Julia Child, the famous chef, once said, “You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” A commitment to lifelong learning is the hallmark of any curious individual, and product managers are no exception to this axiom.
Not only must product managers stay up-to-date on their current industry, competitors, and emerging technologies. They must also remain committed to honing their craft, mastering new skills, and staying abreast of the latest developments within product management itself. It will make them better at their current job, but it’s also essential to career advancement and achieving their full potential as product leaders.
For better or worse, there’s no shortage of educational resources for product management, many of them freely available. But being spoiled for choice also means product leaders must add “curation” to their job description as they select which of these many options to spend their limited personal and professional development time on.
This guide is a shortcut to browsing through the endless learning opportunities out there. It’s a newly-revised collection of hand-picked resources specifically for the product management field. Bookmark it for future reference, as it’s continually updated with the latest-and-greatest offerings.
Reading a book may seem like a significant time commitment, but the good ones are worth it. Diving into a subject for a few hundred pages can convey sophisticated tactics, strategies, and lessons while allowing the reader to ruminate on the subject and internalize what they’ve learned.
The Anatomy of a Product Launch
Great product launches are a company-wide plan involving the coordination, research, and enthusiasm of departments across the company. A successful product launch requires much more than simply activating the “buy” button on your website. Every launch needs a detailed plan to be successful.
Former WIRED editor-in-chief Chris Anderson forces us to take a long, objective look at how we price our products. The book asks us to confront whether, in an era when more and more products and services are becoming free, we can afford to stick to the old paradigm of gating our offerings and making them available only to paying customers.
The Art of Product Management
Even though the book was published way back in technology’s Paleolithic era of 2008, its principles and insights still stand up today. The book offers valuable lessons for product managers about developing an effective product roadmap, adequately equipping your support teams (which few businesses do, even today), properly implementing agile, etc.
Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love
Marty Cagan, a longtime product executive, walks the reader through his hard-won insights about how to identify when you’ve got the right product and when you don’t, how to work with technical teams to get your products built the right way, and the basics of how to be a great product manager.
Crossing the Chasm
This classic focuses on how businesses can develop products that make that rare and challenging leap from cool novelties for a small group of early adopters to full-blown mass-market successes. It’s an excellent explanation of how a successful product will make its way through a standard bell curve — from early adopters to the early majority, to the late majority, and finally to the laggards — and how to structure your products to follow this successful path.
From established thought leaders to industry players to scrappy product managers working in the trenches, blogs are a no-filter, no-middle-man channel for people to share their thoughts, wisdom, and personal experiences with the masses.
Since no editor is standing between the author and the audience, they can tell it like it is and not worry about stepping on anyone’s toes. Bloggers can also make plenty of typos and share all kinds of terrible advice, so we’ve hand-picked some great ones well worth following.
Silicon Valley Product Group
Marty Cagan and his crew have been defining and evolving the role of product management for decades. Their blog continues to cover what’s important for product managers no matter where they’re located. From individual posts on pertinent topics to blog series that dives deep into the art of product management—there’s a vast catalog of posts covering it all.
Inside Intercom is a fantastic blog and resource for product managers and anyone interested in building a fantastic product. It’s organized into several categories: Customer Support, Design, Sales and Marketing, Product Management, and Startups.
This analytics toolmaker also pumps out great content, offering insights from their experts and guest writers. Its lineup includes articles on launching new products, using Net Promoter Score, and even how product and UX teams can work together most effectively.
Venture capitalists aren’t just good for funding; some have good advice to pass along. OpenView’s insights on product-led growth feature great reads on topics such as scaling up, SaaS pricing, and metrics.
Not to toot our own horn, but ProductPlan’s blog is a rich repository of insights into all things product management, particularly the art of product roadmapping. You can subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter here.
There’s nothing worse than forgetting a key step in a process and having it wreak havoc later on. Product managers can avoid these mistakes and keep the whole organization on track for what needs to happen—and who needs to do it—with checklists for common workflows and processes.
