Oct 8, 2010

Enrich your time as a product manager

Based on the points I put together for a presentation in the recent IIMB product manager's conclave, Bangalore

One of the best things about being a product manager is the number of activities one gets to work on in a day. Broadly, we can classify these activities into three categories – strategic, tactical and operational. All three categories are essential in solving market's problems and adding value to your target customers. What matters most is the percentage split a PM allocates in each of these categories in a given time period. There are no fixed guidelines on a percentage split that will work for a successful PM. But the more time a PM spends on strategic activities, he/she can create a bigger impact in the target market, thereby a bigger impact to his/her organization.

Observe how your time gets spent in a week, consciously noting down the different tasks/activities that occupy your time - the interruptions, context switches, phone calls, emails, meetings, casual discussions, status updates, ideation, brainstorming etc. Group your time under the three different categories and compute your percentage split of strategic, tactical and operational activities. If your strategic percentage is higher compared to the other two, you are doing an excellent job. For the rest of us, we have work to do to reallocate the percentages.

First, see if you will be able to delegate the operational activities to business operations and technical sales support teams. If initial handholding is needed, give the required support but eventually they should be able to take care of customer complaints and issues independently. For tactical activities such as product demos and requirements review with stakeholders, requirements prioritization and bugs triaging, allocate a fixed time in your calendar preferably the time of the day when your ideation or thinking hats would like to take a break.

As a product manager, one has to constantly keep abreast of the market situation, industry updates, competition growth and developments in related industries. These would give you useful insights which would help you plan your product roadmap. Subscribe to relevant blogs and news articles and ensure you catch up on reading on a regular basis. Setup 30 minutes in your calendar exclusively for catching up on these blogs everyday. Most importantly, to plan a high impact product roadmap, interfacing with customers preferably face-to-face or at least over the phone will give you a better understanding of their pain points and how your product is solving or not solving those pain points for them.

With inputs coming from all these different sources, it is important that you spend some uninterrupted time with yourself, interpreting these different inputs and brainstorming on how you can evolve your product in the next few months. I have found timeboxing / Pomodoro techniques to be very useful to ideate or brainstorm within a specific box of time.

I hope some of these points are helpful in enriching your precious time as a product manager and launching awesome market oriented products.

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