How to get the best from a New Product Manager?

Create a Setting for Success with a New Product Manager

Starting a role as a new product manager or hiring a new one can be a big step for a company. It is key to plan ahead to make the most of this role so it can quickly become an effective asset to the company.

When I was hired for my role I was asked to answer these 4 questions to explain to the team what I’d be doing and how we could work together to build a more effective organisation.

1/ What is the role of Product Manager?

The product manager is the owner of Product and is responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for that product or product line. They clear roadblocks that get in the way of development and serve as an extension of the CEO’s mind, this is a non-scalable resource.

From a product’s conception through to its launch the product manager is the person responsible for defining the ‘why’, ‘what,’ and ‘when’ of the product that the engineering team will build.

Areas

The product manager often analyses market and competitive conditions and lays out a product vision that is differentiated and delivers unique value based on customer demands.

The role of the product manager spans many activities and at its best provides cross-functional leadership and strategy — bridging gaps within the company. For CrowdEmotion that means working closely with the CEO, Psych, Data and Tech leads to get their input and put it all together into product roadmap.

2/ What value does a Product Manager bring to the team?

Simply put a Product Manager enables the team to execute the company vision. As the CEO is a non-scalable unit the Product Manager can dedicate the time needed to understand the team and product needs

Team Optimisation

The founder communicates the vision to the Product Manager and they work together on strategy. The implementation of the strategy is then left to the Product Manager. The ideal situation is where the Product Manager is an extension of the founder and is better able to communicate to the design and development team ‘what should be built next’

The founder does not have time between phone calls, business trips, sales, investor stuff and accounts faff to direct the product at all points, so I am here to allow a shift of his focus away from the product to the point that our discussions are about strategy, should we do this or that? Rather than execution, how we do this or that?

Normal Scenario

As a startup reaches 10+ people they reach a breaking point on communications, vision, decision-making and product clarity. To be able to grow any further and make the most of opportunities a Product Manager is essential. There will be too many prospects (wanting slightly different requirements), arguments among founders about pursuing 2nd and 3rd segments before the first is served well, segmented software dev teams chasing warped view of the overall product architecture, new sales personnel proposing unfeasible ideas for the next product version.

This is where a Product Manager can provide clarity, negotiating skills, strategic view and direct communications to keep things smooth and focused.

3/ How can a Product Manager make a developer’s life easier?

Support teams require a shit-umbrella so they don’t get hit with every random request at unhelpful times

Act as a Shit-Umbrella

i.e. Protect you from the storm of dev requests

A product manager needs to implement dynamic management processes to suit the company needs as it grows. The basic goal is to serve as a developers shit umbrella from the multitude of requests that get fired their way. Not only are these requests often unhelpful when there is always a new priority which means things don’t get finished. They also don’t come in a structured order and interrupt workflow wasting the already limited time of a developer.

The Product Manager should implement it so that only the things that the developers can feasibly do reach their desk when they are ready to do them. It’s hard to get this perfect but its an end goal worth working towards.

In the long run, the product manager will argue the team’s side as to why they can’t do something straight away without the team member even being disturbed to explain why they don’t have time to be disturbed. Your time is valuable! You will be able to get more done and there will be less confusion who needs to do what and when.

Developer Feedback and Requests

Things developers need to be able to work better and any idea’s they have for internal systems or product development the product manager will listen to. They will then prioritise and build into the roadmap so they happen when they need to happen.

4/ How can you make a Product Manager’s life easier?

They are here to help but they need you to work with them to create any tangible results.

Communicate

As a team grows A good Product Manager will try new strategies to reach their end goal of the most optimised approach to work at that point in time. It’s a dynamic process and they really need feedback on what works, what doesn’t work and what you’ve tried in the past or any idea’s you have for better practices.

They should arrange to have regular sessions with each of the team to understand their working methodologies and the best ways to communicate and collaborate with you to optimise your workflow.

Patience

They need you to trust in their new approaches and try them whilst accepting that they won’t always be 100% right the first time. There is no one size fits all strategy to product managing and every company has its unique set of problems with its own unique ways to solve them. Working with your Product Manager in a forgiving way will help you find the ultimate solution.

Conclusion

Growing a team is difficult but if you leave it too late you can waste resources and introduce conflict into the business. To find out more about choosing the best product manager to stay tuned for my next blog.

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