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So They Poured Cold Water On Your Product Plans?

Finding success through clear communication

11Mar

So, it's the highlight of the year as you present your product plans to your board, and you are sure to receive a rapturous response. You've been working towards this for the last twelve months, and this is the moment of truth. But, somewhere along the way something has gone wrong and the faces around the table tell the story, this definitely isn't going as planned and the feedback only goes to confirm as much. Suddenly all the optimism drains away, to be replaced with a grim view of the months ahead and not being able to deliver on your plans. Where did it all go wrong?

Planning the ongoing development of a product should be a fairly self-evident requirement, but it is surprising how many firms overlook the importance of this aspect of product management. For many it seems that the objective is to treat it like a project, get it launched, then just sit back and wait for the inevitable successes to come rolling back in. We have written at length about the pitfalls of this approach in a previous article, so will say no more here than to suggest that this is not a recipe for success!

An effective organization will have a structured approach to ongoing product management, starting with a shared strategic vision around the desired direction in which the organisation wants to travel. If China is now considered 'so last year' and Brazil is currently the flavour of the month, then your product team should be well aware of this, with a clear mandate to build towards that corporate strategy. They should also have some insight into what is likely to be available in the development pot, as few things are as de-motivating as spending 11 months working on a brilliant plan that will cost £500k to deliver, only to find out that there was never more than £40k available in the budget in the first place.

The product manager themselves should be clear on what criteria they are going to be judged, and the window of opportunity available to them to influence the key decision makers. Is this going to be a 15-minute whistle-stop tour of all your best thoughts, or will your audience have had the opportunity to look at your product plan beforehand, potentially against the backdrop of client input, surveys, or the views of other respected third parties. The ability of your product management system to deliver the latest version of this information, to the appropriate members of your management team, should be something that you can count on.

The product plan itself is the most important piece of the jigsaw, acting as the beating heart of the product from the launch process and on through the entire lifecycle. The best product management solutions ensure that this 'heart' is fed with, and also feeds, all the critical information that is needed to shape the product's ongoing evolution. As a product manager, this is a document that should be getting updated every day of the year. So, whether you have had feedback from the sales team in Vietnam, a client in Basingstoke, or a consultant in New York, everything that influences your future approach should be recorded here. Alongside this information the product manager should be capturing any competitor activities, pricing concerns, regulatory challenges and thoughts around how the product will evolve to remain at the forefront of the market.

As long as your product management solution can correctly share this information with the relevant parties, it should ensure that your direction of travel is always clear, and the senior management team that needs to approve your strategy is well aware of your plans before that fateful budget meeting

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