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“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

– Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn

The role of the project manager is challenging in nature because it carries with it the expectations of every stakeholder. Stakeholders include the visionary CEO, the market-driven sales team, and the production/operations team (who are weary of change). No matter how hard they try, product managers often have limited control over meeting the stakeholder’s expectations. This is because the business rules can be abstract from the start, the budget can be ambiguous, the timeline could have been pre-determined by the development team, and the important elements of projects constantly need to be re-prioritized.

Change-leaders must equip product managers with the tools, skills and information necessary to help the PM function as the quarterback-of-change. The product manager should never feel the burden of shouldering the entire responsibility of the project. Listed below are five practices that Empowered Margins implements to keep product managers successful in their positions.

  1. Clearly define their role from the start

    Create clear boundaries for the product manager at the outset of the project. These include key important areas our product managers should NOT be responsible for. These consist of resourcing and managing the development team, determining and administering budgets, and choosing the product’s toolsets. We’ve discovered that emphasizing that which PM’s are not responsible for actually empowers him or her to thrive in the areas they are responsible for.

  2. Implement a collaborative tool

    Working with a dispersed team is the new normal for technology projects. Adding to the complexity of the project is the management of the team’s different schedules. Therefore, we recommend implementing a collaborative tool (even a basic one as Google Sheets). This relieves a significant amount of stress for our product managers.

  3. Build a reporting template at Ground Zero

    Working with the client’s expectations, the product manager must communicate the types of reports needed to the development team. In turn, the product manager  will receive accurate and timely reporting during all cycles of the project. This will not contain bureaucratic reporting (that is often used to cover one’s behind), but actual, real-time reports that are crucial to the decision-making process.  Some basic ones we recommend implementing include:

    • Budget estimations for the product backlog that help in setting priorities
    • A release-plan and status update that allow your product manager to coordinate with marketing and customer support teams.
  4. Communicate to the PM with clarity and empathy

    Market conditions almost always change in the middle of a technology initiative. Allowing your product manager to adjust to the new climate and to communicate their anxieties is essential for overall project health.

  5. Recognize that perfection is a process and not the first goal

    A healthy product will be dynamic, and will only be perfected through several revisions. Release your product manager from angst of building the perfect solution from the first release. Again,  communicating to your PM the expectations of delivering an excellent product without absolute perfection will be key to the product’s success.

In conclusion, a healthy product manager experiences a sense of fulfillment driven by an understanding of their function, having a sense of control and healthy team conversation leading towards achievement of the project’s goals.

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