There’s a hot, dare we say sexy, new role on the data scene: the data product manager. Similar to a more traditional software product manager, data product managers are responsible for managing a company’s data products and the teams that support them. And the demand for this role is beginning to grow.
Why your business needs a data product manager
Businesses today are looking for new and better ways to make data usable for their organizations. That’s why many CDOs are viewing data products as the primary way they will deliver data to their organization.
A data product is a consumption-ready set of high-quality, trustworthy, and accessible data that people across an organization can use to solve business challenges. Said differently, data products make data tangible for the organization. But for data products to be usable, they need oversight. They need someone who can lead the teams responsible for the development and delivery of the data products and partner with the business to ensure the data product delivers value. That’s where the data product manager comes in.
Defining the Role of a Data Product Manager
A data product manager designs, builds, and manages the cross-functional development of a data platform, or a suite of specific data tools, in order to serve multiple internal and/or external customers. They are not a data scientist, nor are they a data engineer. Instead, they are skilled at working cross-functionally to identify challenges, define requirements, lead teams, remove obstacles, and deliver products.
Data product managers lead the charge when it comes to understanding what lines of business leaders need to solve business challenges. They partner with business leaders to understand their pain points and identify how data can help.
Unlike a data scientist who possesses the technical prowess to create machine learning models, a data product manager’s superpower is their ability to understand customer needs and lead diverse teams, without formal authority, in order to deliver a usable data product. They must understand the software development process, but they do not need the technical skills required to develop data products themselves.
3 Skills Every Data Product Manager Needs
Because data product managers are an emerging role, it’s important for CDOs to understand what skills to look for. While many skills are similar to those of a software product manager, there are a few, key differences.
1. Data product managers need to understand data
While it may sound obvious, data product managers need to understand data. They must understand where data lives and how they can access it. They must understand its quality and completeness. And if they find that the data is not up to par, they must also understand how they can clean and enrich it.
2. Data product managers need to understand analytics
Because many data consumers access data products through analytics, it’s important that a data product manager understand analytics and how business leaders use them for decision making, too. They should have a basic understanding of how AI and machine learning work, because good data products are mastered through machine learning mastering models.
3. Data product managers need to understand how to measure value
Many organizations follow the process of releasing a MVDP, minimum viable data product, in order to gain traction and demonstrate value to the data consumers. Over time, the data product gains more features and improves its value. Data product managers need to know how to measure usage and value so they can demonstrate the benefits their data product brings to the organization.
As data products gain traction, most organizations will deliver hundreds of data products aligned to key, logical entity types such as customers, suppliers, products, and employees. And to do so, they’ll need new infrastructure, new processes, and new roles, like the data product manager, to deliver data products reliably. By understanding what skills to look for, you’ll be one step ahead when it comes to building out your data organization and successfully delivering high-quality data products to your business leaders.