After spending years studying product management from every angle, we at Actuation Consulting have identified six areas where it is common for product managers to face speed bumps. These six areas are the subjects of my blog post this week.
What makes a product manager’s job especially challenging in today’s marketplace:
Six Challenges Product Managers Face
1 – Overwhelming Time Constraints
One of the first things many new product managers notice is the multiple demands pulling on their time that never seem to let up. There is a lot you need to learn in a short time to meet management’s and your team’s demands. After all, the expectation is that you will quickly become the definitive expert on your product and market. Be ready to stay your course as people around you pull in different directions. The sooner you learn to balance needs and expectations, identify promising market opportunities and create a strong vision for your product’s future, the more you will enjoy your job.
2 – Temptation to Be a Reactive Instead of Proactive Product Manager
With so many different team members pulling your attention in different directions, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of running from fire to fire, quelling emergencies as they erupt. In order for you to be an effective product manager, you need to keep your eye on your overarching goals and objectives, the things that are going to have a profound impact for your company and your personal future. A good rule of thumb is to devote 80 percent of your time to the 20 percent of activities that will materially impact your product’s success and your organization’s.
3 – Lack of Control in Product Management
To maximize your effectiveness as a product manager it helps to have profit and loss responsibilities. Yet, many companies do not give their product managers this vital tool. Even if your organization gives you P&L responsibility, you are going to need to work through others to accomplish your goals. You’ll need to be able to build consensus and support from others within your organization. Form as many mutually beneficial relationships with others in key positions as possible.
4 – Tension Between Your Short and Long-Term Product Management Objectives
In order to achieve top results with their products, effective product managers operate with both a forward-looking product strategy and a short-term tactical plan for dealing with more immediate concerns. Be aware: with their shorter deadlines and stronger sense of urgency, short-term tactical projects can steal away valuable time from the important larger vision and long-term objective work you need to aggressively pursue. As a fully engaged product manager, you need to learn to balance your time and obligations and develop strong collaborative and conflict resolution skills. These will serve you well when the pressure is high and deadlines loom.
5 – Varying Opinions About the Direction to Take Products
Everyone on your team is going to have an opinion about the best way to develop your product and get it into the market. Many employees feel passionate about their approach and will defend it with pit-bull-like ferocity. As product manager, you need to keep the team and your decisions centered on facts. Facts must always trump opinion in decision-making. Learn to deal graciously with differing ideas and personalities, and always draw the team back to the facts that will ultimately decide your direction.
6 – Changing Market Dynamics Impacting Product Management
The one thing you can count on in product management and in life is change. New competitors emerge. Product advancements appear from new sources. Your customers’ needs change. All these can impact the success of your product and ultimately your company. Efforts you make to understand the market and its trends and identify potential risks and opportunities will help protect your organization. Always be alert for the unexpected so you can quickly adjust course when needed.
In my upcoming posts, watch for the latest and best tips for dealing effectively with these six challenges product managers face and other ways to improve your effectiveness as a product manager. Together, these ideas can be a road map to your success in product management.