I have thoroughly enjoyed my first month or so as a Product Manager for Sage 300. It has been quite eventful and occasionally stressful. I have learned quite a lot these past few weeks. Here are some insights from my new career to date:
1. A solid product is not enough to ensure a good release: Ensuring operational excellence on the go to market side is essential to build excitement. We could have done better with our distribution of the launch and exacerbated the problems with our messaging. We wasted valuable energy on fire-fighting instead of celebrating the new features and functionality which dissipated some of the positive energy about the release.
2. I am no longer a member of R&D: My first major meeting with R&D as a Product Manager was eventful. I was literally and metaphorically “in the corner” grilled on the project priorities for the upcoming release. We had a robust conversation. I am under no illusion that I can expect challenges on changes to the schedule when they occur as they inevitably will.
3. I need to be decisive and accountable: The amount of waste due to the inability to make decisions in R&D is very frustrating. Many times there is no obvious answer. Priorities can often change which means a decision that was right a few weeks ago no longer seems so good. Naturally people don’t like to make decisions in this type of environment with predictable consequences to productivity. The team encountered a roadblock. We discussed the challenge, I heard the various recommendations and made the call. The team was able to move on and implement. I made clear that responsibility for the decision lies with me if stakeholders complain later. (Let’s hope I made the right call!)
4. Important disruptive changes are sometimes necessary: We had the opportunity to deliver new functionality that would significantly increase the value to customers on maintenance. It was a last-minute change that severely impacted R&D’s planning for the upcoming release. We made the change anyway. The people in R&D I have spoken with support the change now that they have additional information. The team is hungry to know more about the business and our strategy. I plan to explain the change to the entire team at the next sprint review. I want to help R&D understand how crucial they are to helping us achieve our business goals.
5. It’s very easy to spend my entire mired in operational tasks: Given the product was just released it is entirely natural to spend A LOT of time answering questions about the new product. It feels rewarding to help so many stakeholders. It is important for Product Management to think strategically and ensure the product remains commercially attractive in the market. I need to carve out time to focus on learning my markets and customers to better serve them. It’s very easy to not focus here especially when I have a strong counterpart in Product Marketing.