This post was written by Greg Prickril, Strategic Product Management Consultant, Trainer and Coach
One of the greatest challenges product managers face is the imperative to influence other organizational functions—e.g., sales, marketing, support—who are critical to the success of the product, but over whom PMs have no formal authority. The ISPMA Framework, an end-to-end perspective on the discipline of product management, refers to related activities as “orchestration.”
I recently participated in a webinar hosted by Logi Analytics on the topic of orchestration and product management. I wanted to extend the observations I make in that webinar with a few techniques product managers can use to maximize their influence on other functions and, ultimately, the success of the product.
1. Engage others early in the roadmap and release planning processes
One of the most consistent mistakes I see product managers make in terms of engagement with other functions is involving them in critical processes far too late. Take release planning for example. It’s critical that we engage with development to understand capacity and get estimates for our proposed investments, but it’s just as important to get insight from other disciplines like sales and marketing while there is still time to influence scope.
Is there a simple feature that could unblock sales that has wandered off your radar? Is there an innovation that a competitor will introduce to the market that you’ve overlooked? Marketing might have some insight. Beyond individual features, these other stakeholders can give you fresh perspectives on scope and timing and help improve release balance, for example, evolution vs. innovation investments.
2. Propose roles and responsibilities
Good product managers take a strategic perspective on engagement with other disciplines and take the time to plan that engagement. Part of the engagement plan should involve defining exactly what’s needed from others, what tasks will require direct collaboration, and proposing a “participation model,” (such as RACI) to ensure both sides are clear on expectations. Taking an active role demonstrates leadership, garners respect, and will almost always increase your influence with others.
3. Have empathy
It’s unfortunate that our limited exposure to other disciplines’ challenges and pressures of product development can blind us to the challenges our colleagues are facing.
Has your ability to meet your financial obligations been based on whether or not a couple of deals go through? That’s the pain salespeople all over the world feel every day. Do you think you’re the only one who is given the resources you feel you need to do your job effectively? A lot of marketers feel your pain. Working too many hours under tons of pressure? Most of your colleagues feel the same way. Paradigms like Design Thinking encourage us to develop empathy for customers, but we should do the same for the folks helping us get our product to the market. A little understanding and patience can increase productivity and really pay off in the long run.
So there you go: A few simple ways to increase the influence you have with other functions.