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Ten Tips For New Product Managers


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Starting off as a product manager for the first time is an exciting and challenging experience. New product managers can easily be overwhelmed with the position, with so many different responsibilities to learn all at once. This presentation covers ten helpful tips for new product managers, providing specific practical advice for those new to the product management role or thinking about moving in to product management. Experienced product managers will benefit as well, as these tips can serve as good refreshers and useful pointers for those who are taking on additional or different product management responsibilities.

From Jeff Lash of

Ten Tips For New Product Managers

  1. 1. Ten Tips For New Product Managers Presented by Jeff Lash [email_address]
  2. 2. Four types of “new” Product Managers Your relationship to the organization Existing New Existing product, same organization Existing product, new organization New product, same organization New product, new organization Type of product Tenured New
  3. 3. Ten Tips <ul><li>Spend time with customers </li></ul><ul><li>Ask “dumb” questions </li></ul><ul><li>Let go of your past </li></ul><ul><li>Surround yourself with experts </li></ul><ul><li>Gather data </li></ul><ul><li>Focus </li></ul><ul><li>Concentrate on what, not how </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate, communicate, communicate </li></ul><ul><li>Sell your product internally </li></ul><ul><li>Do whatever it takes </li></ul>
  4. 4. Spend time with customers <ul><li>The single most important thing a product manager can do is to understand the market </li></ul><ul><li>The best way to understand the market is to spend time with customers </li></ul>Customer : Uploaded to flickr by David Kozlowski
  5. 5. Spend time with customers: To Do <ul><li>Spend more time with customers than with colleagues </li></ul><ul><li>Set goals for customer visits </li></ul><ul><li>Establish a regular schedule for customer interactions </li></ul><ul><li>Bring colleagues along with you </li></ul><ul><li>Bring back information to share </li></ul>
  6. 6. Ask “dumb” questions <ul><li>“ Dumb” questions are really more about when they get asked than about what you are asking </li></ul><ul><li>New product managers have the luxury of asking naïve questions </li></ul><ul><li>Ask as many questions as possible as soon as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Who to ask? Customers, colleagues, stakeholders, superiors, partners, competitors… </li></ul>sign - ? question mark : Uploaded to flickr by Leo Reynolds
  7. 7. Ask “dumb” questions: To Do <ul><li>Develop a list of initial questions </li></ul><ul><li>Generate additional questions each time one is answered </li></ul><ul><li>Make note of interesting answers for future reference </li></ul><ul><li>Ask the same question to different people and compare answers </li></ul>
  8. 8. Let go of your past <ul><li>What were you in your “past” life? Whatever it was, you’re a product manager now </li></ul><ul><li>There is a natural instinct for product managers to gravitate towards the function of the business from which they came – resist it </li></ul>141 Thursday - letting go : Uploaded to flickr by roujo
  9. 9. Let go of your past: To Do <ul><li>Audit the time you are spending on each area of the product </li></ul><ul><li>Have an open conversation with colleagues in your former role </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Discuss experiences and establish boundaries </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Think hard before overruling decisions </li></ul><ul><li>Review regularly to discuss progress </li></ul>
  10. 10. Surround yourself with experts <ul><li>Product managers can not and should not do it all alone </li></ul><ul><li>Your success depends on others </li></ul><ul><li>Do not try to be an expert in everything </li></ul><ul><li>Leverage the expertise of others in certain areas </li></ul><ul><li>Look for “formal” and “informal” advisors </li></ul><ul><li>Experts do not just have to be within your organization </li></ul>
  11. 11. Surround yourself with experts: To Do <ul><li>Identify areas important to product’s success </li></ul><ul><li>Identify internal experts in targeted areas </li></ul><ul><li>Enlist experts as Trusted Advisors </li></ul><ul><li>Utilize advisors for decision-making, planning, support and overcoming obstacles </li></ul>
  12. 12. Gather data <ul><li>“In a truly consumer-driven company, decisions are based on data… so the person with the best data wins.” – Scott Cook; Founder, Intuit </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of different types of data… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Internal data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>External data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Market data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Product data </li></ul></ul>Data : Uploaded to flickr by kokeshi
  13. 13. Gather data: To Do <ul><li>Gather existing market research and industry data – primary and secondary </li></ul><ul><li>Identify information gaps and develop plans to fill them </li></ul><ul><li>Gather existing product performance data </li></ul><ul><li>Identify missing and desired information and leverage colleagues to obtain </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If desired data is not available, quantify the value of it in order to obtain support for projects to gather it </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Ten Tips <ul><li>Spend time with customers </li></ul><ul><li>Ask “dumb” questions </li></ul><ul><li>Let go of your past </li></ul><ul><li>Surround yourself with experts </li></ul><ul><li>Gather data </li></ul><ul><li>Focus </li></ul><ul><li>Concentrate on what, not how </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate, communicate, communicate </li></ul><ul><li>Sell your product internally </li></ul><ul><li>Do whatever it takes </li></ul>
  15. 15. Focus <ul><li>It will be overwhelming </li></ul><ul><li>You will not know where to start </li></ul><ul><li>It is better to do one thing well than to do a lot of things poorly </li></ul>irony ; Uploaded to flickr by mrpattersonsir
