I’ve been happily looking after my product (buying and selling cars online) for the last couple of years. I still think product management is a complete mystery to me, but my boss thinks I’m doing fine. In fact, at the end of this week she will be announcing internally that I will be product managing a second product, which will put me across the entire post-login customer journey!
I am freaking out about how on earth I’m going to do this. Any words of advice?
Advice, advice… yes – here’s a couple of thoughts:
The difficult bit’s never the actual product (even if you have several of them). Instead it’s making sure you know enough about your customers to be able to decide what you should be doing with your products to meet their needs, and about your own business to make sure you’re aligned with the corporate goals.
Balancing the needs of these two groups of people is the trickier bit, but get that right and you’ll definitely be on the right track.
It’s good that your products sit nicely together. When you go out and listen to and learn from your customers (ideally with as many of your product development team as you can manage), everything you learn will inform both products, so you’ll kill two birds with one stone.
It’s even more important now to observe your customers trying to sell and buy cars (and whatever else your company can help them with). You want as many opportunities as possible to think “hmm – that’s interesting, why do they do that?”. As a rule of thumb, you should be spending a minimum of two hours every six weeks face-to-face with customers.
It’s all about the people, then about the products.
Time management will be important – learn to delegate (or just stop doing) stuff that you don’t personally need to do. Working on user stories with your team, rather than trying to write them all yourself, is a must. As a product manager, your objective is not to be the busiest person, but the most effective, so be ruthless in picking what to spend your valuable time on.
Getting sucked into too many meetings? Get people to have their discussion without you, then recommend to you (with evidence) their proposed course of action for your decision. If you can get to the point where your team can resolve their own problems without your input (and in a way that you’d approve of), then so much the better.
If you have a company calendar, block out ‘no meetings’ time, and keep this sacred. Only your boss should be able to override this, though if you can encourage her not to, that would be good :-)
Lastly, remember you absolutely can do this – they wouldn’t have given you the second product if they didn’t trust you. Make ’em proud!
I guarantee that a little bit down the line, when you’re managing a team which in turn is managing dozens of products, you’ll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.