The Dos and Don’ts of a Successful Product Manager

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DO know your product. You should be the foremost expert on your product from day one. Have a good understanding of the product process before, during, and after launch, and know how each step will affect the end result. In addition to being well-versed in your specific product, it’s also critical to be informed about your industry, your customer, and your competition. Without a thorough and working knowledge of your product and all of its context, it’s hard to be a successful PM.

DON’T underestimate how important communication is. To make sure every step of a product’s evolution happens correctly (or happens at all), communication needs to be constant and clear. As a PM or Product Owner, you’re often in a unique situation where only you have a full grasp of the million things happening to a product, so the more information you can share with your team, the better. Don’t assume your legal department will know they need to have a Privacy Policy by this date, or that engineering knows a feature needs to be built or a bug needs to be addressed. Standardizing your workflow will help you ensure you’re regularly checking in with all accountable parties.

DO be organized. There are many steps between product ideation and product launch, and each is crucial to the product’s overall success in its own way. If you’re not organized, some of these steps (or parts of these steps) can fall through the cracks, making things harder down the line. Imagine the product as a puzzle: How frustrating would it be if you got to the end of the puzzle only to realize two or three pieces were missing, and you had to retrace your steps to figure out where, when, and how they were lost? PM’s should simultaneously have a six-month roadmap, a two-week roadmap, and a daily roadmap, as well as a sense of mental flexibility that caters to ever-shifting priorities (because we all know how quickly things can change!).

DON’T forget to constantly reevaluate your product. As new information comes into play—be it market shifts, user feedback, changes in user behavior, unseen costs, pace of development, etc.—the product should constantly be re-evaluated. Not taking new information into account is a surefire way to end up with a product that’s over budget, past deadline, or not a great market fit. Remember: Think at the margin.

DO make engineers’ lives easier. Give them the information they need—like product specifications, requirements, and timelines—then let them work. Don’t slow them down with minor tweaks or hog their attention with last-minute ideas while they’re trying to accomplish the original product goals.

DON’T allow feature creep. Developing a new product can be incredibly exciting as it often sparks inspiration for new ideas or additional features, but it’s important not to get too carried away. Instead, focus on the one or two things your product MUST do well, and knock those out of the park. When it comes to your MVP, everything aside from the product’s core functionality is secondary and adds complexity and development time to your product. In other words, don’t build things just because you can.

DO make a point to listen to your customers. At the end of the day, they’re the ones who will determine whether your product was a success or a failure, not you. While it’s not always easy to have insightful exchanges with your customers, it’s imperative to get their take on your product. When you can’t talk to them directly, use tools to monitor their behavior and poll them for feedback, or find outside places to bounce around ideas with your target market, like forums, community groups, and trade shows.

Here at 50onRed, we are always looking to add valuable members to our growing team. See if we have any job openings that match up with your interests and talents.