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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/product-manager-skills-they-need/product-manager-skills-they-need
The career framework for specialist roles in the Digital, Data and Technology profession is currently in beta, which means we’re still testing and improving it. Please send feedback to email@example.com to help make this better.
1. What a product manager does
A product manager defines, owns and solve problems. They manage a product through discovery, alpha, beta and live states. They support lead and senior product managers. They may line manage associate product managers and support their professional development.
They have a deep knowledge of product management techniques and are developing expert skills. They may be involved in recruitment. This can be an ‘entry level’ role for new product managers who have been working in other digital roles or civil servants with sufficient experience across other competencies.
2. What skills they need
A product manager needs specific skills:
- capabilities, like user focus and lifecycle perspective
- Civil Service competencies, like leadership and communication
Some skills are required or essential to the role, others are desirable, or ‘nice to have’.
Capabilities are the knowledge and skills required to do a certain job or task.
Each capability has a level of mastery, or competence, used across government. They range from having a knowledge of a skill (‘awareness’) to having experience in the application of the skill (‘expert’).
|Capability||Description of capability||Level of mastery||What the level of mastery means|
|Agile working||Is aware of and understands agile methodology and how to apply the agile mindset to all aspects of their work. Has the ability to work in a fast paced, evolving environment and utilises an iterative method and flexible approach to enable rapid delivery. Unafraid to take risks, willing to learn from mistakes and appreciates the importance of agile project delivery for digital projects in government. Able to ensure the team has a situational awareness of what each other is working on and how this relates to practical government objectives and user needs.||Practitioner||Able to identify and compare the best processes or delivery methods to use, including measuring and evaluating outcomes. Helps the team to decide the best approach. Able to help teams to manage and visualise outcomes, prioritise work and work to agreed minimum viable product (MVP), print and scope.|
|Lifecyle perspective||Understands the different phases of product delivery and is able to contribute to, plan or run these. Able to maintain a product or process through the delivery phases, through to live and into retirement. Able to lead a team through the different phases of the delivery lifecycle. Can maintain and iterate a product over time to continuously meet user needs. Understands and is aware of incident management and service support so that products are built effectively.||Working||Recognises when to move from one stage of a product lifecycle to another. Ensures the team is working towards the appropriate service standards for the relevant phase. Able to manage the delivery products or services at different phases.|
|Operational management||Able to manage the operational process of designing and running a product or service throughout its entire life-cycle. Able to implement best practice in new product or service development and knows how to plan and operationalise the stages of new product or service development. Able to overcome operational constraints to deliver a successful product or service. Works closely with other operational delivery teams.||Practitioner||Able to design operational processes for the running and maintenance of products or services throughout its life-cycle. Able to redesign operational processes, amend existing processes, and plan and operationalise the stages of a new product or service development. Is the escalation point for operational issues and can fix complex operational issues. Able to overcome operational constraints to deliver a successful product or service. Works closely with operational delivery teams in DDaT.|
|Problem ownership||Understands and identifies problems, analysing and helping to identify the appropriate solution. Is able to classify and prioritise problems, document their causes and implement remedies.||Practitioner||Ensures that the right actions are taken to investigate, resolve and anticipate problems. Coordinates team to investigate problems, implement solutions and preventative measures.|
|Product ownership||Uses a range of product management principles and approaches. Captures and translates user needs into deliverables. Able to define the minimum viable product and make decisions about priorities. Writes stories and acceptance criteria. Capable of working with a range of specialists in multidisciplinary teams.||Practitioner||Experienced in applying tools, terms and concepts in a variety of ways. Able to be flexible, consider new ways of working and adapt to change.|
|Strategic ownership||Focuses on outcomes, not solutions. Is bold - develops ambitious visions and strategies. Gets the organisation and team to buy-in. Translates the vision into prioritised deliverable goals.||Practitioner||Able to get buy-in from the organisation. Able to work with scant information and to articulate that in abstract terms. Able to come up with a strategy.|
|User focus||Understands users and can identify who they are and what their needs are based on evidence. Able to translate user stories and propose design approaches or services to meet these needs and engage in meaningful interactions and relationships with users. Puts users first and can manage competing priorities.||Practitioner||Able to collaborate with user researchers and can sell or represent users internally. Understands the difference between user needs and desires of the user. Able to champion user research to focus on totality of all users. Can prioritise and defines approaches to understand the user story, guiding others in doing so. Can offer recommendations on the best tools and methods to be used.|
|Capability||Description of capability||Level of mastery||What the level of mastery means|
|DDaT perspective||Demonstrates an understanding of user-centered design, technology and data perspectives. Understands the range of available technology choices and makes informed decisions based on user need and value for money. Understands the variety and complexities of digital contexts and designs services to meet them. Has knowledge of the wider digital economy and advances in technology.||Working||Able to demonstrate a working understanding of design, technology and data principles. Understands the variety and complexity of users’ digital needs and how the product will meet those needs. Understands the importance of assisted digital. Able to design services and make decisions to meet users needs.|
|Financial ownership||Able to secure funding for agile delivery through a business case and through delivering a good pitch in government. Capable of prioritising spending based on return on investment (ROI) and strategic intent; this may include contract ownership and accountability for realisation of benefits.||Practitioner||Understands the market place, realising the benefit and persuading others that a product is the right one to use. Able to integrate a product with other services. Capable of ensuring products get used. Able to realise benefits by linking work in progress back to the business case. Able to build business cases based on user needs.|
|Understanding constraints||Able to understand and work within the given constraints (including but not limited to technology, policy, regulatory, financial, legal, social user constraints) and to challenge constraints that can be changed. Capable of ensuring compliance against constraints by adapting products and services where needed.||Working||Can identify and understand constraints, and is able to communicate these and work within them. Is able to challenge the validity of constraints. Capable of ensuring standards are being met.|
2.2 Civil Service competencies
In the Civil Service, we use the Competency Framework to outline expected behaviours. Competencies are used as part of the assessment during the interview process.
