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Academy Xi Webinars

Product Management is Growing. Fast.

By Academy Xi

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The average salary of a Product Manager is $117,849 – one of the highest paid tech roles in Australia (Source: Indeed, 2021)

As companies need to reinvent themselves digitally, Product Management continues to move towards the centre of business strategy. Join our panel of leading product managers where we will discuss why Product Management is having a moment right now and what lies ahead.

Join our speakers: 

  • La’i Dowsett – Senior Consultant – Product Development (previously Tesla & Apple)
  • Jo Pforr – Product Lead, Sustainable Innovation, PwC
  • Luke Hymers – Chief of Staff to CEO, Baraja

In this video, you’ll learn:

  • Tips for leading digital product and strategy.
  • Why product has become ‘business critical’ for many organisations.
  • What the common pathways are to working in product.
Interested? Register your interest for our Product Management webinar here.
 
Want to keep up to date with the latest webinars from Academy Xi? Follow us here on LinkedIn.

Academy Xi: Client Success Stories

How did this Big 4 bank achieve alignment?

By Academy Xi

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The challenge: Upskill a group of product managers from various divisions and seniority levels on digital knowledge and product management best practice.

The outcome: Through the delivery of a custom-built nine week course, this group of product managers are now aligned around a shared language and understanding of core product management processes as well as best-practice digital knowledge in adjacent areas.

The bank has a wide variety of staff with the title of product manager. Some operationalise digital project delivery, others are more strategy oriented, and some operate in the product marketing space. These product managers work across various departments such as retail banking, commercial lending etc. Academy Xi was brought in to design and deliver a custom solution that would offer key learnings for all participants, while creating a shared language.

After a co-design process with the bank’s organising team, Academy Xi created a nine week program comprising eight half-day courses and a full-day final session. The first four sessions focused on essential digital skills including UX and software development fundamentals. The program then switched instructors and direction to focus on core product management tools and mindsets. These sessions kicked off with an external case study ‘circuit breaker’ session, and culminated in a full day product management project simulation based on a real business case study. 

Over the course of the program, the group formed a bond with the instructors and each other. Participants were able to contribute their expertise in subject areas they were passionate about, and learn from others in areas that were new to them. The final case study simulation acted as the culmination of the program, and was very well received. Gamified simulations have been found to be excellent embedding and engagement mechanisms. Post-course survey feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with participants citing various new skill sets they planned to apply in their jobs.

Key outputs:

  • Expanded knowledge of the product management roadmapping process
  • Understanding of how to produce and leverage documentation
  • Enhanced comprehension of the product life cycle
  • Ability to apply learnings based on case study and simulation sessions

Academy Xi Blog

Product Management versus Project Management

By Academy Xi

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It’s not uncommon for confusion to arise when it comes to Product and Project Management. Both disciplines are often abbreviated to ‘PM’, they share a range of common skills and there is a crossover between their functions, however, the responsibilities are very different. 

Let’s wade in and try to establish some clarity.

At a glance:

  • The fundamental difference
  • What is product management & what does a Product Manager do?
  • What is project management & what does a Project Manager do?
  • So, what do these roles have in common?
  • Agile Scrum Methodology – at a glance
  • Top picks for software
  • Are Product Managers and Project Managers in-demand?
  • How much can you earn as a Product Manager or Project Manager?
  • How can I become a Product Manager or Project Manager?

The fundamental difference 

Essentially product managers manage products, project managers manage projects.

Where one is high level and strategy focused, the other is a driver of specific tasks.

  • Product Managers define high level goals and objectives and then create a comprehensive strategy.
  • Project Managers oversee the resourcing and scheduling of the approved strategy to enable the elements to ‘get done’. 

There’s a bit more to it than this top line summary of difference, so let’s dig into the details.

What is Product Management & what does a Product Manager do? 

The organisational function responsible for a product’s overall success is known as Product Management.

Product Managers are at the intersection of all individuals, teams and stakeholders involved in what is known as the ‘lifecycle’ of a product. 

Product Managers:

  • discover the challenges and needs of their customers via research
  • define a product vision, meeting the customer needs and reflecting business goals
  • ensure the product concept aligns with market needs to confirm viability 
  • create a comprehensive strategy to build solutions that satisfy all of these elements
  • continually improve on existing products using data-driven insights.

Each step from coming up with the idea and designing the strategy, through to delivering it to market and making ongoing improvements is driven by the Product Manager. They devise and maintain the product roadmap to align all involved in the journey – it is a highly collaborative role. The key to this gig is always being a passionate advocate for the customer – their needs must be at the heart of the entire process. 

What is Project Management & what does a Project manager do?

Where Product Management is functioning on a strategic level, Project Management is all about organising and guiding the completion of specific tasks that exist within the overarching strategy.

The role of the Project Manager doesn’t come into play until the strategy (as defined and created by the Product Manager) has been approved. 

Once off the starting blocks, the Project Manager is a vital element in ensuring the plan goes smoothly. They are responsible for: 

  • Scoping out each project element
  • Overall scheduling of these initiative timelines
  • Allocating resources across all projects (time, budget, staffing)
  • Being aware of any significant risks prior to project commencing
  • Executing the elements of the project plans
  • Monitoring and tracking the project process 
  • Regular communication to all relevant stakeholders about overall progress.

Key attributes of a great Project Manager include fantastic communication skills, time management prowess and strong leadership qualities. 

What do these roles have in common?

Product Manager in a meeting with colleague

It’s safe to say that well-tuned soft skills are a necessity for both Product and Project Managers. 

Most importantly, effective communication skills are required as they deal with a wide variety of stakeholders both in house and externally to the organisation they are supporting. 

Being adept at developing one-on-one relationships with team members, while simultaneously building team cohesion is quite a skill and hugely benefits both of these roles  – the focus being on creating a team culture that fosters open communication, respect and empathy. 

Skills of persuasion are also integral as they will often need to get ‘buy-in’ from teams and individuals that they do not directly manage. This can be quite a challenge when you’re needing people to deliver specifics to get the job done. 

Agile Scrum Methodology – at a glance

Agile Scrum Methodology is a popular project management system that takes a sprint-based approach, working to the goal of delivering the best possible outcome and value to all stakeholders. It is a system used by both Product and Project Managers alike.

  • What is Scrum?

A framework that enables effective collaboration among teams working together on complex projects or products. This approach can benefit any team working toward a common goal.

  • What is Agile?

A process that allows teams to more efficiently manage a project by breaking it down into several stages, with stakeholder feedback gathered to improve at each increment.

By working in two to four week ‘sprints’, stakeholder feedback is gathered and integrated into the next sprint, where appropriate. This enables the product or service to develop quickly and reflect the needs of the stakeholders, compared to other project management methods that build an entire product or service in only one stage – from beginning to delivery – which is slower and may not deliver the same business value.

Top picks for software

There are many software options on the market, with most being some version of an online collaborative app where anyone working on a project can see what they’re supposed to do and when and enable you to record progress on your assigned tasks. They give an overview of the project and can show if it’s on target to meet budget and timeline requirements.

Here are a few examples of specific software that is currently popular with both product and project managers in collaborating with teams and hitting deadlines. While there isn’t any Product Management specific software, there are features in Jira that are particularly suitable for Product Managers such as Advanced Roadmaps.

Product Management Tools logos: TeamGantt, Jira, Asana, Monday.com
  • Jira: Plan, track, release and report with this widely popular project product management software.
  • Asana: Track, manage and connect your projects across any team. This platform enables all stakeholders to discuss work in one place.
  • Monday.com: Plan, organise and track your team’s work in one place on this highly visual and intuitive platform.
  • TeamGantt: Project planning software that brings gantt charts online. You can plan, schedule and manage projects with this free software and invite clients and teams to collaborate.

Are Product and Project Managers in-demand?

In short, yes!

Overall, the global economy has become more project-oriented – this is largely due to digital transformation and the requirement for most industries to get online and have tech based solutions to meet market demands, lest they be left behind. 

Industries that were previously less project-oriented are now requiring digital services and products, particularly in health care (hello COVID) and professional services.

There is an increasing gap worldwide between employers’ needs for both skilled product and project managers and the availability of professionals to fill those positions.

Product Management positions are particularly challenging to fill due to the diverse skills and capabilities required and has one of the fastest growing skills gaps in Australia. (1)

When it comes to project management, the labor force is expected to grow 33 percent across 11 countries by 2027, with employers needing nearly 88 million individuals in project management roles worldwide.(2)

How much can you earn as a Product Manager or Project Manager?

Amongst the highest paid roles in tech across Australia and the United States (3), the current average Project and Product Manager salaries come in at $120,000 AUD (4) (5). Those with more experience in these roles can take home in excess of $150,000 a year. (4/5). 

How can I become a Product manager or Project Manager?

Getting the right training under your belt is a strong start to establishing your career as a Product or Project Manager. 

