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Product Management is one of those disciplines that can vary a lot from company to company, or person to person. This is because there are several aspects of product management that are subjective, and require judgement calls. However, what separates good product managers from great ones is their ability to ground their opinions, assumptions and decisions in data, and have some structure or framework in place to ensure that everything that needs attention is receiving it. With so many moving parts to account for as a product manager, things can get overwhelming and chaotic when you don’t stay organized, so it is very important to have a process in place.
Some of the most important things to keep in mind when approaching the design and development of a product as a product manager are:
The very first thing that needs to be done when building a product is to define its objectives and the key results which will gauge the product’s success (or lack thereof). Having a clear objective defined allows you to prioritize what’s important and keep an eye on the big picture. Equally important is the definition of the key results, or key performance indicators, that will measure success. These are the metrics that need to be tracked to learn whether or not the objectives of the product are being accomplished.
Good companies manage Engineering. Great companies manage Product. – Thomas Schranz, Founder & CEO at Blossom
As important as defining OKRs is, it is paramount to also ensure that the product’s objectives align with those of the company as a whole. If you are building a product that does not line-up with the company’s objectives, then you may be off-track and building something that will ultimately not add value to the company, which would have repercussions down the line. Getting alignment from the stakeholders involved and understanding how the product fits into the bigger picture of the company’s vision as a whole is of the utmost importance. So right off the bat, make sure there is clear consensus among stakeholders on the product’s objectives and how its ability to meet achieve its key results will have a positive effect on the company.
Far too often, teams will end up building features they ‘feel’ the users will want, need, or appreciate. While they may be correct in some cases, this line of thinking is dangerous and at some point or another in the product’s lifecycle will almost certainly come back to haunt the team. The best thing to do is to be data driven in the decision making process. Product managers must distance themselves from what _they_ perceive to be the ideal feature-set of the product and instead, focus on the customer persona. They must use the data gathered during analysis (and if this data isn’t available yet, first go out and get it!) to learn about what the customer’s needs are, and drive the product’s feature-set and roadmap from there. Once this is coupled with the OKRs and aligned with the company’s goals, the product has a much greater chance of success.
Data beats opinions. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. – Andrew Mason
Product managers are put in the difficult position of having to be the bridge between several different disciplines of product development, from sales & marketing to design & development and everything in between. It is imperative that a product manager be a stellar communicator. The product manager must earn the trust of several different teams & managers, and get their buy-in on the product’s objectives and roadmap. This can get tricky as different team members will approach the product from different points-of-view which may lead to conflicting opinions and personalities.
A great product manager has the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer, and the speech of a diplomat. – Deep Nishar, SoftBank Group International
The best way to approach this is to remember that these are all individuals with valuable insight and are trying to voice concerns which they feel strongly about. It is important to listen and empathize with their point of view. They may have very valid points, which should be taken into consideration in the decision-making process. They may also be missing key pieces of information in their assumptions and be off-track. In either case it is vital to let the person know that their concerns, feedback, opinions or comments have been heard and that you understand where they are coming from. If ultimately a decision is to be made that goes against their favorable outcome, it is important to clearly communicate exactly why the priorities need to be elsewhere. Be transparent and foster a collaborative environment where decisions are taken based on readily available data for everyone to see and understand.
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While this barely scratches the surface of Product Management, we hope it gives you a general understanding of the importance of a great product manager when it comes to building fantastic products. A great product manager can do wonders not only for the quality of the final product that is delivered, but to the company’s value as a whole, as they are the ones who ensure that the products being built are performant and well aligned with the company’s roadmap towards growth and success.