It’s the beginning of a new year, and a great opportunity to reflect on the past year and start thinking about changes and resolutions for the year ahead. With that in mind, here are my 7 Product Management resolutions for 2016.
#1 Spend more time with customers
Does this one sound familiar? How many books and articles have you read about the importance of spending more time with customers? To quote Steve Blank in his book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, it is important to get out of the building. And yet, somehow, we rarely manage to do so.
We might visit a couple of users here and there, or have a few phone calls with them. But the approach is not systematic or baked into our day-to-day process. Talking to customers is usually more of an event as opposed to business as usual.
The best way to make customer development a priority is to have a strategy and metrics in place. PMs should have “customer interaction quotas” and be accountable for meeting them. It should be part of the definition of what success looks like for a PM.
New Year’s Resolution: Make customer development a priority, set quotas, and drive myself and my team to meet them.
#2 Evangelize the product vision
Product Managers are responsible for crafting the product vision and making it come to life. But communicating that vision often falls through the cracks.
Evangelizing the product vision and making sure that everybody is aligned and onboard can be a full time job. I’m often taken aback by folks asking me where the product is going, or what functionality we just released. What? Didn’t you see the roadmap? Didn’t you read the release notes? Haven’t you played with the software yet? Didn’t you attend that one meeting three months ago?
We often assume that keeping our product roadmap up-to-date in some obscure software or PowerPoint deck, makes it immediately visible and accessible throughout the company.
When was the last time you gave a brownbag and shared where you are going with the development team? With marketing? With support? Yep, same here. We forget that people consume information in different ways. That’s where the constant evangelization efforts should come into play.
New Year’s Resolution: Be more proactive about sharing the product vision with everyone in the company.
#3 Focus more on strategy and less on delivery
This one is high on the list of every PM I know. Agile methodologies can be powerful. But if not done properly, they can pull Product Managers into spending all of our time with the development team.
Don’t get me wrong, the work we do to support delivery is very important, but it often comes at the expense of customer development or strategic thinking.
To solve this, I advocate for division of labor: a Product Owner to focus on delivery and a Product Manager to focus on customers and strategy. I know this is controversial, but I think it works. Rich Mironov has a great article on this topic.
The same goes for PM Directors and above. We often spend too much time with delivery escalations to help our Product team, leaving us with less time for strategy and long-term product vision, as Teresa Torres mentions in this great article, “Fix Delivery to Make Time for Discovery”.
#4 Use data and metrics more often to inform decisions
As Product Managers, we have access to a lot of data. We can see the financial performance of our product, the sales pipeline, usability metrics, engagement metrics, etc, etc. But too often, we don’t leverage them in a consistent manner to make decisions.
I really like the concepts in the book Lean Analytics, but just having clear metrics is not enough. We should incorporate metrics into our process in a disciplined and consistent way. Not just every few months when the CEO wants something for tomorrow’s board meeting.
New Year’s Resolution: Consistently review metrics and apply those insights during prioritization and any other product decision.
#5 Keep up with and apply new technology trends
Technology is moving at light speed. There are so many new trends that it is hard to keep up. But we must. Otherwise, we run the risk of releasing a product that will soon be obsolete.
Technology advancements are also making it easier for companies to build complex solutions. By leveraging newer trends in technology, including platforms, open source, etc, it might take new competitors a fraction of the time to match your current capabilities.
Time to market is shortened, and competition is getting harder to beat. How will you protect your product and company against this?
New Year’s Resolution: Attend more conferences and read more industry articles to stay ahead of trends.
#6 Build a PM tribe
Product Management is a young profession, and therefore, most of the knowledge lies with practitioners like you and me. That’s why building and nurturing a community is very important.
New Year’s Resolution: Continue to nurture my PM network and form a “tribe” of advisors for ideas and wisdom.
Likewise, I will be an advisor to them and share my lessons learned. We should work together to push our products forward, and contribute to the betterment of our profession as a whole.
#7 Books, books, and more books
I believe that Product Managers should cultivate the Four Pillars of Product Leadership, and one of the best ways to do so is to read as much as we can. Here are some of the books I plan to read next:
- Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
- The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton M. Christensen
- High Output Management, by Andrew S. Grove
- Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, by Ashlee Vance
You can also check out my full list of my recommended books for Product Managers.
The bottom line
2015 was a great year. I want to thank you for reading TechProductManagement.com and for your support. I’m looking forward to sharing a great 2016 with you!
I’d love to hear about your PM resolutions. Leave a comment below to keep the conversation going!