  16. 16. Focus: To Do <ul><li>Make a list of all of the “internal” and “external” priorities </li></ul><ul><li>Determine timelines, relative levels of effort, and resources required </li></ul><ul><li>Pick a few quick wins and focus initial effort </li></ul><ul><li>During that time, develop longer-term focus </li></ul><ul><li>Get agreement on focus, communicate, and reiterate it </li></ul>
  17. 17. Concentrate on what, not how <ul><li>It will be tempting to control “how” things get done with your product </li></ul><ul><li>Resist the temptation </li></ul><ul><li>Product managers should define “what” needs to happen… </li></ul><ul><li>… and others should define “how” those things happen </li></ul>
  18. 18. Concentrate on what, not how: To Do <ul><li>Clarify roles and responsibilities with team members </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Engineering </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Marketing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Get regular feedback on whether you and others are keeping with the agreed-upon responsibilities </li></ul>
  19. 19. Communicate, communicate… <ul><li>Do not underestimate the importance of communication in all forms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Informal, formal, written, verbal, unspoken, method, timeliness, frequency, tone </li></ul></ul>Calling_all_Flickrs ; Uploaded to flickr by carf
  20. 20. Communication Source: Seven Traits of Successful Product Managers; Michael Shrivathsan
  21. 21. Communication Product Manager Engineering Sales Marketing Manager
  22. 22. Communication Product Manager Engineering Design Finance Legal Project Management Sales Marketing Manager Executives Other PMs Customer Service
  23. 23. Communication Product Manager Engineering Design Finance Legal Project Management Sales Marketing Customers Investors Industry Analysts Manager Executives Other PMs Customer Service Partners
  24. 24. Communicate, communicate: To Do <ul><li>Audit current communications (if any) </li></ul><ul><li>Get feedback from stakeholders on preferred communications channels and frequency </li></ul><ul><li>Develop communications plan; type and frequency </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Email newsletter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intranet site </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ State of the Product” presentations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Set reminders about communications and stick to schedule! </li></ul>
  25. 25. Sell your product internally <ul><li>Be the champion for your product </li></ul><ul><li>“Sell” your product to executives, team members, other departments </li></ul><ul><li>Will help gain resources, funding, support for issues and new initiatives </li></ul>
  26. 26. Sell your product internally: To Do <ul><li>Regularly communicate good news </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t go overboard </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t ignore or try to dismiss bad news </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Make sure your communication plans include all the necessary audiences </li></ul><ul><li>Get others to help sell your product </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Explicit “enlistment” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Find good supporters and keep them happy </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Do whatever it takes “ Be willing to do whatever it takes.  … I know of many cases where the product manager needed to help out with deliverables for customer support, sales training, technical writing, QA, engineering, and marketing.  You may need to just do it.” Source: Thriving in Large Companies; Silicon Valley Product Group
  28. 28. Do whatever it takes: To Do <ul><li>Learn about as many areas of your product as possible </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The more you know, the more you can help </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Help out at the right time </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t start too early, but don’t wait too long </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t complain about having to help out </li></ul><ul><ul><li>But make sure to discuss it later if there are skill or resource issues that need to be addressed </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. Bonus tip #11 <ul><li>Learn from other product managers </li></ul><ul><li>There are plenty of great (and often free!) resources available </li></ul><ul><li>Books, blogs, newsletters, webinars, conferences, training, professional associations, local groups, mailing lists, social networking sites… </li></ul>
  30. 30. Resources <ul><li>How To Be A Good Product Manager </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2) Ask dumb questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3) Let go of your past </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>4) Surround yourself with experts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>7) Take responsibility for what, not how </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>10) Do whatever it takes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>More topics at </li></ul>
  31. 31. Resources <ul><li>Brainmates: So You’re a New Product Manager… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Part 1: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Part 2: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Part 3: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Part 4: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Part 5: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Part 6: </li></ul></ul><ul><li>On Product Management: How to be a Great Product Manager </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Resources <ul><li>Lots of other great Product Management blogs </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These slides are available online </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interested in getting your feedback </li></ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul>