Product managers bring strategic vision and direction to the table. Before a product or service gets launched, it’s the product manager’s job to envision what it will be. It’s this person’s role to map out a product’s features and the business objectives it will serve. Plus, product managers define how the new offering will meet customers’ needs and where it will fit in the market.
The role of the product manager is a dynamic one. They’re also charged with making sure their vision comes to life. This requires demonstrating the needed leadership skills and coordinating efforts between diverse teams. But most of all, the role involves effectively communicating an idea and instructing others on how to carry it out.
To say that product managers have a lot on their plates is an understatement. And some of the ambiguities involved in the role can make achieving success seem like an uphill battle. But there are ways to overcome those challenges through planning, processes, and the right skills. Here are three ways you can up your product management game.
You could create the most detailed roadmap for your next innovation, complete with goals and projected timelines. However, it’s going to be difficult for others to follow along if your plans and workflows are recorded in a non-dynamic format. Worse, your roadmap might get lost or never be seen by some people whose help you rely on.
Project management applications can turn your map into something that’s flexible and easy to digest. While product managers’ contributions to the project management process are less tactical, they still need to be hands-on. Product managers can keep everyone informed about things like development lifecycles and priorities by using an app’s features.
And if something changes, centralized tools streamline communication across functional teams. Marie from marketing will know there has been a shift in a product’s features and why. The creative team can then rethink its core messaging strategy. Meanwhile, Steve in accounting will also be informed and know a different setup in the billing system will be needed. Each department can ask for clarification, confirm the changes, and show progress through status updates.
Product managers interact with various personalities. Someone in charge of a customer service department might be less assertive than a C-suite executive. Likewise, people in creative roles may use non-linear descriptions and less direct language than those in technical positions. Product managers have to learn how to communicate in ways that different personalities will understand.
An article for Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education lays out four main workplace communication styles. According to this research, the people you work with will typically fit into a direct, functional, collaborative, or influencer style. That said, some individuals might exhibit a mix of these qualities or patterns.
Recognizing and appreciating these differences can help you adjust the way you communicate. You’ll need to get straight to the point and avoid unrelated small talk with a direct person. But with a collaborative co-worker, you’ll want to listen first and follow up on the details more often. Remaining flexible in your approach helps ensure understanding of your vision and keeps development projects moving forward.
Part of a product manager’s job is to assess the market and competition. In highly saturated or competitive industries, it’s tempting to focus on what competitors are doing and respond accordingly. For underdogs especially, product developments might start to resemble carbon copies of competitors’ offerings. A few tweaks get thrown in for good measure, and the item launches with high hopes. The assumption is it will perform well given another company’s success.
The problem with this approach is it skips over customer research. It’s banking on the idea that someone else already did the legwork, and the competitor has an identical customer segment. However, consumer segments can have distinct nuances, even in saturated markets. And people usually don’t buy products and services for their features alone; they buy them because those items perform a job. A product needs to provide a compelling and distinguishable “why.”
Gathering insights and data from within and outside the company will help you develop ideas that prioritize customer perspectives. Surveys, trouble tickets, and input from sales and service employees could uncover unmet needs. These feedback sources might also show what drives certain segments to choose your product or service over the competition’s. External research could uncover supplemental reasons for changes in consumers’ behaviors or trends that will stick.
When it’s time to develop and launch something new, product managers become the nexus for diverse teams. They create a visionary roadmap, communicate why the launch is happening, and direct and support the efforts of cross-functional groups. Without strong and informed leadership, buy-in and coordination among these groups are less likely to materialize. And that lack can result in delays, errors, and products that miss the mark.
Fortunately, product managers can lead effectively using centralized tech tools and applications, adaptable communication styles, and customer-centric approaches. By upping your product management game, you’ll be able to rally everyone behind the effective implementation of your ideas.