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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The New Product Manager

A good start is half the success. and how do you ensure this at you new job? It's a serious challenge for product managers who are moving into a new job. The challenge becomes more stiff if you are moving into a newer domain, and are going to work with whole new set of professionals you never worked with.

From my experience I have coined down first few steps that a product manger should take as soon as he gets onto a new job. My fair assumption is that you would have learned and read enough about the domain in which you are going to operate, however knowing things from outside may not be as clear and absolute as you get to see when you get into the system.

Learning Steps

  1. Domain: Know your domain, that's sacrosanct. This is first step in learning knowing you new job.  Spend time to understand domain, industry and regulations. Learn more about eco-system, industry maturity stage and challenges. Know everything about competing and complimenting industry. Know value proposition of your product, and cost to user if they do not have such product. Justify the need of very existence of product that you are about to manage and if you could do this neatly, you have understood your domain.
  2. $ source: how your product makes money for the company? what you sell, product or service? when does your company make money, on product deployment or when users use it? what features makes most money and what features are rarely used by the customer? You learn your product better when you look at it from the eyes of a business man, else you just end up seeing a technical architecture and whole long is of feature backlog.

    knowing $ source is important before you move onto next step of meeting stake holders because by then you know what is valued by your stake holders (in your product) and what is not (things that are not making $$).
  3. Stake holders: sales, operations, support, marketing, research, finance, etc people  who has anything to do with product in the company are your stake holders, also termed as internal stake holders (this since many product managers I know who still struggle to define their stake holders). These are the people from various departments who uses product to deliver services. From selling, to support to raising bills, they are part of everyday life of product, once it gets into the production system.

    When you meet these stake holders, talk what is of their concern and also talk about things that are of their interest. What is making their life easy and what are their pain points. Probability of your stake holders accepting you faster is higher when you first do your homework  (first two points in this post) correctly and then meet them.

    Spend time with stake holders to understand on ground challenges. Discuss competition and customers. Request them to arrange for some competing products demonstration and also ask to arrange for customer meetings.
  4. Competitors: knowing your competitors is very important, study competing products, understand their solution offering and derive their strengths and weakness (read: My Competitor, My friend). Consolidate data you collected from talking to various stake holders, information that you hear in conversation and read in mail chains about competition. Don't just know your competitor but also learn about your organizations perception of your competition.
  5. Customer: you are now ready to meet customer. you know what business you are in, what aspect of product  makes more money for you, pain points of stake holders and Strength and Weakness of alternate solutions available in the market place. Meet your customer now with full confidence. Talking to customer is imperative since it helps you collect first hand information and also optimize your road-map and backlog.
related reading:
  1. When did I last meet my customer, read here
  2. Maintain Backlog quality, read here
  3. What product managers are expected to do!!, read here

Moving into a new job, its a great thing to happen, remember though, you are working with new set of people (most likely), new boss, new company and a whole new set of challenges. Making mistakes at the very beginning would mean that you will end up spending large chunk of your time in next few quarters on correcting mistakes. Better be wise, be prepared and make a star start at your new office.

my best wishes for your new assignment!!


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