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Product Management and Product Marketing Training: The options

Most people drift into product management. They come from related areas such as pre-sales, project management or development. And it’s not something you can start as your first job, you really need a few years work experience behind you before you can be effective.

Some people get specific product management and product marketing training but many have been working for years without any training at all. According to our annual survey of product managers, 36% had still not taken any formal product management training! We think this is an underestimate as a significant proportion of respondents were our training alumni who have all taken the survey.

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Understanding training requirements

To understand the training that product managers and product marketers need to be effective it can be useful to use the 2×2 matrix shown below. It examines the knowledge and skills required to do the job.

Product managers need specific knowledge about their product area to be able to make decisions (Box A). They need to understand the customers, technology, competitors and markets relevant to them. Because this is unique to each role it’s typically picked up ‘on-the-job’ by talking to colleagues, customers and suppliers, by attending conferences and from research.

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Product managers also need to know about the general product management and product marketing skills, strategies and tactics that are successfully used in technology companies (Box C). These tools help them decide what to do. This is the focus of most product management training courses.

However to get things done product managers also need to know the processes, structure, governance and appropriate contacts in their organisation (Box B). This knowledge is specific to each company and is picked up on the job e.g. how the development process works.

Finally, product managers need to have the generic skills to get things done (Box D). They have to be able to project manage, lead teams, influence and present. Many training providers teach these ‘soft skills’ and in larger companies in-house training is often an option.

What are the product management training options?

There are a range of options for Box C and it is important to decide what’s most appropriate for you and your team.

Self-study

Buying books on product management, reading journals and browsing online are cheap, easy and a great way to get an introduction to a topic. However there isn’t the opportunity to ask questions, share experiences or to practice what you’ve learned. Also there is no certainty on quality so it’s down to you to curate what’s good and relevant

Online courses

Delivered as videos and presentations over the web, online courses are usually cheaper and more convenient than attending a classroom-based course. They’re often available on demand so you can do a short course when it’s needed. They’re great if you can find a course that teaches the skill that you need. However, compared with face-to-face training they offer little interaction. This can make it very difficult to focus. In subjects as broad as product management, online courses tend to be less engaging and effective than classroom-based training.

Classroom-based training

A great way of making sure you dedicate time away from your desk and the distractions of the office. As you’re there with other people you get to take part in discussions, ask questions and work on group exercises together. The interaction with the presenter and other delegates is a large and important part of the learning experience. This is the most engaging, fun and effective training available – but costs the most.

Public courses vs private onsite training

So what’s the difference? A public course is one that anyone can attend and is put on by a training provider at a particular venue on a specific date. Part of the attraction is the opportunity to network and share experiences with product managers from different companies. It’s the only option if you’re looking for a course for fewer than 5 people.

A private onsite course is one that is run for a single company. This means the course material can be tailored to focus on specific business issues – and it keeps things confidential. It’s a great way of bringing the team together, getting them talking the same language and working on some of the product management challenges at your company. However usually you need 5 or more delegates for it to be cost effective and to achieve a good level of interaction and discussion

Training Provider Assessment Checklist

You only have one shot at attending a course or running training for your team so choosing the right provider is really important. Price may be the most visible factor but choosing solely on price risks wasting time and money on a poor quality experience.

We’ve proposed a list of things to consider below. Decide which are important for you and then rate potential providers to see how they score.

Checklist

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