When Product Managers Get Trapped…


How many of us product managers have been in this situation — trapped in an organization, an organization that does not understand the essence of product management.

An organization where:Trap

  • Product managers are responsible for clerical tasks and book keeping
  • Product managers are required to project manage
  • Product managers are made the scapegoats for engineering failures
  • Product managers are required to double up as functional managers to cover up for poor engineering managers

A few of us would certainly have some experiences to share.

If at all, we end up in such a trap, here are some tips (read as arsenal!) that could be used in times of need, so that organizations/leadership-folks understand the need for product management for product and overall business success.

  1. Data – make use of data and unearth insights about product usage patterns
    • This will make the leadership team feel the need to improve product design
  2. Competitive Landscape – research into your competitors’ products and identify gaps in your offering
    • This will surprise the leadership team
  3. Market Trends – research your target market segment and identify unmet needs
    • This will enable trust with the leadership team
  4. Feature Prioritization — effectively prioritize your features using a good tool
    • This will delight the leadership team
  5. Portfolio Analysis – do an analysis of your company’s product portfolio and let leadership know about products that need investment vs. the ones that need to be killed
    • This will give sleepless nights to the leadership team, for good:-)
  6. Product-Market Fit – constantly pursue the leadership team to understand achieving product-market fit sooner than later, because faster product-market fit will ensure the product will enjoy maximum differentiation for a longer period of time

Hope you liked the post. Would love to hear your insights too!

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Motivating Development Teams


I bumped into this article almost a year ago, and it’s only now I’m finding time to blog on it.

http://www.mironov.com/motivating/

Great thoughts there. Following are some of the things I’ve practiced and they work well.

  • Inform the team about the product demonstrations you conducted and how much the audience appreciated their work
  • At every opportunity, give them the feeling that they are great developers, specifically in sprint planning and product demonstration sessions
  • Reiterate the impact some of the features will have on customer experience, product ratings, and on the overall business
  • When junior developers think in similar lines to that of their seniors, point it out to them and get them excited about it
  • When giving suggestions for technical design or product scalability, always end with the note that they can come up with something better
  • Never make them feel bad or low about some obvious questions they may have
  • Take them for lunch or dinner at opportune times
  • Crack jokes at opportune times (even recycled jokes work!)

Do share what you do to keep your development teams motivated!

UX Driven Companies vs. The Crazy Ones


It’s been a while since I blogged — life is too busy with fire-fighting drills. Now, back to blogging and this time let’s discuss about User Experience or UX as it is widely referred to.

UX is the lifeline for consumer companies specifically that are into lifestyle based products. In spite of this, some companies (if not all) do not give the significance it deserves. UX planning is just not in the plan.

Some of the reasons for this could be:

– the leadership team does not understand the importance of user-design driven products

– engineering teams’ upper hand

– helpless product managers (caught in bureaucracy)SuccessQuote

– voiceless UX team (bureaucracy again)

– spineless project managers

– casual approach to real user feedback

– inability to separate noise from real user feedback

– everyone thinks he/she is a designer and that their feedback needs to get implemented (more on this here)

– attempting to design for everyone, ignoring the targeted personas

– internal politics

How much significance does your company give to UX, or is UX just another ritual? Would love to hear from you.

Product Management is NOT User Experience


There is an interesting article on this topic by Jeff Lash, and I wanted to share my opinion too.

Product Management and User Experience are different teams in companies — even though they work collaboratively tYou are herehe organization structures are completely different. Both functions are not the same — there may be some overlap but they are not the same.

Whilst User Experience is critical to any product, product success is beyond UX design. Some companies are completely oblivious to the difference and they treat both teams in a similar fashion.

UX teams have managers. UX teams have directors. UX teams have ownership too. If the UX team comes up with a design which is to the best of their ability, and if that gets poor reviews (by management, beta testers, or end users), then why should the Product Manager be held responsible for it?…

Differences between B2B and B2C Product Management


Here’s an article through which I wanted to share my thoughts on the differences between B2B and B2C businesses and products which I hope will be useful for product managers transitioning from one type of business to another. Please do share your feedback.

Target market size

  • The target market size for B2B products is very niche and may be broad in some cases depending on the product, but the market size for B2C products is normally large.

Business survival

  • B2B businesses can survive with a handful of customers, but millions of consumers are required for successful B2C businesses.

