Large software, tech, and ecommerce firms are basically massive marketplaces that house a lot of the products we use in our daily lives. Handling a marketplace of that scale requires someone who can dedicate themselves to the product and making sure the customer always gets above and beyond what they ask for. That's where the Microsoft PM position comes in.
That said, because Microsoft is so big and has so many different areas of operation, it can be difficult to pin down what exactly would a PM do while employed there.
In this article, we'll get into what a Microsoft product manager does, how product and program management work at software and tech companies like Microsoft, what qualifications you need for the position, and how to be an ideal Microsoft product manager.
Let's get started.
What is a Microsoft Product Manager?
Basically, a Microsoft PM is someone who develops, advocates for, and advances the company's product vision, creates the product roadmap, works with the customers to get their feedback, and operates in a cross-functional capacity with the support, marketing, design, and engineering team.
Due to the scope of the large company, Microsoft PMs directly help develop products for a variety of end-users in multiple applications and markets.
In addition to their basic job duties, Microsoft PMs closely collaborate with program managers and product marketing managers to bridge the gaps between the people located in various timezones and locations, as well as different departments to get everyone on the same page about the vision.
Here are some of the responsibilities that come with the PM role at Microsoft in 2021:
- Research the existing and potential market for software and product demand from the customer end.
- Define each item in the inventory and create a product roadmap for it from the early conception stage to the eventual launch.
- Develop a product strategy that focuses on competitive differentiation and positioning.
- Implement high-level training and development standards for in-house product teams.
- Formulate and implement the optimal operations and supply chain strategy.
In addition to the above, Microsoft PMs own the sales and marketing relationship, similar to how ecommerce product managers balance the two departments, along with the customer end of things.
One important factor to consider about a PM position in Microsoft is that the makes both technology products (Xbox, Surface products, etc.) as well as software (Office, Azure, etc.). This means that the position may be different for different product accounts.
Microsoft Product Manager Job Duties and Responsibilities
Here are some of the basic job duties and responsibilities for all product managers:
1) Extensive Market Research
Microsoft is operating in an industry where it has a lot of high-level competitors, including some of the biggest names in the software and technology space.
This means that everyone involved with product development needs to go all-in on market research and discovering the demands of the customer base.
- Tracking sales, repeat subscriptions, new subscriptions, and product performance over specific periods of time.
- Interviewing customers and product owners for market insight.
- Accumulating data to detect trends for actionable clues.
- Sending out surveys and questionnaires to distributors and partners for product performance data.
Furthermore, managers have to consider the industry outlook and set the right research parameters when gathering data on market potential.
2) Develop Product Roadmaps
Each product, on the company's side, needs a streamlined and smooth roadmap towards launching and promotion.
This is the only way a product is expected to succeed, what with all the competition abound in the industry.
This requires PMs to:
- Create an effective product strategy that lays out all objectives clearly.
- Gather all the product requirements in one centralized database for analysis.
- Assign a realistic and doable timeframe to all the product initiatives.
- Take advice, instructions, and insight from all internal and external stakeholders during the roadmap creation process.
Additionally, you will need to observe operational trends within the when it comes to creating product roadmaps and try to streamline that process.
3) Set Training and Operational Standards
A major part of the product manager's job is to create effective management processes and streamline the workflow for the entire product team.
This calls for generating standards that product teams and related departments can follow for better functioning.
This calls for:
- Observing how current teams operate within the workplace.
- Read up on more effective practices within similar departments in competitor companies.
- Create step-by-step guides on how to maximize effectiveness throughout the product's lifecycle.
- Set the resulting process improvements as standard.
This responsibility may involve working closely with the leadership to finalize and implement training methodologies.
4) Formulate a Supply Chain Strategy
Once the product has been delivered, it needs to be stored and launched in a way that doesn't disrupt delivery.
This asks for:
- Reducing inventory costs by using better, more efficient storage methods.
- Integrating further technology and development methodologies into daily operation.
- Taking more green initiatives to improve product and image.
- Managing inventory risks more effectively.
This responsibility asks PMs to work closely with supply chain managers, thereby creating a need to understand how their job works.
Typical Qualifications of a Microsoft Product Manager
Typically, a Microsoft PM should have qualifications that can directly be applied to the job.
Here are some of the most common qualifications for product managers at Microsoft:
- Bachelor's degree in Business Administration (BBA).
- Master's degree in Business Administration (MBA) in a relevant discipline such as Product Marketing or Business Management.
- Advanced vocational diploma in Applied Business Management, Product Management, or Finance.
- Degree plus extended internship within a Microsoft product team or as a junior product manager at a startup.
On top of the relevant qualifications, it's beneficial to have some working knowledge of product marketing or ownership.
Having experience as a product owner or working under a product owner will help potential PMs handle the stakeholder-developer-marketer much better, and improve the overall messaging that comes with the product.
How to Succeed as a Microsoft Product Manager in 2021
Product management in the tech and cloud sector is all about knowing as much as you can about the product, the target market, and the capabilities of the to develop something that will make waves.
As a product manager at a like Microsoft, you will definitely need these qualities. However, practically speaking, there are some additional steps you need to take to ensure success not just as a manager, but one at Microsoft's product department.
Here are some tips for success as a Microsoft product manager:
- Build a Better User Experience: The first and foremost responsibility for product managers is to consider the pain points of the target market and deliver the optimal solutions in the form of a better user experience across the board. Make sure to keep that in mind before each product development round.
- Get an Online Certification: With online certifications becoming so up-to-date with relevant industry knowledge, it's no surprise that more and more tech product industry people are preferring them over lengthy formal degrees. Look for a certification that you can apply in the workplace and use to advance your career.
- Become Customer-Centric: Focusing more on the customer instead of the product and operations will automatically help you develop, launch, and evolve products that are always a hit with the audience. Study and analyze the user while also conducting effective user interviews for invaluable insight.
- Gather Experience as a Project Manager: Project managers are in a unique position within a company, in that they are directly responsible for the practical side of product development and launching. If possible, apply for an internship in a project management capacity or attend an online curse in the discipline to get some firsthand knowledge.
- Develop Better Communication Skills: Being the center point of all communication between teams in multiple locations, the PM has to have great communication skills. For example, Microsoft has teams in Seattle, Redmond, Bellevue, and other places within the United States. You will need the right skills to unite people from all those locations under a single product vision.
Additionally, you should always continue learning and make skill development an essential part of your product manager career path. This is because of the ever-changing state of the tech product industry which requires you to always stay up-to-date with new industry knowledge and skills. Plus, it always helps to have some extra skills that entice recruiters to your profile.
If you're interested in gaining the skills it takes to succeed as a product manager, check out our top-rated product manager certification and upgrade your overall PM profile.
Microsoft is one of the biggest companies in the world, being in the same league as Amazon and Apple when it comes to sheer numbers.
Scour job sites and platforms such as Glassdoor and Indeed and you'll find tons of openings in both companies, for a variety of roles, including product manager. While the position may be common, you can easily turn it in your favor by being a manager they can't help but progress to higher tiers.
In conclusion, make sure to always upskill yourself with new courses and certifications, and stay in the know with product management trends.