|Competency||Description of competency||Mapping to capability|
|Achieving commercial outcomes||Being effective in this area is about maintaining an economic, long-term focus in all activities. For all, it’s about having a commercial, financial and sustainable mindset to ensure all activities and services are delivering added value and working to stimulate economic growth. For leaders, it’s about identifying economic, market and customer issues and using these to promote innovative business models, commercial partnerships and agreements to deliver greatest value; and ensuring tight commercial controls of finances, resources and contracts to meet strategic priorities.||DDaT perspective, financial ownership, strategic ownership, understanding constraints, user focus|
|Building capability for all||Effectiveness in this area is having a strong focus on continuous learning for oneself, others and the organisation. For all staff, it’s being open to learning, about keeping one’s own knowledge and skill set current and evolving. For leaders, it’s about investing in the capabilities of our people, to be effective now and in the future as well as giving clear, honest feedback and supporting teams to succeed. It’s also about creating a learning and knowledge culture across the organisation to inform future plans and transformational change.||DDaT perspective, agile working|
|Changing and improving||People who are effective in this area take initiative, are innovative and seek out opportunities to create effective change. For all staff, it’s about learning from what has worked as well as what has not, being open to change and improvement, and working in ‘smarter’, more focused ways. For leaders, this is about creating and encouraging a culture of innovation and allowing people to consider and take informed decisions. Doing this well means continuously seeking out ways to improve policy implementation and build a leaner, more flexible and responsive Civil Service. It also means making use of alternative delivery models including digital and shared service approaches wherever possible.||Agile working, lifecycle perspective, product ownership|
|Collaborating and partnering||People skilled in this area are team players. At all levels, it requires working collaboratively, sharing information appropriately and building supportive, trusting and professional relationships with colleagues and a wide range of people within and outside the Civil Service, whilst having the confidence to challenge assumptions. For senior leaders, it’s about being approachable, delivering business objectives through creating an inclusive environment, welcoming challenge however uncomfortable.||Agile working, understanding constraints,|
|Delivering at pace||Effectiveness in this area means focusing on delivering timely performance with energy and taking responsibility and accountability for quality outcomes. For all staff, it’s about working to agreed goals and activities and dealing with challenges in a responsive and constructive way. For leaders, it’s about building a performance culture where staff are given space, authority and support to deliver outcomes. It’s also about keeping a firm focus on priorities and addressing performance issues resolutely, fairly and promptly.||Agile working, problem ownership, product ownership, user focus|
|Delivering value for money||Delivering value for money involves the efficient, effective and economic use of taxpayers’ money in the delivery of public services. For all staff, it means seeking out and implementing solutions which achieve the best mix of quality and effectiveness for the least outlay. People who do this well base their decisions on evidenced information and follow agreed processes and policies, challenging these appropriately where they appear to prevent good value for money. For leaders it’s about embedding a culture of value for money within their area and function. They work collaboratively across boundaries to ensure that the Civil Service maximises its strategic outcomes within the resources available.||Financial ownership, problem ownership, user focus|
|Leading and communicating||At all levels, effectiveness in this area is about showing our pride and passion for public service, communicating purpose and direction with clarity, integrity and enthusiasm. It’s about championing difference and external experience, and supporting principles of fairness of opportunity for all. For leaders, it’s about being visible, establishing a strong direction and persuasive future vision; managing and engaging with people in a straightforward, truthful and candid way.||Product ownership, strategic ownership|
|Managing a quality service||Effectiveness in this area is about valuing and modelling professional excellence and expertise to deliver service objectives, taking account of diverse customer needs and requirements. People who are effective plan, organise and manage their time and activities to deliver a high quality, secure, reliable and efficient service, applying programme, project and risk management approaches to support service delivery. For leaders, it’s about creating an environment to deliver operational excellence and creating the most appropriate and cost effective delivery models for public services.||Financial ownership, lifecycle perspective, product ownership, strategic ownership, user focus|
|Seeing the big picture||Seeing the big picture is about having an in-depth understanding and knowledge of how your role fits with and supports organisational objectives and the wider public needs and the national interest. For all staff, it’s about focusing your contribution on the activities which will meet Civil Service goals and deliver the greatest value. For leaders, it’s about scanning the political context and taking account of wider impacts to develop long term implementation strategies that maximise opportunities to add value to the citizen and support economic, sustainable growth.||DDaT perspective, lifecycle perspective, problem ownership, strategic ownership, understanding constraints, user focus|
3. Other roles in product management
There are 4 other role ‘levels’ in product management: