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Monday, September 17, 2012

Product Manager, heading for crash?

product management
Product Manager Distractions 

Just like a car would crash when the driver shifts focus away from the driving, the product or / and product manager are sure for a crash  when product manager  shifts focus away  from the core deliverable.

Crash could be due to two reasons, one, you tend to do something you are not suppose to do and  two, you do-not do something which you are expected to do.

In example of a smoothly running car, the driver may get distracted by a beautiful girl walking on the street, or the driver ignores traffic lights. In both the scenarios, driver shifts his focus away from core responsibilities and ends up meeting with undesired consequence. When the driver sees a beautiful girl walking on street, he gets carried away by the beauty and gets lost admiring the beauty so much that he would realize this shift of focus only after car crashes. Ignoring a traffic light or taking it lightly could do the same to the car and to the driver. 

In the same lines, product manager shifts away his focus to something which is more tempting or compelling like 'the beautiful girl for the driver' and starts believing that these non-core activities as key responsibilities. At the same time there are some activities which a product manager starts taking lightly and simply avoiding doing them, like the 'traffic signal in case of driver'. Results of these distraction are very simpler to the results of a distracted car driver. However, when it comes to a product manager, the line that separates distractions from core deliverable is blur and also deceptive. Let's have a look at some of the distractions of a product manager that often leads to crash;

  1. I am product expert 
    product managers working hard to be a product expert are like miss-fired missile that's going in wrong direction, may be going to hit back itself. Focus on domain, customer & competition and not only on your product, this will limit your vision and thoughts to just adding features to your product which most likely are not going to solve the problems that customers are facing. Let pre-sales take care of expertise part and you focus on futuristic aspects of your product.
  2. Technology is my priority
    product managers are expected to envisage solutions that will exceed customer expectation and beat competing products on its way to the top. such products are designed by focusing on on-ground challenges, usage conditions, & user personas. Product design should not start with technology in mind, but should be inspired by problem, customer & market. Choice of technology comes later and is owned by Architect, Engineering or CTO (varies from organization to organization)

    read: non-pervasive introduction of technology

  3. Stake holders, ignored
    Stake holders here refers to internal departments that are involved in sales, commissioning and service of the product. Typically it would involve marketing, pre-sales, sales, operations, customer support and billing departments of the organization. Solutions designed by engineering are used by mentioned departments to earn revenue for the organization, it is imperative that a product managers takes their sign-off on new features, & designs. After-all field challenges are way more complex and typical than those we experience or envisage in lab. Stake holders are best to judge new features & solutions. Ignoring them is like diving down or heading for a irreversible damage.

    read: Collecting requirements

  4. I am here to take decisions
    Role of a product manager is to connect engineering to market that in-turn helps in deriving solutions for target customer. Taking decisions is important, critical & unavoidable, but at the same time, taking decision is neither the only irresponsibility nor solely owned by a product manager. Inspire team for greater involvement, drive thought process help teams think differently. Let team move on to take decisions and you be their to for signup. Doing this way, helps you generate more ideas, develop better products and create open working culture. Taking decisions is not bad, but believing that you are the only person to take decision could be disastrous. 

    read: Wining trust

  5. Customer! will talk later
    product managers are always busy working on requirements, reviewing release, participating in scrum, talking to stake holders, doing competitive analysis & working on market intelligence. It is good to know that you are busy but this cannot be a reason for not meeting customers. It is imperative that product manager meets key customers / potential customers on every stage of product development & each stage of product life cycle for two simple reasons, one, it probably is the best way to authenticate requirements and two, it is critical to understand how future looks like.

    read: when did I last meet my customer!

    Shift of focus is dangerous. In the current era of high speed networks and knowledge base economy, the shift of focus of product manager can be compared to shift of focus of a formula 1 driver. Consequences are not only undesirable but dangerous too. A good product manager should always be critical of what he is expected to deliver and where he should not focus on. This is the only way to cross the finishing line safely.


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