New to product management


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Handy tips for new product managers

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New to product management

  1. 1. So You’re new Product Manager….. What Next? Page no.
  2. 2. New to Product Management Product Managers are recruited from all areas of a business. Its been coined the Accidental Profession by Steven Haines from Sequent Learning Networks. Here are a few simple tips to help you make the transition to Product Management. Page no. 2
  3. 3. Tip 1: Speak to People and Listen Get organised! Make a list of the people across the organisation that interact with and support your new product. You may want to include your direct manager on the list. Firstly, ask them for a general impression about your product. Secondly, ask them what they personally like about your product and to detail any areas for improvement. Thirdly, if the person is customer facing, ask them what customers are saying about your products Page no. 3
  4. 4. Tip 1: Speak to People and Listen Listen to what they have to say without making any decisions or jumping to any conclusions about the product. You will find that people’s opinions naturally skew towards their particular area of concern. For example, the sales team may advise you that they are unable to close sales because a feature is missing from your product. Resist the temptation to include this feature on your roadmap without other inputs. Page no. 4
  5. 5. Tip 1: Speak to People and Listen If you have a B2B product, do some customer visits. If you have a B2C product, spend time on the phones listening to your customers or reading emails from them. Collate and analyse your data. Use this data to inform any future decisions you may make during the product planning process. This information will generally give you a good overview of what’s working well and what the product pain points are. It will also provide you with material to take to and discuss with your manager. Page no. 5
  6. 6. Tip 2: Use Your New Product Take the time to interact, consume, use, play with your new product or service. Personal experience will give you a depth of understanding that cannot solely be obtained from internal and customer feedback. Approach this process formally by listing the product’s features and summarising the key benefit of each feature. Compare the feature list to a range of competitor features. This approach should help you to identify your product’s unique selling points. Further, this will help isolate any of your product’s shortcomings which you may include in your new product roadmap. Page no. 6
  7. 7. Tip 2: Use Your New Product The first time that you start to experience your product with the “customer’s eyes” is invaluable. Shortly after this you may get too familiar with the product and may overlook great opportunities for improvement. Also be careful not to let others who have been around the product tell you the reasons for NOT fixing things. Often these are perfectly good reasons but carry the baggage of previous failure. By initially ignoring this type of talk you have an opportunity to bring fresh new ideas and possibilities to old customer’s problems. The biggest challenge that a Product Manager can face is to keep seeing their product through the customer’s eyes. Page no. 7
  8. 8. Tip 3: Review Your KPIs Its time to take a good, hard look at the numbers! Qualitative information sought from customer interviews and the Call Centre feedback is extremely useful but only to a point. Quantitative results on the other hand, tell you how the market views your new product. A combination of qualitative and quantitative data will provide you with a holistic view of your product’s performance. When you’ve obtained a set of the key performance indicators, speak to your Manager or others in the business for a historical perspective on any activities that may have affected the figures during the past year. A dip in your sales numbers may tell you that a price increase was enforced, or alternatively a substitute product was introduced in the market. Without any past knowledge of the business and its activities, you may still be guessing. Page no. 8
  9. 9. Tip 3: Review Your KPIs For Product Managers whose products do not generate any revenue, don’t assume that you don’t need to track any statistical data. There are key statistical figures that will tell you if your product is in demand. Once you’ve collated and analysed your product’s key performance indicators, determine if the numbers have under or over performed compared to the business plan. This will further help you during the planning process. If you’re a new Product Manager, understand your position going forward and review your product’s key indicators every week. Page no. 9
  10. 10. Tip 4: Understand What the Market is Saying About Your Product? Now you need to stay informed. You need to know what your market is saying about your product. Your market includes the people who have bought the product, the people who use the product AND the people who have NOT bought your product (yet). Conduct formal research. If you don’t have budget, the good news is that it is easier than ever before to find out because now customers are using the multitudes of online communications methods to tell you. Again put yourself in the shoes of the customer and search for your product. Google it. Visit Technorati. Ideally they will find your product at the top of the list. Either way, look at what they see. What other listings come up? Page no. 10
  11. 11. Tip 4: Understand What the Market is Saying About Your Product? The widespread rise of blogging allows customers to talk about anything. The most passionate supporters or haters of your product will most probably rise to the top of a Google search. These will be the thought leaders for the market. What you find may surprise you. The fact is that these are the new authorities on your product. These are the people that the market will listen to. Do not dismiss them and do not make decisions purely based on their comments, but do treat then with respect. Page no. 11
  12. 12. Tip 5: Locate & Review Product Documents It may seem obvious but sometimes we tend to overlook the fact that there is existing product documentation available throughout the various departments of an organisation. Seek out all documentation and find the most up to date versions. Start with the documentation available within the product group. There should be a Market or Product Requirements Document for your product. Business Analysts and Solution Architects tend to write and will therefore have comprehensive documentation. The Customer Service Team may also have a training manual or training sheet that you can review. Page no. 12
  13. 13. Tip 6: Write a Product Document If a Market or a Product Document was not created for your product, write one. Your knowledge of your customer and product will grow exponentially as you write this document. The Product Document will also form the basis of any future documentation that you will prepare as you enhance your product. It will be difficult making any changes to your product if you do not have a baselined Product Document. Page no. 13
