As a product manager, you are responsible for every stage in the product life cycle, from conception to decline. As a product manager who just joined a new team and has to manage a product that has gone through iterations and has customers actively using it, how do you manage and keep such products performing well in a competitive marketplace? What strategies will you employ to be your competitive advantage for a mature product in a saturated marketplace?
For our September Webinar, we had 2 seasoned Product Management professionals, Yewande Oyebo and Ayodeji Fasore talk to us about Managing Matured Products. It was insightful with a lot of learning and tips we could apply in our roles.
The webinar started with a quick welcome and an overview of ProductDive then we proceeded to the discussion for the day, with Ayodeji and Yewande giving their presentations first and then proceeding to answer questions after.
Ayodeji Fasore – Strategic Product Activities for PMs
“A wise man once said, ‘great product management is 60% substance and 40% style’”, this was how Ayodeji started his session. The focus of his talk was on strategic product activities for Product Managers managing matured products and working with cross-functional teams. He shared with us some strategic product activities which includes:
1. Insight: Insights are activities used to get information. Information from the market, the customer, the competitor, and from the product performance. This involves:
– Market Research: Gaining insights into the market for your product.
– Customer Research: Getting insights from customers and prospects.
– Competitive Research: Getting insights into competitive products and companies. After researching your market and customers, you need to also research your competitors.
– Product Performance: Understanding how the product is performing and what users are doing.
2. Analysis: Analysis involves dissecting the information you have gotten from external sources. After gathering insights, you need to understand and analyse the information you’ve gathered. You need to do some sort of segmentation so you understand which product you are offering to which segment of the market.
You need to have several propositions so you can diversify your portfolio. For positioning,you need to understand how people see or perceive your brand. You will also need to write business business cases to give justifications for your product.
3. Direction: Directing involves coming up with strategies, setting up and evangelizing the vision to everybody, coming up with roadmaps, determining the pricing. In directing, you create strategies and plans for your product.
As a Product Manager, you need to be a visionary and have a roadmap. Setting a price for your product is very important, you need to get your pricing right, you can A/B test your price options and employ other pricing strategies to ensure you get your pricing right.
4. Inbound Activities: These are activities that help you deliver the product based on requests that are coming from the outside. This includes, Discovery & Design, Requirements Gathering, Project & Partner Management, and Operational Readiness.
5. Outbound Activities: This involves helping the business team to sell the product and support the sales team. From time to time, you will need to step in to help with presentation, pitches, and creating marketing content. Basically, activities around Launch, Product Promotion, Sales & Marketing, Sales Support.
He emphasized that all the strategic product activities may not apply to an organisation but it’s important to take some time to review and figure out which is most relevant to your company and thereby adopt them in managing a product across its life-cycle and ultimately ensuring the overall success of your product.
Depending on your organisation, you may also not need to do all the strategic activities yourself as there may be someone else responsible for it at your organisation.
He rounded up by saying, as the Product Manager, you need to take charge and do whatever you need to do to ensure the success of your product in the market.
Yewande Oyebo – How Not to Ruin an Existing Product.
After Ayodeji’s session, Yewande continued by sharing tips with us on how not to ruin an existing product and also strategies to manage products that already have some traction.
She started by saying that as a Product Manager who was just hired at a company, the most important thing to do is to orient yourself. She broke this down into the following:
1. Find out why you were hired. What problem were you hired to solve? What pain point did the organisation have that made them create the role? A tip here is to write this down in a post-it note so you can see it everyday as it is easy to get distracted as a Product Manager.
2. You need to know the product and the company goals. What’s the big picture? What’s the roadmap? Who are the stakeholders? What has the company been doing since it was created? A career tip here is to use the information learnt from the roadmap and goal of the company to plan your career.
3. You need to observe and talk to your teammates. What are their challenges? What have they been trying to do that they haven’t had time to do? What expectations do they have of you? What tools are they using? What’s the work culture like?
Something that has worked for her is to find a Sparring Partner, this is someone you can talk to, work together with and ask questions. Also, when you are working on an existing product, there are things that have been set in place previously which you need to understand.
4. You need to know your customers. What are their pain points? What is top on their mind? How do they use the product? Why are they calling customer service? what questions are they asking?
This is the point where you compare your product to your competitors’ from the customers’ point of view. A tip here is to document everything. It is also a good time to create your product artifacts such as user journey maps and personas.
5. Talk to people in other teams, especially customer support. It is better as a product manager to be more proactive than reactive, this helps you reach out to other teams and ask them questions before they come to you. A tip here is that this is the best way to find product improvements, you can look at how they’ve been solving problems before now, look at what they are handling manually and see how that can be automated. At this point, it is also best to shut up and listen.
After orienting yourself with the information, then it is time to act. She shared more information on this:
– Go through all the information you have and come up with a plan and roadmap.
– Share your plan with your teams and get feedback. Do not try to impose solutions on a team that has been working independently of you.
– Analyse Data. Compare qualitative customer feedback with quantitative data gotten from your analytical tools, this helps you verify what they are saying versus what they are doing.
– Write down improvements you can make based on the information you have and prioritize potential improvements as there’s most likely a backlog already.
