Best Practices

Think Like a Product Manager

“There are so many moving objects when managing a product. You must be aware of them all (managing vendors, internal politics, management structure, development teams, testers, project managers, designers, architects, businesses, customers, etc.), and like a game of chess, you must be thinking ahead several moves in order to react (or not) properly.
Nailed it. And, we would add, the processes you depend on to bring products to market must also adapt.

The many steps involved in building products—moving from product idea to release and, hopefully, to customer approval—have traditionally been relegated to product and engineering teams, at least until something goes wrong. Companies strive to update product delivery processes for the way business works today by involving stakeholders from multiple departments and including executive leaders. “Many hands make light work” goes the saying, the idea being that a collaborative, dedicated effort toward a shared goal should lead to desired results.

“Should” is the key word here. The challenges of integrating hardware and software, handling employees in multiple locations and different time zones, and dealing with immediate customer feedback, among many other things, adds a great deal of complexity to an already high-stress, fast-moving process. Companies recognize the business value collaboration can bring, but it’s much easier to advocate for than to organize and execute. Too often, collaboration devolves into design by committee.

Forrester Consulting conducted in-depth surveys with 150 senior business and IT professionals at enterprise organizations and found that a hefty one-third of companies release their products late. The top reason? A classic: Unclear or changing requirements. The surprising drag on reaching the finish line in time? Delayed decisions.

Executive leaders are the acknowledged decision-makers at the high level—giving the green light to build product X with Y specs for Z cost—but during the cycle of product development to release, no one has to make or push through more decisions than product managers. And at the rate 21st century companies conceive, build and release products, the time spent getting to market matters more than it ever has.

So while Matt Khoury astutely testifies to the many ways that product managers encounter problems on the path to release, we would add a note of caution for all companies who conceive and bring new innovations to market:

If you expect your employees to focus on outcomes, you need to adapt and you must also align teams; enable fast decisions, reuse and stakeholder involvement; iterate quickly and provide stakeholders and all participants with real-time context right up to the point of release.

The success of your product depends on it. Just ask your product manager.