Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Leading the positive impact

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New ideas for product features and functionality come from many sources: customers, analysts, non-customers, sales reps, developers…the list goes on. Product managers carry a huge responsibility for gathering and promoting the right requirements for their products at the right time and for the right reasons. An important goal of product managers is to make a positive impact on the success of their products. They are in a key position to bring together the right market and strategic information to assure the products’ success.

To lead out in this effort, product managers must have a plan for gathering, sorting and measuring the multitude of requirements that come at them. Managing these activities can seem overwhelming. However, it can also be the most thrilling part of job. Here are a few tips on managing the details and leading the positive impact:

  • Know your customers: Spend adequate time learning how your customers (and non-customers) do business. Spend time listening to them and observing how they use your products. It takes time and money to meet with customers, but the end results more than pay for the up-front cost. If you’re feeling pressed for time or your not sure about the value, here are three reasons to visit customers.
  • Leverage requirements management: Gathering and sorting requirements can be time consuming and costly. Fortunately new and excellent tools have emerged to help product managers deal with the myriad of data they must consume. I found a great article by René Bellei, CEO of Ryma Technology Solutions. He makes many great points (I recommend the entire article to your reading) about the need for sound requirements management. One point that really caught my attention was cost savings that come from sound practices. He says:
The costs of rectifying poor products lie not just in the cost of re-development, but in the loss of market confidence which can result in lost sales, client references and overall profitability. By involving a broader set of stakeholders in the software product management roadmap and by establishing a solid product management process, many of these revenue and cost effects can be addressed and avoided at the onset.
  • Measure the impact: To fully comprehend the success of new products or features, product managers need to evaluate the significance of proposed changes and measure the impact the changes have on existing customers, sales to new customers and customer retention to name a few. Jeff Lash recently wrote a great post on the need to measure the impact of product changes. He cites four steps product managers need to go through before engaging in product development. He also anticipates reasons why product managers might resist measuring the impact and counters them with the reasons why good practices will save both time and money. He states:
Though this may seem as though it is creating more work for the product manager, it in fact will make his or her job much easier. Product managers need to be able to quantify “success” for any given change, rule out changes that are less likely to be successful, and measure all work which is implemented. This allows the product manager to ensure a higher likelihood for success and also show the impact of the change to gain support for future changes.

Product managers possess both the opportunity and the burden for their products’ success. Those who focus on the opportunity and lead the effort using proven tools and techniques will find success and satisfaction.

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