  14. 14. Tip 7: Persist With the Product Document If you are partway through the document and you feel that writing a document may not be the most productive use of your time, I recommend that you persist. Your efforts will be well rewarded. Preparing such a document, even though your product is “in- market”, has many advantages: Information about your customer and product is contained within one document The document can be shared by others across the organisation Any assumptions previously made about your product are either substantiated or negated You become the Subject Matter Expert and can converse fluently about your product Page no. 14
  15. 15. Tip 8: Be the Best Seth Godin’s new book, “The Dip” teaches us the importance of being the best. As Product Managers, it is important for our professional development and our customers that we strive to be the best that we can be in our organisation, in our industry and amongst our peers. Page no. 15
  16. 16. Tip 8: Be the Best “Best” can be defined in many ways but for me, being the best Product Manager is about: Understanding your personal objectives. It is important to understand what your manager expects of you on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis so that you can create a personal plan to meet your objectives. Aligning your personal objectives to your product’s business objectives. If you feel that your personal objectives may not deliver the best product for your customer, you may want to discuss changing your objectives with your manager. Delivering the best work for your audience. When preparing a presentation pack or a document, small things such as spelling and formatting matter. Making mistakes simply distracts your audience and your message may be overlooked. If possible ask someone else to review your work while you still have time to correct the small mistakes. Page no. 16
  17. 17. Tip 8: Be the Best Doing one thing at a time. As Product Managers, we generally have too many operational activities that keep us from delivering the best product. Sort through the chaff and decide what activity will give you the best return for your time. Work on that “one thing” before starting work on the next activity. Asking for help. We don’t always have the answers to all product-related questions and issues. If you are struggling, ask for help. Wanting to be the best. Being the best starts with wanting to be the best at your job, being the best in the industry and delivering the best product for your customers. If there is little desire to be the best, you may have missed the opportunity to excel as a Product Manager. Page no. 17
  18. 18. Tip 9: Review Predecessors Task List This should give you a view of what the previous Product Manager considered important and unimportant. You’ll see what activities and tasks remain incomplete It will help you to decide what activities to include on your task list Why Create a Task List? Its simple. Creating a task list helps you manage your time, plan your week and plan for your Product. Product Managers have a tendency to focus on operational activities. Whilst fielding and managing operational issues is something that is difficult to shun in any organisation, allocating time to think strategically about your Product is essential. This is where the task list plays an important role. Make sure that you list as tasks some of the more forward planning activities such as “develop a draft roadmap for 2008 – 2009″. This task may not be urgent but it is important for the success of your Product. Page no. 18
  19. 19. Tip 10: Plan to Update Your Skills As a new Product Manager settling nicely into your role, don’t forget to update your skills throughout the year. This may be in the form of skills or domain training or attendance at relevant conferences. Often this sort of activity costs money, so like most other elements of Product Management, you will need a plan. Preparing a plan will provide you with the opportunity to share something a little more formal with your Manager. Your request for funds to support your personal skills program may be approved by your Manager if you’ve prepared a plan. Page no. 19
  20. 20. Tip 10: Plan to Update Your Skills What to Include in your Plan? Before you create your plan, conduct a personal assessment of your skill base. Your plan should include informal or formal training activities that will grow you as a Product Manager. For example, if you’ve never had experience calculating the return of investment on a new product, you may consider a short course in Financial management. If you’re keen on understanding the trends in your particular industry, you may want to attend a conference. Some activities that you may include in your skills plan: Attending an industry conference or conferences Going to local product meetups or product camp Short courses in Product Management Attending webinars Joining an association Subscribing to (and reading!) journals and trade magazines Listening to relevant podcasts Soft skills training (presentation skills, negotiation and influencing skills) Page no. 20
  21. 21. Tip 11: Enjoy Yourself One of the most important aspects of Product Management is to really enjoy your job and love your product. If you’re having fun at work, your colleagues around you will be more prepared to help you achieve your goals. Page no. 21
  22. 22. Tip 12: Do It All Again! After a while, you tend to get to know everything that there is to know about your product. The downside of this is that eventually it may become more difficult to see your product through the eyes of the customer. It starts to become all about the KPI’s of the product and the business objectives. Meeting business objectives is important but ultimately, to meet your objectives you need to delight your customers. If you feel that you’re becoming stale, then you may need to take radical action. You should take steps to become a new Product Manager again. Page no. 22
  23. 23. Tip 12: Do It All Again! Product Managers have to be super confident about their product and understand why their customers should love their product. As the “owner” of the product, your belief in your product’s feature set and benefits must be rock solid. If your customer focus wanes, this may translate poorly internally as well as externally. You can’t expect your Sales team to sell your product if you’re not convinced that someone will buy your product. You can’t expect customers to buy your product if you don’t believe that your product resolves a problem well. We encourage Product Managers that lose the customer feel for their product to seek new opportunities. Find a product that you are passionate about and start at Step 1. Reclaim your passion! Page no. 23
  24. 24. Thanks! We hope that you have enjoyed this series on being a new Product Manager. If you think that we have missed any key tips, please drop me an email at Page no. 24