Product Manager in a corporation. What one can and should do

Gleb Gavrilyuk
November 20, 2019
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The step-by-step instruction “What makes a good Product Manager” can hardly help you reach the goal by itself. Let’s try to figure out Product Manager skills and attributes that are important for creating a profitable product.

The step-by-step instruction “What makes a good Product Manager” can hardly help you reach the goal by itself. You can alter the famous phrase from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “All unsuccessful Product Managers have something in common; every good Product Manager is successful in his own way.” Let’s try to figure out Product Manager skills and attributes that are important for creating a profitable product.

You can’t win if you are afraid to lose

If you work as a Product Manager in a large company and you have to decide between an innovative decision and a low-risk one, you will probably choose the second. It’s clear that the larger a company is, the greater are the risks. But if a Product Manager plans to bring his product to a new level – he or she should be able to take the risk. Okay, then how much risk can you handle?

Are we talking about a change of a color of the interface? About a new payment method with the Ether cryptocurrency? This is where a certain person makes the decision, and his or her persuasion is capable to change the product development. In fact, many people are involved in a decision-making process in a corporation: you need to persuade the top-level managers that the decision is right.

Do large budgets lead to big profits? Not always. And yet, it is easier to scale the idea if the company can provide the budget. It is surely easier to get the sufficient funding in you can prove the efficiency of the idea to the top management. In this case, Product Managers of large companies get more opportunities than Product Specialists of start-ups. If the concept is right, then along with additional finance, you get intellectual resource. Scaling up, entering new markets, working with new audiences … In a big company there is a team of experts for each case.

Little ones don’t like bureaucracy

Corporations have got policies and procedures for all occasions. Even those that are unlikely to happen. All the processes are so well organised, that work organisation can hardly create problems for enterprise Product Manager. Employees are annoyed by hundreds of established procedures, asking themselves what for? Remember: procedures can help your project or ruin it. Just make sure you have the first case. Let it be Scrum or Kanban. Agile methods, despite heavy criticism, are efficient and working successfully. For example, let’s look at the case we had with our client Leroy Merlin.

Our team at Nullgravity was responsible for the mobile application development, but Leroy Merlin had already had two vendors on the project. The first vendor had been responsible for a web version of the e-store and for transferring the data from the network to the mobile API. The second vendor had been responsible for the API. Nothing special, but vendors’ teams used two different methodologies: the first one preferred Kanban, the second one – only Scrum. Definitely, this had been affecting communication between teams, and not for the better. All of the development had to go through the web developers: they received all the updates, conducted code review and passed it to the API. Teams could not be in line with each other: the end of the sprint for the mobile team wasn’t matching the workflow of the other team.

Kanban guys had been trying to adjust to the second team, so they have removed sprints. At the same time, it was still difficult to predict the workload of the web team and the date for releasing new features. Both teams needed a communications coordinator and our Nullgravity devs took over that role.

When we found out the details on how both teams were processing tasks, we decided to return sprints. It became easier to plan a workload and release. After lots of meetings and discussions of various options for convenient interaction, we have eventually saved hundreds of hours for communications and limited the risk of releases’ failure.

The web team still continued to work by Kanban, but they had a special team member that could review our code at any time. After the code review, guys could plan the release date. The API development team had been continuing to use sprints. Thus, we were able to build the final working process by trial and error. That’s the only way to get things done!

There is no exact framework that fits any situation. Always look for ways to interact with the current processes within a company.

Experts, experts, experts everywhere

A Product Manager of a small company or a start-up often has to work beyond his direct job responsibilities. Sometimes he needs to take over the tasks of business analyst, UX/UI designer, etc. Focus is lost on lots of small tasks, and this setup makes you upset, despite compliance and agility.

A Product Manager in a corporation, on the other hand, always has a team to rely on. You get support and professional reviews of all kind. A Marketing Department that consists of hundreds of people, generates traffic and leads. Dozens of experts are ready to attend conferences all over the world to establish new business contacts. And in general, outsourcing (for example, outsource app development) is not a problem for corporations!

The only thing that should be remembered in this case is how to sync the efforts with your colleagues. It is essential for you to communicate with your colleagues from other departments. You should spend at least 70% of your time on communication with product development and promotion teams, as well as communication with the end user. Although this is a difficult task that requires extra efforts, remember: you have everything you need to create a successful product. The resources! Both material and human.

Technical and other support

Corporate Product Manager has to delve into processes and details of a product. You definitely need to remain a strategist, but don’t forget to be a part of each team. Especially when it comes to Customer Support. The only right approach in this case is to get involved into support process and direct customer communications. One of the main advantages is that large companies have ever-increasing client database, which can be used as the basis for consumer analysis. Having large client database with several “access points”- whether this is Online Support, or Service Center, or Corporate Store – a corporation gives you an opportunity to evaluate your users’ experience from many sides. Communicate with them directly! At least once a week monitor your users’ feedback and articulate your personal response to users.

Establish connections and expand

I’m talking about the network that each and every professional is building, starting from the CEO to a PR Manager. A Product Manager, as the top guys from Silicon Valley say, is the “mini-CEO” of a product. Doesn’t a good manager need to learn from others’ experience? Especially negative one, because learning on other people’s mistakes is both wiser and more pleasant. Although it’s rarely done.

Create your own blog, visit relevant platforms, get to know the right people. If you work in a large corporation, you are probably interested in the experience of your colleagues from smaller companies. And vice versa as well.

Learning comes from mistakes, first of all – from your own

Having an informal chat with one of the top managers of the product company, I found out that a lot of companies take over experience of their Western colleagues, particularly, they recruit people with a list of failed projects. Yes, you’ve read it right. Bosses are interested in stories of product development failures not less than in project success. Since the product failed, as its manager, have got the most important thing – experience of what should not be done. So do not be afraid to make mistakes. It’s inevitable.

Inspire and engage

In order to create innovative, profitable products, you need to have courage, persistence and great personal charisma. Having come up with an idea for a product, be brave enough to implement it. When you face new challenges: scaling up, implementing new technologies, entering the unfamiliar market – be persistent and do not give up. As for great personal charisma …

You and only you should inspire people to create product. Think of a music band: the front-man is always considered to be the soul of the band. And no matter how good the musicians are, a song without an inspiring lead singer won’t be successful. So rock on and inspire others. Because nobody but you!

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