By Rivi Aspler
Product managers are the ones who bridge gaps between various opinion leaders, both internal and external to the organization.
If you are a product manager and you don’t see eye-to-eye with many of the following teams, rest assured, you not alone. And rest assured you are in the same boat as many other product managers who do not automatically agree with the positions of those teams.
Each group is focused largely (and many times exclusively) on their goals and objectives alone. Doesn’t matter what other teams need to do.
- Sales people want to close deals. They don’t care about long-term strategy, nor do they care that the product roadmap has to address the needs of a majority of customers. They see a clear opportunity and a clear feature that they need in order to close a deal. If you were in their shoes, you would probably do the same.
- As a product manager, it is your responsibility to make sure that the sales force updated, on a regular basis, of the roadmap content, roadmap priorities and target customer profile. This will not stop sales people from pursuing whatever opportunities they see, but their ability to push back against your roadmap will be minimized as compared to a scenario where you are not open and upfront with this information.
- R&D staff generally want to work with the latest technologies and commit to well-defined and low-risk deliverables whenever possible. Aggressive enhancement plans, adequate product maintenance or robust quality assurance are all important; no one would deny that, but will the average R&D person push for these? Probably not.
- As a product manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that all of these (innovation, maintenance and quality) get the right amount of R&D focus. It won’t happen in every release for each of these areas, but over time, a clear balance needs to be attained.
- Marketing teams are into market trends and analysts perspectives of the market. Their opinion is important but may not be directly related to n the day-to-day challenges that you are facing.
- As a product manager, it is your responsibility to listen openly, follow-up on analysts’ and marketers’ views and make sure that your product isn’t behind trends that are turning into reality.
- Customers see their own pains. They don’t see other customers’ pains and they don’t care much about your long-term strategy or expansion-plans.
- As a product manager, it is your responsibility to listen to that customer patiently, and yet push for the adoption of the defined roadmap. If the product roadmap doesn’t fit that customer, and if that customer isn’t strategic enough to change the roadmap, you should involve the account manager to make sure that the pushback from the account is handled appropriately.
Product managers are the bridge across these groups and must ensure the best possible product is delivered to market. Modules, features, documents and designs are artifacts that should reflect the input from them. The more that you defend your standpoint and the more that you are able to balance between the various perspectives, the better your product will be.
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About the author
Rivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.