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Product managers: The missing ingredient to success?

Michael Torres
© Shutterstock / kan_chana

Product managers are essential for a company’s long-term success, setting the foundation for a company to operate at scale. Michael Torres explains why product managers are no longer a luxury.

There is a difference between building the product right and building the right product. Companies often struggle with this premise, working overtime to deliver something that is well-built, user-centered, and positioned to achieve revenue goals — but never quite hitting the mark.

It’s not uncommon to see young companies fall into the trap of layering more people, ideas and features onto a product, instead of stepping back and setting a cohesive vision that everyone can work toward together. With a product manager focused on identifying and managing goals, setting communication strategy and leading delivery, the entire team can work faster and more efficiently, while meeting user needs and stakeholder expectations.

Establishing a defined product vision and strategy

Ninety-seven percent of employees and executives argue that poor team alignment impacts the outcome of a project.

A clear vision is the key to alignment, strategy, and, ultimately, delivering the right product. Establishing a tangible vision is critical, as it serves as a barometer for the team, displaying how the achievements are matching up against their original targets.

Product managers work to get every stakeholder and team member on the same page by creating alignment on the product vision with defined goals, and ensuring everyone is marching in lockstep toward the same marks. This added level of structure and definition go a long way to making the work easier, as everybody can answer these three questions:

  • What is the problem the product is solving (and why is it important)?
  • What is the impact (and how to measure it)?
  • How do we get there (strategy)?

The structure provided by product managers also prevents teams from becoming isolated in the process of product development. While some organizations make failed attempts at aligning the engineering and design workstreams at the end of the process, effective product managers will have the two teams working in tandem from early stage ideation to delivery.

Additionally, establishing a structured product vision increases the level of flexibility and agility among teams. With an overarching, defined product vision with clear goals, metrics and strategy guiding the teams, engineers and designers are able to work freely, with a clear understanding of what other teams are working on with relation to the overall product goals.

Streamlining communication

A recent study conducted by the Product Management Institute (PMI) found that the most crucial success factor in project management is effective communication to all stakeholders. The study also revealed that ineffective communication is the primary cause of project failure one third of the time.

Effective communication remains one of the most crucial components of project success. It is absolutely critical that all stakeholders involved in a project are kept in the know with accurate information, and are consulted on any successes or setbacks, and are aligned on any learnings along the way. Transparency among stakeholders helps to ensure that the progress made is in line with the overall mapping of the vision. These insights can prove useful in making decisions concerning product features, increasing revenue, pivoting strategies, and meeting larger product goals.

Successful organizations routinely create formal communications plans for projects, and work toward automating them to help scale the product effort. Those who do risk 14 times fewer dollars than unsuccessful organizations, according to the PMI study. Unsurprisingly, the companies with the most success are also the most communicative.

Ensuring future growth + scalability

Product managers are essential for a company’s long-term success, setting the foundation for a company to operate at scale. Without product managers getting teams aligned and working toward a sustainable product infrastructure (vision, goals, metrics, strategy, communications), it is extremely difficult to achieve goals and add more people into the fold to help push the product forward. Product managers lay the groundwork on which to build a collaborative, synergetic team capable of achieving goals, introducing new team members, and scaling efforts.

For companies looking to grow their product and meet users’ needs, product managers are no longer a luxury – they are a necessity.

Author

Michael Torres

Over the last 10 years, Michael Torres has successfully built products and product teams in both the private and government sectors. He specializes in transforming legacy products and processes, and is helping clients regain ownership of outcomes by implementing product management best practices.


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