The best practices that we’ve identified in our work with product managers all over the world. This year’s list includes topics such as developing your own process, prioritizing ideas and establishing relationships with stakeholders. We hope you will find them useful!
1. Find your starting point – Develop a repeatable process for managing customer input and generating new product ideas to build on your core strategy . Identifying technology trends is not enough if you are looking to capture market share through products. The top companies are moving away from Product Managers being project handlers or tactical implementers who perform well under narrow margins of error. Great Product Managers have visionary skills which enable them to build a winning roadmap and product strategy. They must be able to deliver on their vision by managing multiple projects, stakeholders and customers simultaneously. Developing a repeatable process for identifying market opportunities, prioritizing ideas from the market and developing your own Product Plan is key to success in today’s fast-paced environment.
2. Nail it – Clarify the problem you are solving before proceeding with any solution . There is nothing worse than spending time designing or building something that doesn’t solve the actual problem your customer has! Ensure everyone involved in creating your new product understands how they can achieve specific outcomes related to revenue growth, cost reduction, brand loyalty etc. If you cannot clearly state what problem you are solving then you will drive people away from your product. In our experience, customers will punish you for bad solutions at least as much as they’ll reward you for good ones, so the effort required to nail the problem statement is well worth it.
3. Embrace constraints – Market dynamics may restrict how complete you can make your solution but don’t let them limit what you think is possible! The best ideas often come from within limitations, not just through brainstorming sessions that assume infinite resources and unlimited patience amongst stakeholders. We all know that great things often come in small packages. Establish clear boundaries for your Product Plan and work towards creating something amazing with what’s available to you . For example, if you only have 3 months until launch then focus on identifying the most important features that will create the greatest value for your customers. Smaller scope increases the likelihood of successful execution.
4. Think Big – Take them on a journey . The best products are not just defined by their features, they are also defined by how you communicate with your customers and get their feedback along the way. Designing an effective process which enables you to get input from targeted customers at different stages of product development ensures that everyone involved in design meetings is thinking about what matters to users rather than what matters to themselves or other related departments. An amazing user experience doesn’t happen by accident; it requires extensive customer research and deliberate consideration during all phases of product development including prototyping, testing, roll out etc. Your clients expect you to understand their needs and to come up with answers that meet their expectations.
5. Design for the unknown – Prepare for change . There is one thing that’s guaranteed in Product Management; whatever you do, it will be obsolete within 6 months! The pace of change in technology products is relentless. A great product manager thinks about potential future changes and ensures his/her decisions are flexible enough to accommodate any last minute changes, tweaks or additions needed by users over time . Added functionality isn’t the only type of change you need to anticipate though. Be prepared for any possible re-design, market expansion opportunities or new business models which may require an entirely new approach to your existing product offering. Anticipate road blocks before they happen rather than trying to fix something after it’s broken.
6. Be BOLD! Оnce you’ve nailed the problem and designed a solution which meets user expectations, it’s time to present your new product to the wider team . Everyone has great ideas but when push comes to shove, people will almost always prefer sticking with what they know over venturing out into the unknown (even if risks are minimal). Leadership is required in these situations and an amazing Product Manager can communicate her/his vision in such a way that others willingly want to get on board. This is not an easy process and we often see teams struggle with this stage of development because there isn’t enough trust in the product manager amongst team members. A person who focuses too much on process and documentation and not enough on building rapport with the team will always struggle at this stage of development. Design isn’t just about creating great products, it’s also about inspiring others to be part of your vision and helping them understand why this is important for everyone involved. A true Product Master understands that building consensus requires more than good ideas; it requires strong leadership skills.
7. Don’t fear failure – Honor results . You can’t win them all but you shouldn’t let one bad experience hamper your motivation. It takes time to become an effective Product Manager and along the way there are bound to be failures (and successes). The most successful people never stop learning from their mistakes or listening to feedback (even when they don’t like what they hear) then making changes in their approach to overcome challenges in the future. Even if you fail in your product’s objectives, learn from this experience and adapt quickly so that it doesn’t happen again. The greatest risk is not taking any risk at all .
8. Work YOUR plan – Own your success . You might have a great plan for how you think your product should be designed but there are many factors involved…including some which may be outside of your control! While it’s important to get input from team members, stakeholders and clients during campaign development (see #5), Product Managers know they need to make the ultimate decision when the time comes (and it will come) then own up to that decision . By working with people every step of the way, you’ll be able to make better decisions in the long run. After all, it’s your product. Your boss wants you to succeed because if you do then your company succeeds (and everyone makes more money).
9. Always show respect . Product Managers are in a leadership position and this means they must always act with integrity to earn the trust of their team members. It can be easy to get caught up in your own agenda sometimes but never lose sight of the fact that every team member is also a person with feelings, family commitments, varying interests etc so treat them accordingly! Even when times get tough or there are disagreements, focus on solving problems together rather than pointing fingers at other people . Ultimately, great products come from great relationships and Product Managers who display respect and honor for all team members will always be most successful.
10. Be a GENIUS – Use tools to do more with less . Don’t forget that, at its heart, product management is about making smart decisions quickly (and usually on a tight budget). There’s no time for training or developing new software programs when your campaign launch date looms so pick the right tools from the start then use them every day without fail. For example, being able to intelligently measure ROI related to products you’ve designed is an essential skill for any good Product Manager so take advantage of free analytics software which exist online. If your organization doesn’t provide these kinds of resources then it should become one of your top 3 demands (after salary and vacation days).