In the concluding section of the blog series related to new product development, I want to focus on the essential traits of a Product Manager required for new product development. At least my take on new product development is that the Product Manager should imbibe the following qualities for a successful product development. The below qualities are in-general required for a Product Manager
- Technology Awareness/Market Awareness/Customer Awareness
- Embrace Tough Decisions
- Meticulous Planning
- Attention to Details
- Knowing the Constraints
Please note that the above qualities are not listed in any specific order of importance.
Technology Awareness/Market Awareness/Customer Awareness
Product Managers should have a stronger understanding of 3 elements (technology, market, and customer) and I believe it is the fundamental requirement for any Product Manager. I split customer and market because it makes sense in case of B2B product. Product Managers should have complete knowledge about the characteristics of their target market and how they are using the product. Marketing awareness is more about competition (how competition is currently positioned and how they are evolving?) and trends (how new technology trends would impact the evolution of the product?). For me market and customers are probably two sides of the same coin, I mostly believe that your customers will help you to gain a short term view of how the product should evolve while market will provide a long term view. Product Managers need not have diploma in Computer Science but they should hold necessary acumen to grasp the technology aspect related to the product, when it comes to technology awareness Product Managers are expected to be more of Generalists than Specialists. For instance, in case of IoT, Product Managers should be at least be aware of what is IoT and how it will impact the way the customers use the devices and how the devices could possibly communicate to render new value proposition. Unless Product Manager imbibe all the 3 qualities, I don’t see foresee how a Product Manager could build a new product vision and communicate it effectively to all the stake holders. In addition, Product Manager should facilitate consensus among all the stake holders on the new product vision.
Embrace tough decisions
New product development will invariably have surprises and Product Manager would be sprung with surprise from all corners (and it happens too often). Meticulous planning can only minimize those surprises and it cannot be eliminated completely. Few surprises might be in the form of vendors’ inability to deliver their components as promised, vendors’ inability to support components for the perceived lifetime of the product, cost escalation, new technology not performing as expected, reduction in marketing budget, inability of the product to meet certain standards, competition launching superior product. So Product Managers should be geared to take some quick tough decision and make some trade-offs on need basis. To do so, Product Manager should be well informed about the market, technology and customer. Such awareness can help product manager to take quick and informed decisions, for instance they can quickly cut down certain features to roll the product on time still retaining the value proposition and appeal of the new product.
Attention to details
Product manager has to demonstrate lots of attention to every facet of new product development (business review, PRD, pricing, GTM etc) even for aspects as trivial as labelling, packaging etc. While submitting the business or pricing proposal for new product or reviewing PRD, Product Manager has to pay utmost attention to details, so the proposals or reviews are infallible and Product Manager gets them right the 1st time reducing iterative cycles and thereby avoiding delay. In addition, the focus should also be on how the product is built. PRD would contain information on what to build and why to build, but it will not have any details on how to build. PRD will utmost provide only guidelines for how. During the development, Product Manager has to keep a tab on how the product is built, periodically review the product characteristics (color, shape, design etc) and product features, and finally share the feedback without waiting until the final product is built. Great product could be built only through relentless attention to details and zero-tolerance to mediocrity.
There are tons of activities that are performed by Product Manager from ideation till launch and during this time frame Product Manager has to dedicate his attention to entire gamut of activities consisting of product development, product naming, legal, pricing, GTM, compliance, intellectual property, royalty, supply-chain, manufacturing, distribution channels, product documentation, marketing collateral, ordering, beta trials, vendor management etc. Unless Product Manager meticulously plan those activities and derive a precise plan on how to time manage those activities, he will not be able to provide due attention to each of them and implications will be palpable post the product launch.
One important role that a Product Manager should play is an effective facilitator and the significance of this role is even more critical during new product development. Product Manager have to work has if there are no real boundaries to their role. In simple words, Product Managers has to help others get things done while he does not lose focus on his own set of responsibilities. For instance, Product Manager should never ask the development team to cross the bridge to understand the requirements of the customers. Instead Product Manager performs the job and let development team focus on the actual product development. Product Managers while being unreasonable and ruthless in demanding more from the development team, he also needs to provide a shield or protective cover to the team from unnecessary deviations.
Knowing the constraints
Everywhere resources are limited and even the flagship product of any organization would get only finite resources. ‘Resource limitation’ is universal fact, every Product Manager has to confront this reality and still ensure how he could take advantage of available resources (time, headcount, or $ budget etc) to create a vision of the new product and realize the vision. So it does not suffice if Product Manager could create a vision of the new product, he has to be aware of the constraints and should have a clear understanding of how to execute the new product vision within the boundaries of the constraints. Product Manager should never whine about the constraints.
Self-Starter and Persistence
Self-starter attitude should be a primary quality of Product Manager because there is none better than Product Manager to spot the opportunity. Even after the launch of the new product, self-starter qualities alone will trigger Product Manager to generate demand, identify white spaces etc to expand the revenue opportunities of the product. While self-starter quality could act as a catalyst for lot of product initiatives, persistence of a Product Manager would enable them to have the urge to find solutions for any obstacles that stands in the way of accomplishing the initiative. Self-starter and persistence are two qualities that should always go hand-in-hand.
Final Word: Product Manager is the face of the product and he has to rally everyone to create a unified vision of the new product. Even though the role of the Product Manager in successfully building new product is inevitable, Product Managers has to realize that the product is built by a team and he has to let the team take the credit for the success of the new product.