Ideally, you want to study a course which offers you as much practical experience as possible. Training which includes working on real-world projects is an added bonus, as you will be putting your new skills to the test on something that’s personally relevant to you or your business. 

Academy Xi offers industry focused courses in both Product Management and Project Management, with a focus on digital to ensure that you are job ready by graduation. Class sizes are small, socially engaged and guided by industry experts.

We offer the following courses in Product and Project Management: 

Check out the upcoming course intake dates for all of our online courses. 

I’ve managed a lot of traditional/ offline projects. Should I still upskill?

Without a doubt, gaining digital-specific project management skills is a great investment in your future. Academy Xi offers industry focused part-time, online courses to elevate your skills to the next level. Designed and taught by passionate industry experts, the training will empower you to stay ahead of the industry curve. Discover more by reading our blog post ‘5 reasons to invest in upskilling’

Product Management review at Academy Xi

Academy Xi Blog

The Product Manager Mini-CEO & the Skills Needed to Succeed

By Academy Xi

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Defining product management

To put it simply, product management is about solving real problems for real people. Notice that the ‘real’ is emphasised, because time and time again entrepreneurs go on a journey to solve a problem that is not real, for people who are also not real.

But how are people and problems not real?

What’s an unreal problem?

The problem is usually imagined by the entrepreneur: maybe they directly experience it, but maybe they experience it alone. Or, there could be a lack of context (For example, if the problem they’re trying to solve is part of something bigger that their solution is not yet tackling).

This happens all the time, especially in startup land. It’s a large contributor to that 90 percent failure statistic that is drummed into entrepreneurs right from the start.

What’s an unreal person?

For example, when the CEO of a startup is also the startup’s first customer, their problem is their problem alone. And it’s initially up to them to discover if this problem is faced by others. The CEO can’t solve this problem without help and that’s where the mini-CEO comes in: the product manager.

The mini-CEO

No product manager is the same and no pathway to the role is the same. Product managers come from all walks of life, starting out their career in marketing, engineering and even hospitality…who would have thought?

So, why does product management attract people with different traits and skill sets?

The product manager is also known as the mini-CEO and that’s because, like the CEO, they need to be multidisciplinary and sit within the centre of all activity. They’re like the glue that sticks products to customers and customers to products.

The skills to succeed

One of the best pieces of advice a product manager can learn is: ideas are fragile. Ideas can whither right after they sprout, and it takes a special kind of person with a particular set of skills to nurture and grow them from idea to product.

Allen Jiang, product manager at Qantas Assure, talks about the skills not commonly associated with product managers—but skills that are crucially necessary. These skills are soft skills, and are undeniably the most important skills to have when managing a team and performing as the mini-CEO.

1. Communication

“One of the key drivers of a good product manager is being able to take an idea all the way from conception to being built,” says Allen. “If you think about that as an important part of the process then you think about everything that’s needed to enable that.”

What enables the ideation process? Allen believes it’s good communication.

“It’s being able to convey that idea and “sell that vision” to get people to see what that idea is and how it will work.”

2. Creativity

Allen explains that there are many different ways to solve a problem and a product manager needs to think outside the box and continually questioning what’s working and what’s not.

“Creativity goes so far as to question: ‘What is the right problem to solve?’”

“There are certain problems you’re trying to solve and build for the end user and there are creative ways to do that. It doesn’t mean you have to do it the way you originally thought. You need to find a different, smarter solution for doing things, and all those things can be creative.”

3. Honesty

Allen explains that if you’re not being transparent with your team, you’re not being productive.

“At Qantas Assure, we’re a very cohesive unit because we’re always very open and honest about things. When things go wrong, people own it. It’s never the case of trying to hide something; it’s about making people responsible.”

4. Collaboration

Allen admits that some of his best ideas have come from random conversations he’s had with people around the office, and those people have had nothing to do with the product.

“I’ll go to a member of a different team and we’ll just chit-chat by the kitchen. We’ll just talk about random things and then instantly you get an idea for how you can improve your product.”

5. Risk Taking

An entrepreneurial trait that overlaps into the product manager is risk taking. Even in the day-to-day, Allen says product managers are taking risks.

“The primary factor is, as a product manager, you don’t have a lot of information to work with. For a startup, you have very little customers, and you have very little data. It just so happens that in those times, when you have little data, you need your product to evolve.”

“The risk you take is that every day you’re unsure if you’re making the right decisions. Of course you do things to try to increase your probability of success, such as user testing and research, but at the end of the day, you can never be 100 percent sure of your product.”

Learn more about what it takes to become a Product Manager here.