Product leads are responsible for the development of new products within a company. They are key members of cross-functional product development teams that typically include engineers, researchers, technologists and representatives of marketing, finance and manufacturing departments. Product leads liaise with different members of the development team to drive projects forward.
Product leads may come from a technical or business background. Those with a business background are likely to have a bachelor’s degree in business administration or marketing, while technical leads may have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or science. A higher qualification, such as a Master of Business Administration, benefits both types of product lead. For people with experience in the field, the Association of International Product Marketing & Management offers a certification program that leads to the qualification of Certified Product Manager, Agile Certified Product Manager or Certified Product Marketing Manager.
Experience in product development, design or marketing provides a useful background for product leads. They must be able to demonstrate the ability to work effectively in a team environment and deliver successful results. Experience in managing multidisciplinary teams to meet strategic objectives is important.
Understanding customer needs is a vital aspect of this job. Product leads must carry out extensive research to identify needs that new or improved products can fulfill. They review research reports, analyze and compare competitors’ products, and meet customers to discuss their requirements. The insight they gain from research enables product leads to give a clear direction and specification to product development programs and ensures that they do not waste time or resources on projects that do not reflect market needs.
Project Management :
Project management skills are essential to bring product development programs to a successful conclusion — on time and within budget. Product leads develop schedules for each phase of the development program and monitor progress against targets. They also set up reviews at each stage to ensure the program is meeting its objectives as it progresses from concept to specification, design, development and launch.
Product leads require good communication skills to deal with the many different stakeholders in a product development program. They liaise with the senior management team to agree strategic development objectives and gain budget approval for projects. They coordinate the work of different specialists within the development team and ensure that individual members keep the rest of the team informed on progress.
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