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5 Things Product Managers Need to Manage

Eric Boduch // September 1, 2015

PM-2BWord-2BCloudA product manager who manages only the product, might not be a product manager for long. That’s because a product manager absolutely must have a handle on an array of things to do their job correctly, particularly in a digital environment. So, let’s jump right in to the top five things product managers must have under control.

1. Time and resources

The reality is, you don’t have much of either. That’s one thing you share in common with just about everybody under the sun. With limited time and resources, you have to be innovative, creative, and efficient. Answer a few questions for me.

· How much time do you spend making educated guesses on customer interactions on your site?
· How much time do you spend planning site features based on educated guesses?
· How much engineering time is spent making tweaks to coding because it was developed based on those educated guesses?
· How certain are you that all the features on your site, all of which you are supporting, are being used regularly?

Think about the answers you just gave and answer one more question: Are your limited time and resources truly allocated correctly? You don’t have time to make educated guesses. You need to spend your time making decisions based on facts, data, and specific information. You need to ensure that every minute that passes and every dollar that is spent is used in a way that will make you more effective and efficient.

2. Internal communication and expectations

As the product manager, you’re a hub. Every other department in the company is coming to you for one thing or another. You may be focused on planning product features, staying on track, and ensuring requirements are clear for engineers, but let’s face it, you’re also a bit of an ambassador. You communicate product feature requests into real requirements for the engineers. You communicate development terminology into human-speak. You’re a critical point of communication in both directions, and it falls on you to set reasonable and accurate expectations for all.

This is not a position for someone with poor communication skills. It’s not a position for someone who is easily flustered or has a quick temper. You must stay calm, collected, organized, and open-minded. Think of it this way – without you, there’s a kink in the hose that prevents engineering and the rest of the organization from working together seamlessly and maximizing production. With you, teams come together and things just work. Make sure you’re the piece that makes things work, not another kink in the hose.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you’re the most important piece of the organizational puzzle, because nobody likes someone with a metaphorically large head, but I’m also not going to sit here and tell you that you’re NOT the most important piece of the puzzle. With great power comes great responsibility. Use your product management power for good.

3. Product prioritization

To keep both internal and external customers happy, you have to prioritize your development projects. Here’s where you have to balance needs and wants with time and resources. This is also when it would be exceptionally helpful to have a product to help you gauge which features are being used most frequently and which you can cut (we can help with that). It wouldn’t hurt to also be a master communicator so you get feedback from all involved parties, and can then look at the information available to you and make the best decisions possible.

4. In-time feedback from customers

It’s not everyday that you have customers at your disposal and can get immediate feedback on a feature. To be clear, I’m not talking about a software tester. What you need are customers who are using the live product, or perhaps a Beta version, and are willing to give you feedback on their experience. In combination, it will benefit you if you can track your users’ actions, follow their paths, and really get insight into their experience and the product shortcomings (again, we can help you with that).

With greater insight you can create more refined and accurate requirements, developers can code specifically and correctly from the beginning, and the need for bug fixes and product tweaks are reduced. You need insight that tells you if the site functions as users need it to function. You need to know if and why support tickets are at an all time low or high. And for the tickets received, you need to be able to paint a complete and accurate picture of the user’s actions and the paths they take while using your software.

In short, you need a lot of insight, and it’s a lot to manage. But if you can do it well, your process efficiency will increase dramatically.

5. Administrative tasks

The cold hard truth is that product management requires organization and administrative task management. If you can’t keep things in order, on track, well-documented, and communicated with other key stake holders, then it is going to be tough. And if you can’t do all of this and scale for growth, then it is going to be even tougher.

Product managers plan features based on sound data, details, and facts. And that’s how you have to approach all your other management responsibilities too. Pendo is product management software that enables you to enhance your management skills across the board. Take a tour of Pendo and see how it can make you a better product manager.


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