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Expectations from a product manager

Great Expectations

Product managers like many other professionals are strapped for time and are juggling priorities right through the day. This constant shuffling of tasks comes with the job as the PM has to deal with matters on many fronts, overseeing the BAU activities of their product portfolio, working through projects that are in flight and engaging with customers, sales and other stakeholders.

Product managers are often pressed to address issues almost instantly and are expected to solve problems quickly. You will find in spite of all the deadlines product managers try and accommodate everyones request to the best of their ability. They do this because of the need to maintain strong relationships across the company and demonstrate transparency. In short the product manager actually can't afford to piss any one off.

Here are a list of expectations product managers have from their co-workers, teams and managers. Some of these items may seem obvious but a product manager will tell you they waste reasonable amount of time being unproductive due to these situations occurring. If you work with product managers then these points are for your consideration. In an amusing way you can also treat these as a Wishlist!

  1. Meetings and emails : Respect our time and the fact that we need time to prepare. We expect you to schedule meetings during working hours. We know what an urgent issue looks like and will get to you as early as possible. If it really cant wait then call.

  2. New ideas : Our creative juices can spark an idea at any time and we do rely on our gut instincts at times. Allow us to pitch the idea quickly, don't make us wait weeks and go through the bureaucracy and template filling exercise. It kills the joy and we loose interest in pursuing the idea. Think of Shark Tank and Dragons Den - thats how we would like to get the ideas out.

  3. Experimentation : Give us a budget to experiment and build features outside of what customers want. Allow us the latitude to try new things and see what works in a controlled environment. The best way to accelerate is to try and fail fast so that we can pivot.

  4. Collaboration : Successful product delivery is a team sport, it requires people to take accountability and responsibility for their work without the PM having to chase everyone to get things moving. We should all be driven to delight customers by contributing in whatever way we can.

  5. When things go wrong : If something does not work the way it is supposed to then raise it to the PM directly. There is no point making a mountain out a molehill. Often things can be fixed quickly without the drama.

  6. Follow ups : Since we work with tight schedules as what we do directly impacts customers we do ask that you respond to our requests on time. Its okay if you dont have a complete response, it helps us to know that the activity is on your radar.

  7. Prioritization goes two ways : While we welcome feature requests to go into the backlog, at times we need you to also define the priority. Not everything makes the cut, so If I ask your to prioritize it means you have to decide whats important and take accountability for that.

  8. Be clear on the problem : Ideas are plenty but they need to be solving real world problems. Don't come to us with a requirement if you don't know what problem needs to be solved, and don't expect us to validate that for you. Product managers we work alone without any spare hands to help, so help us in being razor sharp on what we should be focusing on.

  9. We cant show you the money : We do not control the financial outlook and the revenue of the product a 100%, we can only attempt to influence positive outcomes by delivering products which customers would use and be willing to pay for. Mostly we can tell you where we are heading. In times such as the pandemic we definitely are left to the mercy of out customers and so please expect a financial impact.

  10. Nothings free in life : Everything costs money no matter how small the request is. Someone has to spend time designing, analyzing and building. So don't expect we can squeeze in features for free.

  11. Some things take time : Elicitation of requirements and stripping through user stories and validating customer problems require deep focus and time. We cant compress these activities beyond a certain point.

  12. Sometimes it just doesn't make commercial sense : At times we have to turn down feature requests because the cost outweighs the benefits. Trust us! Don't let this be a debate and get into escalation mode. If you think the items has commercial viability bring us in front of customers to validate or demonstrate the impact to the business if nothing is done about it.

  13. Do not speak to engineering directly: It may be quite tempting to go to engineering directly to get something done. This is not acceptable at all. There is process which we follow to ensure engineers do not get distracted and remain focused with the task at hand. All requests must go through product.

  14. Reports and Data: We can spend all our time giving you analytics and creating new ones, but this is not the best use of our time. If you need complex analytics then lets invest in the right systems and reporting tools so that this can be self serviced.

  15. Competition and Comparisons: If you know what competitors are doing then share that information with us. We would love to work with you and figure out what we do better and what more we can do to keep our customers happy. Your access to market intelligence and insights is valuable and can help shape the direction of our products.

With the pandemic requiring a more efficient use of everyones time, you can certainly help the product managers by being mindful of the above items. There is a lot of tears and sweat which are experienced in managing products which outsiders do not see. By working as a team we can deliver better products and outcomes for our business and customers.

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