– Compare new information gotten with existing documentation and try to fill in the gaps. If there’s no documentation, this is a good time to start documenting.
– Get stakeholder buy in and feedback.
Afterwards, she rounded up by elaborating on things not to do when you join an existing team as a new PM:
– Don’t start to fix or change things until you understand the product, your role, and you have been able to work on the product for a while.
– Don’t be quiet and invisible, you were hired for a reason, neither should you be loud and obnoxious.
– Don’t try to put down the work of other PMs.
– Don’t try to do everything at once or try to understand the whole product in one day.
– Don’t copy and paste everything from your previous organisation.
Question & Answer Session
After the presentation from Ayodeji and Yewande, we proceeded to asking questions and they both shared insightful answers.
For Ayodeji: How do you learn from and collaborate with other PMs in your organisation?
Answer: There are a couple of ways which include internal training where someone who has an expertise in an area can train others. Working in cross functional teams, you get to see someone doing what you are doing in a different way which you can learn from and adopt/improve your process. Asking questions will help you learn faster. Tools can also help you learn, collaborate, and communicate with other PMs.
For Yewande: How do you handle early adopters if you need to sunset a feature or make changes to a feature that is used by a significant percentage of existing users?
For example, removing a feature, changing a free feature to a paid feature, changing functionality of a feature, etc.
Answer: Your early adopters are most likely fans of the product and tech enthusiasts. It is very important that you inform them about the change. In a past experience where she did this, they communicated widely with early adopters using fora where they could share feedback and they could tell them what was happening.
They also explained the benefits of the new feature and how it works, and let them know why the old feature needs to be removed and the risks of using it. Another thing is to try to give them an incentive to move, this doesn’t have to be a cash incentive but you can give them something they’ve been asking for if/when they adopt the new feature.
For Yewande: In a large organisation like yours, what’s the process of introducing a new feature to the product and how’s your release process like?
Answer: For her organisation, it’s quite big but teams have autonomy on how they want to release their product. The first thing she will need to do if she’s thinking of introducing a new feature to the product is to speak with the product owners or the team/group of product owners and why she thinks it is a fantastic idea.
While anybody can bring in an idea, you need to have the data to back up your ideas, you need to come armed with data to support the idea when talking. The feature also has to tie in to the product goal, company’s goal, or OKR for the quarter, you can’t just bring in something that doesn’t fit into the goals.
For the release process, it is more for the development team but they use CI/CD (Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery), they don’t release features into the market because there is a timeline, they release when there’s something reasonable and valuable to release to the customer.
For Ayodeji: What strategies can a PM employ when managing a product that is stuck (growth is stagnated, churn is high, and by extension, revenue is reducing)?
Answer: There are a couple of things that can be done. Firstly, you need to understand why the product is not growing, you can get that information from the customers and by using your analytics tools. You will possibly find out what the problem is by taking this deep dive.
Based on learning about the problem, you can look into how to fix it. For example, if it is a bug, you can fix the bug; if it is an improvement, you can make the improvement; if it is an experience issue, you can improve the experience; if you need to do a total pivot then you can do the pivot based on market and customer analysis.
Sometimes, it might also just be time for you to sunset the product. (sunsetting is the process by which you phase a product out of the market) and invest your valuable organisational resources into something else. There’s no single answer to this, what will determine what you do will be the data you are getting from the market, the customer, and the product.
For Yewande: How can I create my career plan?
Answer: Creating a career plan involves setting short term and long term goals for yourself and your career and creating strategies to meet these goals. For example, If you want to be CPO in 3 years, what are the tasks you need to start doing now, in 3 months, in 1 year etc.. to meet this goal.
For Ayodeji: As a PM, how do you influence a safe space for you and your team to learn from mistakes?
Answer: This is a question that is more ideal for a product leader because if you are a Product Leader, you will have a lot of people learning from you who are not on your level. A team is built based on the characteristics of the leader most times. The Product Leader needs to build an environment that allows the team to be themselves, learn, grow, and be able to make mistakes.
You also need to build in systems to ensure that for people who are being unnecessarily careless, there are checks that put them back in place and correct them. It’s your responsibility as a product leader to build that environment that lets people be themselves and thrive.
That’s it!!! We learnt so much from this webinar and hope to learn much more from future webinars. Join the ProductDive community today to learn more about our upcoming events and other opportunities.
About our Guests.
Yewande Oyebo is a Product Manager and a Writer. She enjoys using technology to solve problems and writing about her experiences on Medium and her blog: Yevandy.com. She started her career with Microsoft as a Category Manager where she was responsible for Windows 10 in Nigeria, she currently works on the Logistics team of JustEatTakeaway (Takeaway.com) as a Product/Application Manager. You can follow her on Twitter – @yevandy_
Ayodeji Fasore is a Lead Product & Innovations Manager at Interswitch Group He is passionate about building technology products which help solve real life problems commonly encountered by millions of people worldwide and over the past 8 years, he has successfully built and managed several successful technology products in the Consulting, Educational, E Commerce and recently Financial Technology Industries. You can follow him on Twitter – @dejifash.