The business environment is constantly changing.
Your company lives within an environment of constantly evolving competitor abilities, advancing technology, and increasing user demands. Your company’s capabilities and resources fluctuate within this environment.
There are many things that you cannot control, but if you adjust to your surroundings, you will be more likely to be successful than your competitors, get more customers, and mature into a successful company.
The article discusses how a product manager’s responsibilities change as a company goes through the three stages of startup, growth, and maturity. The environmental demands of each stage place different demands on the product manager. In the startup stage, the product manager must be able to work with a team of engineers to get a product off the ground quickly. In the growth stage, the product manager must be able to scale the product and manage a larger team. In the maturity stage, the product manager must be able to keep the product profitable and align with the company’s strategy.
The Startup Stage
The founders of SaaS startups not only have original ideas, but they also have the passion and conviction to turn those concepts into business realities. In an early-stage startup, the founder (usually the CEO) usually is the product master and the first product manager in the company.
As the product becomes more successful, the founder’s role in managing it becomes more important. Eventually, the CEO’s responsibilities increase to the point where they can’t manage the product and the company at the same time. This slows down decision-making, decreases the ability to pay attention to detail, and increases the demands on the business. This is when the company hires its first non-founder product manager.
The first step for this PM is to get the product’s purpose and the company’s vision for the future right. This means defining which environment the product operates in, where it fits within that environment, and where it should go next.
Understanding the jobs to be done
Many ideas are suggested during the development of a product. This type of thinking can be enjoyable and lead to great advances. However, in the early, unstable stages of a startup, it can also be dangerous and take time and focus away from the main issue your product is supposed to solve.
The jobs-to-be-done framework helps you to understand what your customers really want. This is useful because it means you can invest your resources in the areas that will give the most gain. For example, if you know that your customers want a product that will save them time, you can focus on developing features that will do this.
The Growth Stage
Your product has gotten attention and is doing well. Traffic and activation are up, and conversion rates are stronger. The market shows that your product is doing well and it is time to grow.
Growth is the process of making your product stronger and building your business. You may start to focus on things like making more money or getting more customers, but either way, you’ll need to keep growing by hiring more people and improving your product.
PMs need to change from managing daily tasks to optimize their team’s productivity and focus.
Designing the structure
The larger the team, the more difficult it is to manage it. To get everyone working together harmoniously, everyone needs to agree to a way of doing things. This way needs to break down the workload logically and show who is responsible for what. The PM is responsible for designing and making sure everyone follows this structure.
One way to improve customer experience is to organize teams around customer tasks instead of code repositories. For example, in eCommerce, there could be three teams: browse, buy, and support. The browse team would be responsible for the experience of finding products; the buying team would be responsible for the experience of purchasing products; and the support team would be responsible for the support experience, including the help, contact, and user account pages.
Giving teams ownership over an end-to-end experience helps them design better solutions by allowing them to understand the problem space more deeply. Having ownership of a specific area can also be motivating and help create stronger relationships within each team.
Maturity and the Future
Once your product is established and users are aware of its purpose and value, growth may slow but should never come to a complete stop.
The future of product management involves constantly trying new things to see if there are any additional growth opportunities that exist within the current environment or beyond it. It is the responsibility of the product manager to realize that even if the product is doing well, there is always room for improvement. Therefore, the product manager should encourage a culture that is ambitious and always striving to get better.
The text is discussing how a product will eventually reach a point where it is performing at its best and it becomes increasingly difficult to make improvements. The author is saying that in order to continue growing, you need to find a new and better way to do things, even if it means taking risks.
At Google, they think about how they can improve what they do by a factor of 10, rather than by the standard 10%. This method challenges them to think in terms of revolutionary change rather than evolutionary change to find the next big thing.
Rather than view the other players in your industry as competition, you should see them as a flock of birds all heading in the same direction. Instead of following them, you need to become an “antilock” and go as far in the opposite direction as possible. This will allow you to discover a completely new value.
The Product Management Role
We’ve said before that not all good managers make good leaders, but all good leaders must be good managers. In this section, we’ll discuss how the roles of product manager and product leader overlap.
Primarily because the role itself is incredibly broad and varied, a product manager needs skills in areas like business, UX, and technology.
The vision for the product is set by the product manager. They need to do research on the market, customer, and problem the customer is trying to solve. They need to get information from feedback, data, research reports, and market trends. They also need to be creative to define a vision for the product.
The manager’s job is to ensure that the vision for the product is communicated and understood throughout the company and to lead the team in implementing it. In order for this to be effective, the manager must be invested in the vision and be able to get excited about it themselves. If they are not, it may be a sign that the vision is not clear enough or that they are in the wrong job.
The product manager must then create a plan that details how to improve the product so that it meets the final vision. This plan should include problem validation and iterative design and development. When the product manager communicates the vision for the product, it should motivate the team to come up with better designs, code, and solutions to the customer’s problem.
At this point, the process becomes very focused and specific, as the product manager works constantly with the development team, making sure the product meets all the necessary requirements. The manager is responsible for ensuring the product is constantly improving, solving any problems that arise, and keeping track of the project to make sure it’s completed on time and within the allocated budget.
After the product is released, the product manager should analyze data and talk to customers to see if the product actually solved the problem it was supposed to. They should also determine if customers understand the value of the product and if they would be willing to pay for it. If not, the product manager would have to start the process over again.
Product managers and leaders in larger, more mature organizations are usually working on several products or features at once, at different stages in their life cycle. They move back and forth between strategy and tactics as needed, rather than following a waterfall process for each individual product or feature.
This context switching is something that Ellen Chisa, VP of product at Lola, sees as a key part of the product manager’s role. She describes it as constantly moving between the big-picture view and the very detailed view.
Mina Radhakrishnan, the first head of products at Uber, believes that the product manager should work with everyone else to come up with a plan for the product and explain why it should work that way, rather than being the one making all the decisions.
Product management is essential for a company’s success because it ensures that all the departments are working together effectively. This can be a challenge for product managers, who need to be skilled in persuasion, negotiation, and communication.
Product leaders need to present and communicate their ideas to others in clear, concise ways – often referred to as ‘soft skills’. However, as entrepreneur and best-selling author Seth Godin points out, these skills are actually very important and shouldn’t be underestimated. He suggests that we should call them ‘real skills’ instead of ‘soft skills’, as they are just as important as the vocational skills that are measured by a graduate degree.
Evolution is inevitable, growth is optional
Today, product managers and companies are facing more complex challenges with SaaS than ever before. With things like changing market dynamics, customer preferences, increased competition, and higher costs all happening at the same time as their product evolves, it’s becoming difficult to keep up.
There are many external factors that make it difficult to grow a successful business. With awareness and continual adaptation, product managers can react to the stage and capabilities of their company as well as the environment it operates in.
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