5 Tips for Product Managers: Membership Only Content Sneak Peek "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs July 07 2021 False Members roundup, Tips, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 1231 product management tips Product Management 4.924

5 Tips for Product Managers: Membership Only Content Sneak Peek

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Every month, product experts from around the world share their ideas and insights in our Prioritised and MTP Leader content and every month we recap some of their finest tips. So, whether you’re a member who’d love a quick recap or a non-member who’d love a glimpse inside some of our membership content, we’ve got you covered.

Here are this month’s 5 quick tips from the content published in June.

Push for equal standing

In What is product? The past, present and future of our craft we considered the future of product practice and product management — how far we’ve come, our present-day understanding of product, and the challenges we still need to meet.

Speaking to how product managers can, in the present day, unlock value for their businesses, Martin Eriksson explains how we’ve over-corrected on the UX aspect of the job and that this needs to change. “Involvement in design and figuring out how to build is the fun and sexy part of the job, but modern product management is a team sport,” he says.

Instead, he suggests a cross-functional team should be a team of equal peers, with the product manager, design manager, and engineering manager all equal and having different responsibilities and skill sets. In reality though, in many organisations, a product manager is seen as the higher-value role. Martin adds: “I think that’s wrong. As product managers, we need to push for a team of equal peers, but it also means that our job changes. We might have done a lot of UX in the past because there wasn’t a designer on the team, but in a cross-functional team we’re not doing design or coding. On my Venn diagram that leaves product managers with ‘the business’.”

Prioritise using buckets

In Managing misaligned stakeholders, Rich Mironov talks about an issue we all know pretty well — misalignment among stakeholders.

As part of his talk on how to define a strategy for dealing with misaligned stakeholders within an organisation, he covers how to prioritise ticket requests. After all, with the various requests that come into a JIRA ticket system, it can be tempting to take out a spreadsheet, start assigning numbers of priority, and knocking them out one by one. But as Rich points out, this method won’t yield good results as it’s hard to rank-order unlike items since they have different units and the units of ROI are different.

“Instead of trying to match, unlike things, I’m going to suggest that what we want to do is we want to create three or four buckets or slices or categories where similar things are compared,” he says.

For example, grouping deal-specific vs. single customer requests or creating another category for validation and discovery experiments.

Rich suggests breaking down items into categories that showcase where engineering money is being spent. For example:

  • What users see (E.g., Visible features, UX, upsells, new markets)
  • What must be done to stay in business (E.g., quality fixes, scalability, security)
  • Special requests to come in to close a deal (E.g., Things not on the roadmap, unplanned, deal-driven changes)
  • An area for validation that is not a big slice but still important

By separating items into categories such as this, you can develop a strategy before assigning tickets.

Consider how things will be different after discovery

In Product Discovery  — the secret sauce of great Agile, Anthony Marter explains how we might introduce discovery in simple steps — step one focuses on ‘metrics’.

As a product manager, Anthony explains, you need to make clear to your team how things will be different after discovery is completed. He recommends having a conversation with the product team, about what might be measured because this can help to shift the conversation from taking measurements to what can be measured.

Anthony recommends asking your product team ‘how are things going to be different when are we done?’ and how might the users’ world change. “That invariably turns into a conversation around to ‘well, how might we measure that change?’, or ‘how are we going to know when that change has actually happened?’. Ultimately, says Anthony, you want to shift the conversation from the what to the why.

This can help to expose misalignments around expected outcomes. If there is no qualitative data to measure, find qualitative data by talking to a few customers and see what has changed.

Create a culture of continuous research

Our panel, Using discovery and research to influence key product decisions, saw Cindy Alvarez, Michelle Lotia, Steve Portigal, and Eli Montgomery discuss discovery and research and provide insights on how it can be used to influence key product decisions.

To build a culture of continuous research among product teams, regularly come up with questions. Steve Portigal says thinking of specific questions that feel exploratory gives you grounding and strategies to act on. Everyone has a part to play in research. If all teams are doing this even once a week, it increases the answers you have to these grounded questions. Michelle says that the trick is to understand how research works in your company, and how you can get the help that you need and access to the tools needed to do so.

Once you have teams that own research, you then have the platform and structure to discover and grow, Steve says. If people don’t have the skills to research, a company has to facilitate that to happen.

Think beyond your product’s features

In Why do products fail? we explore the reason behind the high rate of failure of digital products — it’s as high as 90%, depending on which report you read.

One reason, says Mind the Product Co-founder and ProdPad CEO Janna Bastow, is that your product has launched, but you’re not done. “You might technically have the best product, but it does not mean that your product is done — you’ve not done your job yet. There is the marketing of your product and making sure that it is communicated and that the benefits of the product are known.”

Janna says product managers should think about the bigger picture beyond the product’s features: “Think about pricing, the proposition, the packaging. If you’re not able to get that clear, upfront, then you don’t have a clear picture of what success will be like.”

She cites the classic examples of competing products where one failed — Betamax vs VHS, Blu Ray vs HD DVD — because of poor marketing and poor understanding of the market and the product’s ecosystem. “Make sure to spend time measuring and learning,” she says, “not just building. Building is the exciting part. But teams don’t really like to go back and ask ‘did we do the right thing?’. It’s uncomfortable but, if you want your product to be successful, sometimes you have to go back and say, ‘that was junk, let’s take it out’.”

There’s more where this came from

Thousands of Mind the Product members are already levelling up their careers, honing their product craft, and uncovering new ways to build great products. Join them to unlock more content like that featured here, plus:

  • Premium deep dives, reports and case studies
  • ALL #mtpcon keynote and sessions videos
  • Exclusive events — AMAs, panels and fireside chats
  • Roundtable discussions —  talk product with new connections

Discover Prioritised membership or compare all membership plans.

Every month, product experts from around the world share their ideas and insights in our Prioritised and MTP Leader content and every month we recap some of their finest tips. So, whether you're a member who'd love a quick recap or a non-member who'd love a glimpse inside some of our membership content, we've got you covered. Here are this month's 5 quick tips from the content published in June.

Push for equal standing

In What is product? The past, present and future of our craft we considered the future of product practice and product management — how far we’ve come, our present-day understanding of product, and the challenges we still need to meet. Speaking to how product managers can, in the present day, unlock value for their businesses, Martin Eriksson explains how we’ve over-corrected on the UX aspect of the job and that this needs to change. “Involvement in design and figuring out how to build is the fun and sexy part of the job, but modern product management is a team sport,” he says. Instead, he suggests a cross-functional team should be a team of equal peers, with the product manager, design manager, and engineering manager all equal and having different responsibilities and skill sets. In reality though, in many organisations, a product manager is seen as the higher-value role. Martin adds: “I think that’s wrong. As product managers, we need to push for a team of equal peers, but it also means that our job changes. We might have done a lot of UX in the past because there wasn’t a designer on the team, but in a cross-functional team we’re not doing design or coding. On my Venn diagram that leaves product managers with ‘the business’.”

Prioritise using buckets

In Managing misaligned stakeholders, Rich Mironov talks about an issue we all know pretty well — misalignment among stakeholders. As part of his talk on how to define a strategy for dealing with misaligned stakeholders within an organisation, he covers how to prioritise ticket requests. After all, with the various requests that come into a JIRA ticket system, it can be tempting to take out a spreadsheet, start assigning numbers of priority, and knocking them out one by one. But as Rich points out, this method won’t yield good results as it’s hard to rank-order unlike items since they have different units and the units of ROI are different. “Instead of trying to match, unlike things, I’m going to suggest that what we want to do is we want to create three or four buckets or slices or categories where similar things are compared,” he says. For example, grouping deal-specific vs. single customer requests or creating another category for validation and discovery experiments. Rich suggests breaking down items into categories that showcase where engineering money is being spent. For example:
  • What users see (E.g., Visible features, UX, upsells, new markets)
  • What must be done to stay in business (E.g., quality fixes, scalability, security)
  • Special requests to come in to close a deal (E.g., Things not on the roadmap, unplanned, deal-driven changes)
  • An area for validation that is not a big slice but still important
By separating items into categories such as this, you can develop a strategy before assigning tickets.

Consider how things will be different after discovery

In Product Discovery  — the secret sauce of great Agile, Anthony Marter explains how we might introduce discovery in simple steps — step one focuses on 'metrics'. As a product manager, Anthony explains, you need to make clear to your team how things will be different after discovery is completed. He recommends having a conversation with the product team, about what might be measured because this can help to shift the conversation from taking measurements to what can be measured. Anthony recommends asking your product team 'how are things going to be different when are we done?' and how might the users' world change. "That invariably turns into a conversation around to 'well, how might we measure that change?', or 'how are we going to know when that change has actually happened?'. Ultimately, says Anthony, you want to shift the conversation from the what to the why. This can help to expose misalignments around expected outcomes. If there is no qualitative data to measure, find qualitative data by talking to a few customers and see what has changed.

Create a culture of continuous research

Our panel, Using discovery and research to influence key product decisions, saw Cindy Alvarez, Michelle Lotia, Steve Portigal, and Eli Montgomery discuss discovery and research and provide insights on how it can be used to influence key product decisions. To build a culture of continuous research among product teams, regularly come up with questions. Steve Portigal says thinking of specific questions that feel exploratory gives you grounding and strategies to act on. Everyone has a part to play in research. If all teams are doing this even once a week, it increases the answers you have to these grounded questions. Michelle says that the trick is to understand how research works in your company, and how you can get the help that you need and access to the tools needed to do so. Once you have teams that own research, you then have the platform and structure to discover and grow, Steve says. If people don’t have the skills to research, a company has to facilitate that to happen.

Think beyond your product's features

In Why do products fail? we explore the reason behind the high rate of failure of digital products — it's as high as 90%, depending on which report you read. One reason, says Mind the Product Co-founder and ProdPad CEO Janna Bastow, is that your product has launched, but you’re not done. “You might technically have the best product, but it does not mean that your product is done — you’ve not done your job yet. There is the marketing of your product and making sure that it is communicated and that the benefits of the product are known.” Janna says product managers should think about the bigger picture beyond the product’s features: “Think about pricing, the proposition, the packaging. If you're not able to get that clear, upfront, then you don't have a clear picture of what success will be like.” She cites the classic examples of competing products where one failed — Betamax vs VHS, Blu Ray vs HD DVD — because of poor marketing and poor understanding of the market and the product’s ecosystem. “Make sure to spend time measuring and learning,” she says, “not just building. Building is the exciting part. But teams don't really like to go back and ask ‘did we do the right thing?’. It's uncomfortable but, if you want your product to be successful, sometimes you have to go back and say, ‘that was junk, let's take it out’.”

There's more where this came from

Thousands of Mind the Product members are already levelling up their careers, honing their product craft, and uncovering new ways to build great products. Join them to unlock more content like that featured here, plus:
  • Premium deep dives, reports and case studies
  • ALL #mtpcon keynote and sessions videos
  • Exclusive events — AMAs, panels and fireside chats
  • Roundtable discussions —  talk product with new connections
Discover Prioritised membership or compare all membership plans.