VP of Product’s Checklist
Product executives have a different set of things to worry about than rank-and-file product managers. This list covers what a new hire should worry about when they first get on the job.
Story Owner Checklist
If creating user stories are part of the job description, this reference ensures the rest of the Agile team doesn’t cry foul when they get their hands on them. If everything’s in place, the new functionality will hit the market that much faster.
Deciding what gets to the front of the queue doesn’t have to be so difficult when you follow this step-by-step guide.
Essential Feature Kickoff Checklist
Before opening up the doors, it’s essential to make sure every detail has been attended to. Cross off all the initiatives that must be in place before sending out your next feature
Once the dust has settled, it’s time to look back at what went well and what could be improved moving forward. This checklist ensures the meeting doesn’t miss anything important that could make the next go-around even better.
Time is precious, so a full-length book may not always be in the cards. But information-packed short reads and e-books provide enough depth to add value without tying up hours and hours that could be spent getting stuff done.
How to Start Your Career in Product Management
Since there’s no one path to becoming a product manager, it can be tricky figuring out how to break into the field. HubSpot offers this comprehensive guide on what it is, the skills people need, and how to land that first gig.
The Ultimate Guide to Product Management
Product managers aren’t project managers, but they still need things to actually get done (and preferably on time). Understanding how the sausage gets made and how to improve that process is just as important as understanding technology and UX for a well-rounded product manager.
Intercom on Product Management
Intercom is a consistent source of great content on product management. In this e-book, they’ve collected essential lessons for aspiring product managers and experienced practitioners looking to hone their craft. It includes tips on identifying opportunities, maintaining product focus, and inspiring feature utilization.
20 Product Prioritization Techniques
Figuring out what to build next—and what not to—might be the most challenging and political aspect of product management. This guide covers 20 different ways to solve that riddle while appeasing stakeholders and delighting users.
The Ultimate Guide to Product Management
A single resource for everything you’ll ever need to know about product management? It’s a tall order, but we’re on it. From defining the discipline to post-launch activities, this is a soup-to-nuts guide to all things PM.
Product managers love data, so they should love reports chock full of data about their industry. Keeping tabs on what’s happening in their profession of choice isn’t just interesting, but it can help guide key career decisions, inform negotiations, and maybe uncover a new growth opportunity.
Product Managers in 2020
ProductPlan’s 5th annual report surveyed more than 2,500 professionals and discovered insights on everything from hiring to job satisfaction to prioritization framework preferences. You’ll also learn the most essential skills a product manager needs, the biggest challenges they face, product metrics, and roadmapping best practices.
The Future of Product Management Report
When contemplating which skills a product manager needs to add to their repertoire, it’s always best to look ahead to what will be valued in the future. This report identifies what product managers think they’ll need in the years to survive and thrive, as well as how humans and machines might be teaming up to devise product strategy in the future.
2020 Product Management Insights Report
Product management looks a little different at every company. This report looks at the numbers and reports on core responsibilities, day-to-day activities, major frustrations, sources of inspiration, and the significant challenges that product managers face.
Product Management Trends and Benchmarks Report 2020
70 charts reporting on everything from what drives decision-making to what product managers want from their managers. Salaries, leadership styles, and which activities take up the most time are all covered.
Making Sense of It All
The best part of having so many ways to acquire product management knowledge is that each new nugget of information and bits of advice builds on the next. Product management toolkits are continually expanding to offer more ways to solve problems, understand customers, and foster stakeholder alignment. Since there’s no “right” way to do anything in product management, each new option and perspective merely broadens the possibilities.
Some of the resources above may contain new terminology and unfamiliar lingo. Fear not, because there’s also a handy glossary for all those mysterious words. It’s an opportunity to expand everyone’s vocabulary and ensure key terms are well understood.
Sometimes it’s nice just to kick your feet up and watch. But just because watching streaming video is a passive activity doesn’t mean it can’t be educational. Subscribing to some of these channels indicates there will always be something exciting and insightful in the queue.
