What is actually the first thing to do as a new product manager? This material is for you, or you can send it to someone who is new in the role as product manager. If you already are an experienced product manager this can help you reflect on your position.
I often meet product managers who have just taken on their new role or are about to take it on. Many times the picture of the actual work tasks is unclear. Even more common is a lack of support for approaching the work.
There are many who want to influence a product manager and to control his/her time. During the initial phase it is at the same time important to establish the mandate and authority you need in order to achieve changes in a long-term perspective.
I will divide the initial phase in three parts. “GET TO KNOW”, “UNDERSTAND” and “CREATE”. These don’t describe the work chronologically. But this is one way to structure the work.
GET TO KNOW...first 30 days
GET TO KNOW THE COMPANY
You have started working at a new company. A new business card. A new phone. A new trademark. What core values do you represent? What vision is to be realized?
Try to arrange a meeting with members of the management team. Even if you will not work directly with them. As a new employee you have the possibility to get access without having to report. Take this opportunity and go for lunch with the CEO.
GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE
The role as product manager requires that you work through others. You have to identify and get to know the people who you will cooperate with. Every person has opinions and ideas on how things should be improved. Listen to that. And even more important is to understand what’s driving them. Why do they want to make the changes? Initially, create your own picture of the reasons. That will make it easier for you to prioritize in step two.
- Speak with everybody involved
- Understand your role at the company
- Listen to the organization
GET TO KNOW THE PRODUCT
As a product manager you are an expert on your product. Maybe not down to the tiniest detail, but you are expected to know a lot about your product. Your knowledge will not be used primarily for you to answer questions. It is for you to be able to lead others. The knowledge is needed to build your trademark, improve trust, and to enable communication with development, sales, supply department, and customers.
- Build knowledge about the product
- Understand the business model
- Place the product in a value chain
- Know the limits
- Read read read – Structure – analyze
- Look over the processes connected to the product
- Define ongoing projects
Within six months you are no longer an outsider. Utilize your spotless mind by looking into your message with the perspective of a customer or partner.
- Participate with a spotless mind in a sales presentation
- Review the marketing material
UNDERSTAND CUSTOMERS AND THE MARKET
When you are entering as product manager you can utilize your ignorance as an advantage in meetings with customers. Taking the chance to influence you, they will open up a little more to you. Especially if there are some problematic customers, take the chance to attentively listen to them. However, do not make any promises!
- Carry out several customer meetings
- Structure the comments
CREATE A VICTORY
Show your ability to take action and build your trademark by quickly identifying areas of priority and dare communicate them within your organization. But be sure you will be able to bring results. A limited result is better than no result at all.
- Define ONE (1) short-term goal
- Identify all key people
- Make the key people take the same journey toward the same goal
CREATE YOUR PERSONAL CAPITAL
You cannot do everything on your own. You need to get support from the right people. Not only support from your manager and the manager’s manager. It can might as well be the most important developer or salesperson. Identify and work on your professional relations.
You will drive changes. Work for change requires trust. Build your trust capital through knowledge. Knowledge not only of your product, but also knowledge about the organization, processes and market.
Build respect for your word. Don’t waste it on wrong things.
We have saved the best for the last.
I have discussed M&A with researchers. What is defining a great integration? The answer is to be found in the planning and execution. We need to show the organizations that the acquisition is successful. We will then be able to build the needed trust in the organizations.
The same is valid for you. Plan for success directly when you start the job. What will define success in your role? What are the indicators for success? Identify them. Define three deliverables for your first six months proving success. This will give you the ability to act and truly make a difference. The deliverables can be a new release, a committed roadmap, new sales, an upgraded website, new marketing material, etc. It should be clearly understood as well as longed for by the organization.
Success is not a thing that happens it a thing you plan!