Product Managers, Ask Yourself These 5 Questions

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At Galvanize, we’re putting a whole new spin on Study Hall with monthly, members-only sessions. At every Study Hall, industry all-stars present on one of three topics –– growth, funding, or product –– and collaborate with Galvanizers to spur innovation, solve problems, and harness the power of our dynamic startup community.

We had the pleasure of inviting Mike Lewis, Business Travel Product Manager at Airbnb, to discuss all things product management at our last Study Hall. Prior to Airbnb, he co-founded several companies, like Kapost, and has worked extensively through the product creation and roadmap process.

Mike began the Study Hall by talking about the mission vs. the vision and how important it is to understand the difference between the two. “Vision is where you want to be, mission is where you are now. And without a clear vision, it’s difficult to understand where you want to be.” The company depends on the Product Manager to have a clear understanding of the company vision in order to be able to move the product forward.

He broke it down into 5 primary areas a Product Manager must be knowledgeable in order to create a clear vision and product roadmap for the company:

  1. What is your knowledge of the market?
  2. What is your understanding of what the companies needs?
  3. What is the company’s strategy?
  4. Do you know your competitor’s strategy?
  5. What are the industry trends? How are you keeping up to date with them?

After working to establish a clear vision for the company what is the Product Manager’s actual role in helping to facilitate that?

Here’s what a Product Manager should actually be doing to move closer towards that vision:

  • Plan/prioritize the company roadmap monthly, quarterly, and yearly based on the size of your company and needs
  • Access what’s not happening and clearly articulate what is NOT going on the product roadmap
  • Allow enough time for product to ship by giving double estimates (doubling the amount of time needed for a product release) making sure to leave some time for that one little thing that might have been missed
  • Develop and build out project requirements and project management. Determine what you would like to achieve by the end of the week, month, quarter, and year
  • Release and promote by preparing pre-messaging for customers, scheduling and managing release times with internal teams and sales so everyone is on the same page
  • Hire a data scientist to measure results, a/b test, and measure adoption. If you’re failing to meet metrics, it’s due to, use case, the implementation is wrong (tends to be this), the demand from the customer wasn’t what they envisioned or your success metric was miscalculated. Take the time to course correct, otherwise, all is for naught.
  • Listen to customers and collect feedback. This is critical.   

Think of a Product Manager at a startup like a one man band vs. a conductor of an orchestra for a larger company. Typically a Product Manager’s background falls into business, design, or tech, and intersects in the middle of these categories. Product Managers tend to be strong in one area and weak in another. If your Product Manager doesn’t have a strong background in wireframing be sure to hire a designer who can fill that gap so their skill sets can complement each other. 

We’re excited to invite Mike back for a workshop in early March where he will be breaking down the process of how to create a product roadmap all the way from creation to measuring the success of your launch.

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