One of the most frustrating things you will experience as a Product Manager is Top Management’s unenthusiastic attitude towards having in place a process for product development and management.
I remember some time back while as a Product Manager in a bank, I got a call from my CEO telling me that one of my competitors (a bank) had announced the rollout of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) across Lagos. And the question was “how come we were not the first to roll out ATMs?” I give you one month to roll out the first ATM at the Head office.
At the end of the phone call, I let out an angry shout. I remembered developing a product plan and business case for ATMs. I also remembered calling Mitchell Elegbe the current GCEO of Interswitch; he was then a Sales Manager with Telnet, a supplier of ATMs. We had made a joint presentation before the Executive Management some months before, telling them of the benefits of ATMs and how it would help our image as an innovative bank to be the first to launch.
Some of the members of the Executive laughed at me, telling me that ATMs would never work in Nigeria. One in particular said that armed robbers would come with a forklift and take the ATM. I couldn’t believe my ears. Note that most of the executives were well travelled but they did not believe that Nigeria had the competent people to supply and manage the ATMs and that it was not safe to operate ATMs in Nigeria. And besides, no other person had done it; so why should be the guinea pigs?
I learnt some very hard lessons from this exercise which I will share below.
- Develop your product development plan in line with the Corporate business plan
- Agree your product development plan – (budget, requirements and more) with your Executive Management and get all stakeholders to sign off on your plan. The stakeholders include the sales team, finance team, risk management team, project management team, IT/Technical team, Customer Service, e.t.c
- Discuss and communicate your product development approach in simple terms with all stakeholders.
- Discuss and agree on your product strategy. Do you want your company to be an industry innovator, or a fast follower, or a defender, or a reactor. There are so many dependencies and requirements that will determine your product strategy.
- Agree upfront on the different goals, objectives, benefits for all products. The objectives should be SMART – (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)chievable, (R)ealistic, and (T)imely
- Identify and communicate regularly with all the stakeholders
- Note that there will always be people who will resist any change, even in the form of a new product. Identify them and seek to manage them.
- Share your product roadmap and indicate whenever there is a need to change timelines
- Communicate the need for everyone in the company to understand that getting new products to the marketplace quickly is essential for the company’s well-being and long-term survival
- Produce and share your product performance report on a regular basis.
In all this, you must have or develop the basic skills required to function successfully in your role as a Product Manager. Such skills include interpersonal skills, good communication skills, Analytical skills and more.
Note that the role of a Product Manager is richly rewarding but if not done appropriately, it can be frustrating.