There are a lot of things you need to do to be a successful product manager. And when you are just starting out or trying to improve your current performance, there usually isn’t much clarity on what areas to focus on. There is also a tendency to shelter in the activities that are within your comfort zone.
As a product leader, I’d like to share some goals product managers should focus on to help them progress faster.
I found this one very hard to measure. Ideally, we want every decision to be data-based, but we can’t measure how we make every single decision.
Let’s say we want to measure the performance of an ecommerce site’s traffic sources. Of course, we will look at the conversion rate per source. But what about the different steps of micro-conversion among sources, the most visited products, or cross-source attribution?
So, my proxy is to set learning goals and to prepare a deep report using current data.
The report should have the following components:
- Learning goal and set of questions your team wants to answer
- Analyzed data
- Answers to questions
- Data you plan to track
- Surprises (unexpected findings)
- Conclusion and next steps (e.g “Put X in the backlog,” or “Investigate Y further”)
Produce a monthly or biweekly report and review it through straightforward one-on-one conversations. You can add questions to improve your team members’ reasoning, but the report is mostly a tool for them to help them drive better data-driven conclusions.
Like with data-drivenness, it’s also very difficult to measure whether the thought process behind every decision is actually user-centric.
Again, I use a basic proxy: number of customer interactions. We also use the same method: set a learning goal and set up a customer interaction that will help you know what the customer thinks.
- You want to see how easy your checkout is? Set a usability test.
- You want to investigate what drives conversion? Do a round of customer development interviews.
- You want to check if a proposed solution resonates with the user? Do a solution-focused interview.
You can set a monthly or biweekly target for customer interaction. For example, each team member may have a face-to-face interaction with three to five customers at least once a month.
You can’t easily measure customer centricity, but you can make sure teams always hear the customer. By training that muscle, you can always make decisions with the users’ pains in mind.
Finally, some good news: you can measure how often you’re running experiments.
As product thought leader Marty Cagan says, great product teams run several experiments per week. But if you are starting out, this is a muscle you need to build. So again, shooting for a monthly or biweekly goal for experiments should be a good way to start.
If you are a leader looking to improve team experimentation, remember these pointers when reviewing results:
- As with everything we’ve covered, experiments should have a learning goal that is hopefully aligned with testing your riskiest assumption.
- Make sure different test types are used when necessary. Concierge, Wizard of Oz, live data prototype, and many more are very powerful techniques that should be used to discover the right product to build.
- A/B testing is not a type of experimentation. It is a way to make sure something you’ve already built gives the desired impact or to try out small changes to improve metrics. What we want with experiments is to learn how something may perform before we build it. That being said, low-cost A/B tests are sometimes used to measure, for instance, the result of a Wizard of Oz or a fake door experiment.
A word on balance
I usually find these three focus areas unbalanced in product management. Very data-driven product managers are usually not that eager to contact users. Those who passionately interact with users do not have a deep desire for analytics. And very detailed or user-research-passionate product managers prefer long phases of research and analysis to lean approaches.
Depending on the areas your team needs to focus on, you may decide to work on a different kind of balance or choose different goals.
There are two extra activities, which are also very important to successful product management, that I haven’t set as goals for my team yet:
- Setting the product strategy and working on the strategic vision
- Embedding information on industry and competitors into decision making
I might discuss these in my future posts. For now, I would love to hear your feedback and comments on any other activities you think should be added to this list.
This article was first published on Medium.