6 Tips to Boost Technical Mobile Product Management Skills
The mobile product management profession requires varying degrees of technical skill, typically dependent on how technical the product being worked on is. However, we wanted to know how technical the average mobile product manager is, how mobile PMs define “technical,” and where they go for continued education.
We recently conducted a survey of 100 product managers, and only 8% of our respondents don’t consider themselves technical at all (i.e. do not interface with developers in a technical way). Over half of respondents (65%) considered themselves mildly technical (i.e. ability to read code, write some HTML/CSS, and troubleshoot computer issues), but are not completely proficient. The technical skills our respondents possess increased from there, with 25% of respondents reporting strong technical skills (i.e. ability to write and read code), and 2% identifying as self-proclaimed “technical geniuses” (i.e. likely starting as an engineer and moving into mobile product management).
Speaking technically with developers seems to be a main barrier in getting projects completed on time for most mobile PMs, and the majority of our respondents were eager for tips on improving their technical skills. “The more you know” rings as true for mobile product management as it does for any other profession, and continued education should be a lifelong journey for mobile product managers who want to make a mark on their industry.
Here are six ways you can take your mobile product management technical skills to the next level:
1. Surround yourself with mobile to understand what makes a good experience good, and a bad experience bad. By immersing yourself in mobile, you’ll begin to intuitively recognize product experiences that are worth emulating, and will have an easier time brushing up on the basics. For example, do you know the difference between a mobile website, a hybrid app, and a native app? Now is the time to dive in and learn. For your first quick lesson, here’s the difference:
2. Use your device often. The best mobile product managers are always on top of new trends, and the best way to see what’s hot or not is to use your device(s) as often as you can. If you can’t explain what makes your favorite apps great from a technical, marketing, and product perspective, chances are you have some learning to do. The more you challenge what you like and dislike in the mobile experiences you use consistently, the better it will translate to how you build your product.
3. Build an app from scratch. Sound crazy? You’ve got this! Not only will this exercise help broaden your coding skills, it will also help you understand your development team and process at a deeper level. The more confident you are in your technical skills, the more trust your development team can put in your hands when it comes to assessing scope of work, solving challenges, ordering bug lists, etc. Plus, building an app from scratch can be tons of fun. Check out these tutorials to help you start:
- Start Developing iOS Apps (Apple)
- Building Your First Android App (Google)
- A Step-By-Step Guide to Building Your First Mobile App (Entrepreneur)
- The 2-Day Weekend Project Plan: Make Your Ideas Thrive (LearnAppMaking.com)
4. Become an expert in mobile usability. Customer expectations shift dramatically depending on device. Whether you help your team build for iOS, Android, tablet, wearable, or all of the above, having a deep understanding of how to use specific mobile devices will keep you a step ahead. People have different expectations depending on what device they use to engage with your product, and knowing how to “design for mobile” in a broad way is no longer enough. The more you know about customer usability expectations, the quicker you can make data-driven product decisions.
5. Change your mindset to mobile-first. To take on the world of mobile product management and build world-class app and mobile experiences, the only way to think is mobile-first (more specifically, you could go one step further and start thinking “screen-first” or “platform-first,” depending on your needs). As mobile continues eating the web, many companies are beginning to take on the “mobile-first” mindset as their standard for designing new products and features. Is your company mobile-first? If yes, you should already be thinking this way (but there’s always room for improvement!). If not, be the change you wish to see across your company.
6. Read. All the time. Every day. As much as you possibly can. Here are a few product and mobile-focused blogs recommended by your peers:
- Product Hunt
- PM Subreddits
- Mind the Product
- The Art of Product Management
- Mobile App Management Blog by Apperian
- Apptamin Blog
What other ways have you grown your technical mobile product management skills? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below!