves setting clear goals and developing a strategic vision for the product.
Prioritization: With often limited resources and time, the ability to prioritize tasks based on their potential impact on the market and alignment with business objectives is crucial.
3-Cross-Functional Leadership and Communication
Team Coordination: Product managers must work closely with diverse teams, including development, marketing, sales, and customer support.
Stakeholder Management: It is vital to manage expectations and communicate effectively with stakeholders, including investors, executives, and customers.
4-Execution and Problem-Solving
Agile Methodologies: Familiarity with agile development practices allows product managers to adapt to changes quickly, make iterative improvements based on feedback, and efficiently manage the product development process.
Risk Management: Identifying potential risks and obstacles early and planning to address them is crucial for minimizing disruptions to the product development timeline and ensuring the product's successful launch.
5-Customer-Centric Approach
User Experience (UX): A strong focus on UX ensures that the product is not only functional but also intuitive and enjoyable to use.
Feedback Loop: Establishing a continuous feedback loop with users helps make data-driven decisions, improve the product over time, and stay responsive to customer needs and market trends.

Qualifications Needed to Become a Product Manager
Becoming a product manager (PM) involves a blend of formal education, practical experience, and key skills that allow an individual to excel in managing products from conception to launch and beyond.

Formal Education
Bachelor’s Degree: Degrees in business, computer science, engineering, marketing, or related fields can provide a solid foundation.
Master’s Degree: An MBA or a master's degree in a relevant field can be advantageous, especially for advancement into higher management roles.
Practical Experience
Industry Knowledge: It is crucial to understand the industry in which you wish to work (e.g., tech, healthcare, finance). This can be gained through work experience, internships, or personal projects.
Cross-functional Experience: Experience in roles that interact with multiple facets of a business (such as sales, marketing, engineering, or customer service) can be incredibly valuable.
Product Management Experience: Direct experience as a product manager or in a product management-related role (e.g., product owner, project manager) can be essential.
Skills and Competencies
Technical Skills: While not always mandatory, technical skills or understanding of the technology relevant to the product can be extremely beneficial, especially in the tech industry.
Business Acumen: A strong grasp of business fundamentals, market analysis, and strategy is crucial for making decisions that align with the company's goals.
Communication and Leadership: Excellent verbal and written communication skills, along with leadership qualities, are essential for leading teams, negotiating with stakeholders, and advocating for your product.
Critical Thinking: The ability to analyze problems, think critically, and devise effective solutions is key in the role of a PM.
Customer-focused: Understanding customer needs and translating them into product features is fundamental. This often requires strong research and analytical skills.
Agility and Adaptability: The product landscape can change rapidly, so it is vital to be able to adapt and manage change.
Certifications and Continuous Learning
Product Management Certifications: Certifications such as Professional Certification In Product Management, Product Management Professional Program, or Scrum Product Owner certification can enhance a resume.
Continuous Learning: Engaging in continuous learning through workshops, seminars, online courses, and industry conferences can keep a PM's skills sharp and relevant.
Networking and Personal Branding
Networking within professional communities and building a personal brand can also be instrumental in launching and advancing a career in product management.

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The AI revolution in software development: Enhancing productivity and reducing cognitive load

The potential for artificial intelligence to enhance developer productivity is immense. With AI-powered tools and algorithms assisting developers in tasks as varied as code analysis, the scope for faster and more accurate software development has never been greater.
AI can reduce cognitive load and improve developer productivity in various stages of the development lifecycle, according to Balaji Sivasubramanian (pictured), senior director of product management at Red Hat Inc. AI has the potential to improve productivity in repetitive tasks, such as email and chat, by multiple times.
“I think one of the biggest challenges is the ability to reduce the cognitive load, and the AI will go a long way in reducing that,” Sivasubramanian said. “Today, just like with any other activity a developer is doing, there’s a lot of things that could help. You have seen GitHub Copilot as one of the ways to reduce the time to develop code, but there’s also many ways you can have AI to assist in improving their productivity.”
Becoming a platform player
Building models and getting productive was hard before, but now, with foundational models and the ability to tune them to custom data, productivity gain is available to all organizations. Red Hat is an open-source platform company focused on building and deploying new applications, managing the life cycle of models and bringing in open-source models for production. At the moment, it is working to help organizations overcome barriers to AI adoption and implement it in production to drive productivity improvements across industries, according to Sivasubramanian.
“One of the key things we are trying to do is to have a platform to build your new application. Basically, how do you get the data, get ingested, train, build, deploy and monitor the model and lifecycle of the model?” he said. “Because models are not just one and done; it’s always changing. That’s on the model side of the house. Then you have the application that takes advantage of the models, and you have to do the lifecycle of that. Our job is to be a platform player.”
Having multiple choices and competition is important for improving security and reducing dependence on a single provider in AI regulation and governance, Sivasubramanian pointed out. The momentum has shifted, and people are converging and moving in the right direction. There is a sense of security and maturity in the governance of technology.
“The convergence is happening much faster. If you look at the AWS keynote today, they talked about producing different choices for customers,” Sivasubramanian said. “Everybody’s talking that same language, and I think it’s the right thing. If you look at the previous technology wave that happened, at the end of the day, that’s what happened — it’s the choices, it’s the self-governance.”

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