Time is our most precious asset and something we need to take great care of in everything that we do. For product managers, that statement can be even more critical. In this sponsored #mtpcon London+EMEA session, Agata Bugaj, VP of Product at Fullstory, shares some sanity-saving ways data can help keep cross-functional teams focused and aligned.
Watch the session in full to see her talk or read on for an overview of her key points:
- Everyone wants a piece of product people which means being pulled in different directions
- For people to create the perfect digital experience, they need to know who’s doing what
- Clear lines of communication help to ensure that everyone is on the same page
- Activities and communications are powered by the same, accessible information – choose one single source of truth
How product managers spend their time
Product managers are more visible than ever, with cross-functional stakeholders typically across the business. Everyone within the organization wants a piece of their time, and as such, their calendars are quickly filled with meetings. Developers wonder if they have a few minutes for a quick chat about a recent bug. Sales want to know why a particular feature is being built so they can better sell it, and customer success wants to know what features were recently launched so they can be shared with customers.
Everyone has many questions about the product, which can pull product managers in multiple directions, and force them to spend time in unnecessary meetings. However, as Agata points out, “the key is to make sure that you’re meeting when you actually need to. And if something doesn’t need to be a meeting, then let’s not make it one”.
Agata provides a framework that focuses on the people, particularly the organizational structure and the specific attributes of people on teams, the operating cadencies or processes involved, and the tools they rely on to help improve alignment.
Be clear on who’s doing what
At Fullstory, Agata tells us, people are divided into various cross-functional groups. Teams may have separate roles but share a commitment to perfecting the digital experience. Marketing and customer experience (CX) members are also involved in these teams, not just product people or developers. These people are already in meetings and have access to documentation that explains the roadmap, stage of the product, and more, helping them to cut down on unnecessary meetings.
The attributes that are necessary for this are role clarity and balance. There is a clear concept of who is doing what and an upfront alignment of what everyone within the group will do. However, there are also areas where team members “who are willing to pick up a dropped ball or peek into someone else’s swim lane, if they think there’s misalignment or lack of clarity, especially in a high growth environment,” says Agata.
Provide clear lines of communication
On the process side, product managers need to ask how to get everyone on the same page. Agata explains how at Fullstory, this involves sharing a monthly roadmap to provide ongoing visibility for everyone in the organization. The central part of the roadmap document includes Alpha, Beta, and General Availability (GA) phase-based lists that illustrate progress and streamline planning and presents features and enhancements that separately support audience-specific communications.
There is the staging area to the left, which highlights things the product team is getting ready for customers that aren’t yet ready for users. Also, there are discovery items on the roadmap that allow groups outside of the product team to connect dots about what product is working on.
Each feature has a one-pager that provides additional information as appropriate, including how critical information is organized in various Slack channels. Release notes provide updates on the roadmap and drive alignment among front-line and user-facing team members in sales, marketing, and CX. Having everything organized in this way can reduce meeting time and answer 80% of questions that teams outside of product might have.
To make this work, there are some necessary attributes. First of all, transparency, ensuring that there are clear lines of communication throughout the organization. Secondly, access, ensuring that everyone who needs to see these documents can view them. Finally accuracy, product managers need to keep things fresh and up to date; otherwise, people won’t trust it.
Ensure a single source of truth
Activities and communications are powered by the same, accessible information, including quantitative data and qualitative details. Teams need access to the same single source of truth.
The types of tools used will be either quantitative or qualitative:
These tools can show what’s happening, provide answers to questions and help you to influence outcomes. An example of a quantitative tool would be building a dashboard.
These tools help illustrate why something is happening, help to validate your hypothesis and provide direction on the next steps. An example of a qualitative tool would be user research and customer interviews.
In order to make these tools work, you need access so that everyone has a single source of truth. You also need accountability, enabling people to act on their insights from these tools easily.
The key takeaway from this session is that product managers can reduce the need for unnecessary meetings and regain control of their time by aligning people, processes, and tools.
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