Productized is a conference dedicated to turning ideas into products and bringing them to market. They’ve posted many sessions and “talks” on their channel, letting you attend from wherever you’ve got a decent internet connection and some time to spare.
Hope Gurion’s interview series with product leaders focuses heavily on structuring, evaluating, and leading product teams to success. She also has standalone episodes on topics such as prioritization, roadmapping, and saying no to the CEO.
It is all about Agile on this YouTube channel, but these videos (many of them animated) offer lessons in all aspects of this methodology. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit back and let someone else explain things for a while.
Harvard Business Review
While everyone can’t get a Harvard MBA, they can all watch these compelling videos on leadership. Its Explainer series also does a great job of boiling down concepts like writing business plans and being a disruptor—all in just a few minutes.
Product Leader Spotlights features luminaries from the field, including product leaders from GoToWebinar and Amplitude, while the “Product Management Basics” series explains much of the terminology and concepts product managers frequently encounter. Check out the popular product management career videos too.
Webinars are kind of like eavesdropping on a conversation between professionals without any guilt or secrecy. Listening to experienced veterans and experts discuss pertinent topics is a great way to engage and learn from the best.
This is also the golden age of webinars thanks to great videoconferencing technology and a shortage of in-person events. Pull up a chair, grab a drink or a snack, and listen in on a few product management aficionados talk shop.
The Feature-less Roadmap
Product experts, John Cutler and Jim Semick share their favorite reasons why product roadmaps utilize formats other than feature-based— such as North Stars and Themes. They also delve into some of the reasons this switch meets so much internal resistance.
Create a Successful Product Strategy
It’s hard to build alignment around a product strategy without a comprehensive document that captures all it entails. Learn how to align stakeholders and keep everyone on track to make the most strategic investments and windows of opportunity.
How to Become a Star Problem-Solver by Focusing on Customer Outcomes
Using real-life examples, this webinar illustrates how focusing on results can uncover the true problems plaguing customers. With this insight, products can focus on delivering higher-value solutions to the market.
Create a Thriving Product Organization
Rich Mironov unpacks the hard work and thoughtful considerations required to build and adapt a product organization to deliver maximum customer value. This webinar covers how to structure teams and hire the right talent to fill those roles.
Customer at the Center
David Fradin gets to the root of customer-centricity. From how it all began to why it’s so important, he explains the importance of understanding customer needs and how that translates into winning products.
There’s no specific college degree for product management, so PMs must learn much of the craft on the job. But for those seeking a more formalized education in the field, there are several opportunities to further one’s education.
Certification programs focused on product management enable practitioners to learn from the best and burnish their credentials without having to press pause on their career and go back to school.
Product Management Certificate from Cornell University
Would some Ivy League credibility help your career? Cornell University’s six-course certificate program in product management covers developing product hypotheses and user personas, defining visions and goals, roadmapping, prototyping, analytics, and execution.
The Association of International Product Marketing & Management offers a credential in the field that includes building case studies, market planning, competitive analysis, data modeling, and creating product specifications. Certified PMs will be ready to take a product from ideation to sunset and everything in between.
Product School offers a series of certifications for the entire product management career path. Start with a Product Manager Certificate, progress to a Product Leader Certificate, and finally round it out with a Product Executive Certificate. It’s 100 total hours of online class time to complete the trifecta.
Berkeley Product Management Certificate
This intensive program from the executive education wing of the University of California-Berkeley merges design thinking with aspects of the MBA program. Business models, product optimization, management techniques, end effective stakeholder communication are part of the curriculum.
ProductPlan Email Courses
One week, 5-6 emails and a quiz can help you quickly master five sets of product management skills: Prioritization, Roadmaps, Advanced Roadmapping, Metrics & Data, and Building a Product Team.
Podcasts are the perfect learning tool for the multi-taskers of the world since you can listen along while tackling all kinds of mindless tasks and exercises. And is there anyone better at multitasking than product managers?
Plus, when podcasts include guests for conversations and interviews, it’s often far more compelling to listen than read it off the page or screen.
