For as far back as I can remember, it wasn’t enough to have a good product, you also needed a strong sales person to get the customer to actually commit and sign the check. In fact, the lack of skilled sales people was and remains the limiting factor for many companies. As a product person, this has always frustrated me. I never liked having someone between me and my customers, but I understood the need for the sales person to maintain “account ownership.” But it doesn’t mean I liked it. In fact, for me personally, one of the big attractions of consumer internet services over enterprise companies is the free access to my customers. I don’t have to worry about some key influencer deciding he prefers the wining and dining from our competitor’s sales person over our own.
One of the fun things about working on a 1.0 product is that you get to start fresh with your community of users. It’s true that your user base is still influenced by other products and services that they’ve been exposed to, but overall you don’t have to worry much about things like backwards compatibility or retraining your users. However, for most of us, we’re in the business of creating updates or new versions of existing products or services.
I’ve talked elsewhere about the pitfalls of confusing product launch with success, and how important it is to not lose focus after you ship your product or service. In this article I wanted to say a little more about what you should be doing during this critical phase of your project.
I find it ironic that so many of us in the product world come from science and business oriented backgrounds, yet such a large part of what we do every day is really all about emotion and human psychology. Most of us may not think of our job this way, but we should.
The New Year always gets me thinking bigger picture. For some that means reviewing the company mission statement. For others, it means coming up with your annual or quarterly objectives. For me, I’m partial to the Manifesto.
Sometimes being a product manager can feel like being on Survivor, and worrying about your product team voting you out at the next product council.
Look at any successful company and you’ll find a set of people that stand out and are the ones that really make the difference. It may be the difference between a great product or a terrible one. Or the difference between getting the business partnership the company needs to reach its customers or getting lost in obscurity. Or the difference between getting the product out when it needs to be or stuck in perpetual delays.
One of the most common questions I get from product managers, usually working at large companies, is how to manage their managers? They are frustrated with their manager. Not that they don’t like their manager, but that they feel like the sands keep shifting, their manager gives them different and conflicting direction each week, and it’s always two steps forward and one step back. Especially in big companies, there are so many influencers and stakeholders that getting a company to move in a single direction long enough to get a product out can be a true challenge.
Company culture is one of those vague concepts that can mean different things to different people. I use the term here to capture the company philosophy in terms of how it treats its employees, customers and partners, and the impact this has on product teams.
I’ve always been a big believer in the adage that employees join a company but they leave a manager. This applies to product managers as much as anyone. Our manager is a major factor in our job satisfaction. For those of us that are also managers, we need to always keep in mind the role we play in the effectiveness and enthusiasm of our employees.