Last week we saw that the product manager acts like a spider in the web. Understandably his challenges are alike. Every product manager is balancing between the different worlds he acts in.
This second article will give you an idea of the challenges your fellow product managers are dealing with.
We got limited recourses, but *everything* we do is high-prio
“We have limited resources to balance a lot of different areas of responsibilities, all of which seem to be high priority.”
“Another way of saying: what should we build, what shouldn’t we build?”
“How can we be as comprehensive as possible, without increasing complexity.”
These are just three quotes from our interviews. The problem of course is choice, but where are these choices based on?
“Most of the strategy and vision of where we need and want to go is unclear. Like that it’s difficult to create a coherent, strong plan for the product.”
A lacking strategy limits this product manager to do his job properly. He strongly feels that to judge a certain feature to be more important than another, he needs to know why it is needed and how the user benefits from it.
But once you do know, you’ll be able to apply the 80-20 regel effectively, which helps to prioritize ideas before they become features.
“To do that, we stay close to the business development department: we learn from them what’s important in the long run, we give them insight in the complexity of solutions.”
Looking far ahead, acting today
So to make a sensible choice you’ll need a bigger idea of the company and the product. A strategy or a vision tells you something about where the product is going on the long run. Sure, this is nice, but what happens if not everyone is convinced for the need of a long term vision? Effects of a vision are only noticeable on the long term. Results are much easier to measure on the short term. So short term results are much easier to achieve. But to build a better product, you need these long term results.
A great tool to help the organization keeping track of the long term vision is the product roadmap.
“We make a long term planning and communicate it internally. This roadmap keeps every stakeholder on the same page.”
Looking forward for about half a year to a year gives everyone in the company an idea where the product is going. It gives people a guideline for discussion about feature- and sprint planning.
Considering the product as a whole, but acting on a small part
Larger companies have multiple teams working on the same product, launching new features every two weeks for instance. How does it all combine into one coherent product? In a way it is comparable to the previous challenge: having an idea where the product is going helps making decisions on smaller parts of a product. One company uses visual tools to communicatie its products values throughout the company trough design principles and design guidelines:
“We try to be as comprehensive as possible, so every team is able to see the requirements they must meet. Our guidelines are still work in progress, but they help us the make choices considering a small part, because we really understand the bigger story.”
Communication is key
To create a rock solid product everyone needs to be on the same page. A product manager is constantly questioning: why are we doing this? What do our users need from us to excel at their job? What’s the best way to help them? Most product managers deal with this by constantly creating understanding about the product with everyone inside the company. A products experience involves the dev teams, as well as executive managers and customer support.
“Dispite knowing you’re talking to ‘deaf ears’, keep evangelizing.”
“My colleagues know what our job is. We give presentations throughout the company, show them results of our work. Slowly but surely people are beginning to see what we do.”
… and then there’s the sales department
And to complicate it a little more, the sales department doesn’t always like where the product is going. Or probably isn’t going.
“Our Sales people want to deliver very fast, within 2-3 months to deliver all custom work. My job is to ‘teach’ the sales-department about saying ‘No’.”
Current users, future users and the product roadmap
Getting the people inside the company on the same page is one thing, involving people outside of the company, their users, is another. Yes, users can be a challenge from time to time. Not to solve this directly, but to involve users one product manager even gives insight into the product roadmap. Not exact dates, but themes they are working on.
“Sometimes there’s a big difference between existing users wishes, what the market wants and what we want to build ourselves.”
Long story short
“I deal with it one sprint at a time.”
Recognize any of these challenges? Or know how to deal with them? Join the discussion at ProductCamp Amsterdam on November 24th. Register now at http://productcampamsterdam.eventbrite.com.
This was the second in a series of three. Previously we talked about our Interview with the productmanager. The next and last part: Reasons to come to ProductCamp Amsterdam 2013.