Masters of Scale
Reid Hoffman found fame and fortune after founding LinkedIn. Now he’s talking with industry leaders on how they turned small-scale firms into massive engines of growth. Each episode begins with one of Hoffman’s theories on scaling before discussing the topic with big-name guests with impressive track records.
This podcast describes itself as “A podcast focused on great products and the people who make them.” Product People’s episode archive is loaded with fantastic, insight-rich discussions for product managers. Noteworthy topics include how to build habit-forming products, product validation, and promoting your product.
ProductPlan favorite Suzanne Abate is on a mission to interview 100 active product managers from companies of all sizes, from startups to enterprises. Listen to her conversations with product managers from Expedia, Trunk Club, Sonos, and more.
Fearless Product Leadership
Elevating from the rank-and-file to a leader isn’t just about what it says on your business card. It’s also how you conduct yourself with peers, your team, and your superiors. This podcast helps you realize your full potential.
Get into the nitty-gritty details of turning ideas into reality and all the hurdles we must clear along the way. It’s a great glimpse into how product development varies a bit around the globe, given the diverse geographic background of participants. It goes deep on topics product teams confront regularly.
Product managers typically don’t have many peers within their organizations with the same roles and responsibilities. So when they’re looking for advice, mentorship, or a fresh perspective, they must look beyond their companies.
With fewer opportunities than ever for old-fashioned networking, online communities are a bastion of interaction in a world of isolation. They’re the perfect forum for asking and answering questions, swapping stories, and building out your professional network.
A coalition of like-minded organizations (including ProductPlan) that offers practical solutions for modern software teams, with a mission to shine a light on the challenges product teams face every day and provide real advice and solutions that address these challenges head-on. It’s free to join.
Mind the Product
The organization’s mission is to help product people “push our craft forward together.” They do this today primarily through member meetups all over the world. It also features a daily product newsletter, and members can participate in Mind the Product’s Slack channel, one of the largest such channels in the world for product professionals.
Product School is a tech business school providing a diverse curriculum for the next generation of product management professionals. With 20 campuses worldwide and an even larger online community, Product School offers courses in product management, product leadership, data analytics, digital marketing, UX design, and coding.
The Product Coalition
The Product Coalition is the largest free community for product managers. The community has published thousands of articles on PM topics, has a lively Slack channel where thousands of product managers exchange ideas every day, and will even let you submit your content for possible publication on ProductCoalition.com.
Find valuable ideas and insights for tech PMs in the community’s articles and its discussion groups. It features posts and discussions about software, and software developers make up most of its member base.
They’ve paid their dues, learned their lessons, and achieved great things. Now they’re ready to share what they know to help others succeed.
Watching and listening to product management leaders while they dole out nuggets of wisdom and expound on their view of the world is like getting invited to a cocktail party you have no business attending, without having to fake your way through any small talk. Or you can just follow them on Twitter!
The founder & CEO of Produx Labs and author of Escaping the Build Trap is committed to both educating product managers and educating the world about product management, and making sure that Agile and Scrum don’t diminish their role. She actively engages with others on Twitter so you can eavesdrop on these dialogs, and she is comfortable telling leaders that they need to change.
Julie went from being the first intern at Facebook in 2006 to its VP of product design and wrote the book The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You. Her general tone is always about improving what you’re doing rather than pointing out what you’re doing wrong and is a go-to resource for product and career motivation.
Mr. Lean Startup himself is on a mission to help people and companies stop wasting time and deliver great products to the market faster and more efficiently. Continuous innovation is the name of the game for entrepreneurs and product leaders looking to learn, iterate, and succeed.
The founding partner of Mighty Capital and the Products That Count network is bringing the lessons she learned from delivering products for tech giants such as Facebook, Nokia, and Electronic Arts to the next generation of product leaders. Prepare for a constant barrage of practical advice on every aspect of product management.
ProductPlan co-founder Jim Semick has launched lots of successful products. Still, his passion is in product roadmapping, so much so he started a company to make it easier to deliver compelling roadmaps in an Agile world. Whether he’s interviewing fellow product leaders or sharing his tales and learnings, he’s got nothing but constructive, optimistic wisdom.
He authored this must-read book on product roadmaps.
Facebook users can join all sorts of communities on the platform. However, most people tend to associate the social media giant with their personal lives rather than their professional personas. But Facebook is home to many groups that will supplement your feed with news and discussions more useful than sourdough starters and puppy fails.
Add some more product management professionals to your network and participate in the conversation when the mood or topic strikes you.
Women in Product
Women in Product provides a friendly, safe, and welcoming environment for all women currently working or aspiring to work in Product Management to learn, connect, and grow. They exchange ideas, provide support and guidance, share opportunities and resources, and create a diverse community of women product managers.
Product School’s Community of Product Managers
Swap stories, ask for or offer advice and keep tabs on the latest trends without all the spam. Find out about job opportunities and stay informed about what your peers are up to.
Product Owner and Scrum Master Group
Join legions of Scrum Masters and Product Owners to discuss Agile, Scrum, Kanban, and Lean methodologies. Lots of great shared content from other practitioners of the craft.
What’s in a product manager’s toolkit can make a huge difference in their productivity and the quality of their work. Purpose-built tools might seem like a luxury, but the time savings alone is usually worth the expense. Make a business case, secure a budget, and invest in tools to streamline key product management tasks.
Customer surveys or interviews will tell you only what your customers say and think, but product analytics platforms capture and help you analyze what those customers do. Deploying a service like this can uncover essential realities about what resonates with users, and what doesn’t.
Web-based survey tools like this have so many types of pre-formatted questions that, whether you want to offer multiple-choice questions, drop-down lists, or just open comment fields, you can put together a survey in minutes. Then send the survey out to your customers and easily track and analyze the results.
When your product development, or any complex and cross-functional initiative, gets underway, you will want an easy and immediate means of communicating while maintaining an ongoing record of all communications related to the initiative. Slack is a simple, cloud-based tool that allows for just this type of easy and centralized team communication.
Using the Kanban model, a web app like Trello lets you track and share various items with relevant team members by grouping the items into easy-to-view Boards — such as “Sales Collateral in Progress” — and then creating individual Cards within, such as “Product Data Sheets” or “Case Studies.” These cards can easily be dragged, dropped, commented on, shared, and moved to different Boards — say, from “In Progress” to “Under Review.”
ProductPlan makes it easy for product teams to build and share beautiful product roadmaps. A visual, interactive roadmap is much more effective for communicating product strategy than static documents in aligning teams around your product vision.
Product managers don’t have time to reinvent the wheel, so why start from scratch on essential documents and artifacts? Using roadmap templates will save time and ensure all the bases are covered. Plus, it usually results in a much slicker presentation and brings a more consistent model to the organization.
Product Roadmap Template
Need some inspiration to start that product roadmap? This product roadmap is for product managers responsible for a single product. Product roadmaps provide a high-level visual summary that maps out the vision and direction of a product offering over time—conveying the strategic why and what behind what you’re building.
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) Template
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a useful framework for setting goals and KPIs for both the broader organization and specific teams within it. Building a product roadmap that follows the OKR structure is one way to help your team focus on building things that matter most.
Agile Roadmap Template
In addition to project plans, Agile teams will benefit from using a high-level agile roadmap to communicate their product’s broader direction. Agile product roadmaps must remain flexible to better respond to emerging opportunities, making it necessary for agile companies to strike the right balance between long-term vision and short-term execution. However, the roadmap must also provide a clear direction for the team—at least in the short term.
Product Launch Plan Template
In addition to generating revenue, a launch should build anticipation and market awareness for the product. Product launch plans should be a blueprint that represents the high-level plans and goals for an initiative, and not be a detailed to-do list.
Release Plan Template
A release plan communicates the features, enhancements, and fixes coming out in the next release or series of releases. Release plans are usually more granular and actionable than product roadmaps. The two can be used in conjunction to communicate product strategy in both the near-term and over the coming months, quarters, or years.