Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Winning Product Manager: The Organized PM

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One of the things I stressed to PMs I worked with is the importance of being on top of your product, having the verbal and written supporting knowledge and materials. You have many constituents (internally and externally), most don't report to you. Your job is to acquire their confidence in you, and maintain it. Being organized and knowledgeable helps a lot.
It also helps you. If you're nearly as successful as you want to be, there will be immense pressure from all constituents to consume your documents. You're helping yourself if you can find them quickly.
Therefore, my recommendation is to keep an organized folder of updated documents that describe your product in details:
  • Business aspects
    • Complete P&L excel of your product: know all of your product expenses (CAPEX, OPEX), know the pricing structure of your product (sold independent and as part of the portfolio), and your margins in different deal levels. Know your current expenses and revenues.
    • Business Plan: Know the sales forecast of your product, by sales team, region, deal size etc. Base your assumption on current user base. 
    • Top customer and lead analysis: know your top customers perfectly. Document monthly calls/meetings with them. Document their top 10 requests and describe their roadmap and your translation into what it means to your product. Know their contract, and usage of the product. Note the top prospects for your product. Who is chasing them, what's stopping them from signing, what product and/or business gaps exist.
    • Competitive analysis: note your current and future competition. Where you stand compared to them, what areas reflect most on your customers and prospects. Note investment areas by VC and analyst coverage.
  • Product
    • Product requirements and/or backlog: without going too much into SCRUM methodology, I believe every product manager should know by heart the required features for the next 12 months ('H1') and his customer needs on a quarterly level. If you're doing waterfall, 2 releases should be covered at 90% confidence. If you're doing waterfall, the top requirements on the backlog should be covered at the same level. Here, clarity is gold.
    • Roadmap: Describe H1, H2, H3. H1 should be, as said, 90% confidence. You know you're getting it. H2 (12-36 months from now) at 75% and H3 (goes up to about 4 years away) at 50%. Strategic insight from analysts, industry and your vision are key here. Give execs a sense you know what you're doing not only at a tactical level but also strategically. 
    • Key support cases: Many times PMs forget support (the 'ugly' side of customer interaction). In my view the number of support cases relates directly to your ability to control churn and gain more traction. The list of support cases is a key driver to immediate fixes or highest-priority requirements in next release/cycle.
  • Marketing collateral
    • Product brief, Portfolio brief, on a technical, value and business level: PPTs, one-page brief and the likes. It's not an overkill to have a version of PPT that can be delivered verbally, and one that's designed to be read offline. Ensure you cover business benefits and how your product integrates in the portfolio to drive a holistic solution, which is better than the competition.
    • Customer use cases & references: Create compelling & educational evidence of how your customers gain value, increase productivity and RoI using your product.
    • Some thought-leadership topics: if you were invited to a conference today, what would you talk about? What can you say that is A- thought provoking, B- you're pretty much the only one who could back it up with data and C- that is interesting and valuable to the outside world. Have 2-3 topics like that in your back pocket.
A product manager who has that collateral in their folder, is someone who, in my view, is on top of their product. Needless to say, backup and version control are key. You will have many versions of each of these ;)

What do you think? what else should be part of the product manager folder?

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