RFPs

  • Product Managers often provide inputs to RFPs in a B2B environment, but there is no concept of consumer-initiated RFPs in the B2C world.

Problem solving

  • Solving business problems is a key consideration in B2B, but all B2C products do not solve consumer problems. Some solve, but some are just out there doing other stuff, improving people’s lifestyle, for example. A B2C product may not solve an existing consumer problem, but may introduce a problem and then solve it.

Usability

  • As solving business problems is important in a B2B product, usability takes a back seat, but not completely ruled out though. On the other hand, usability is the lifeline in B2C products. As Steve Jobs put it “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology”.

Product demonstrations

  • Constant product demonstrations to specific customers is a norm in the B2B world, but demonstrations in B2C are normally to a general audience.

Professional services

  • Some B2B solutions, especially in the enterprise market, require custom implementation work which gets fulfilled with professional services. But there is no such concept in B2C.

Impact of social networking

  • B2B products use less of social networking for their business, but B2C products depend heavily on social networking for marketing and advertising campaigns.

Sales cycle

  • B2B products have a longer sales cycle when compared to B2C products wherein the buying process is usually a single step.

Brand identity

  • Brand identity of B2B products is driven by size of the company and customer relationships, but in the B2C space brand identity gets created through repetition and imagery.

Impulse purchase

  • Otherwise called as emotional buying, is rare in B2B businesses but very common in B2C.

Getting bored as a Product Manager? Try these tips…


Getting bored with your job as a product manager? Well, any job if its routine will get boring overtime, unless we add some spice to it. Product managers also perform certain routine tasks, and it is very natural for us to get bored (a little at least!) as well.

Listed below are a few things that I’ve practiced to overcome boredom at work; all these are entirely based on my experience. Please feel free to share tips on what you will do when boredom overcomes at work.

Tips to overcome boredom

1. Get back to product management basics. Think through how strategic your role is. Think about the value you bring to the organization.

2. Read interesting articles and blogs related to product management.

3. Relive successful project experiences from the past. Get inspiration from successful past projects.

4. Hangout with fellow product managers.

5. Write articles about your product management work; this will rekindle the thought process and increases your interest in work.

6. Do some unusual things; like working from your apartment balcony, reading product manager job descriptions:-)

Hope this list is useful; please do share your experience on this boring yet important topic.

Product Manager is the CEO of the product. Really?


I think this post is a little controversial and believe it will bring a lot of valuable feedback from the readers. I wholeheartedly welcome that.

I’ve been contemplating about posting an article on the subject of product managers being perceived as the “CEO of the Product”, and personally it’s overdue from me for quite some time.

I believe product management is one of the toughest jobs in the business world. You have to be flexible, creative, smart, business savvy, thick skinned, pragmatic, and the list goes on. You have all the responsibility, yet own none of the resources.

The Myth

People often say that a Product Manager is like the CEO of the product, and hence you are responsible for leading “everything” from the conceptual stages until the product is launched, and even beyond that. And I do preach it, as there is no other choice!

The Reality

Product Managers are expected to deliver results mostly by “influencing” internal teams upon whom you don’t have any direct authority. You have to survive by influencing teams, pursuing them, leading by example, representing customers, being the face and voice of the market, building relationships, et al, and investing loads of energy in basically “running behind” the development and operational folks who, in my experience, demonstrate very little ownership. And as someone aptly put it “a product manager is always held guilty, unless he proves otherwise“.

The Truth

But what gets missed in such “reality” discussions is the fact that there is really another person (CEO/VP/GM) who has direct authority over several different teams, and in a larger context the Product P&L itself. This person has a lot of direct control and authority over the teams that you try to influence.

What can be done to make Product Managers the CEO of products

  1. Empower Product Managers to own Product P&L
  2. Empower Product Managers with direct and indirect authority over most (if not all, currently there is none!) teams that they work with
  3. Let Product Managers be involved in the hiring process of all personnel who are directly involved in product development
  4. Empower Product Managers to review employee performance
  5. Let development, UI, and operational teams get product manager’s approval for time-offs and vacations
  6. Empower Product Managers to decide who will work on what project (resource allocation)
  7. Let Product Managers decide perks for teams for going over that extra mile in an important deliverable
  8. And last but not the least, Product Managers must get a share from the profits:-)

Do you agree with my views? What has been your experience so far? Would love to hear from you!