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Empowering product managers for long-term, successful innovation


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When all is said and done, product success or failure lands at the product manager’s feet, so giving them a seat at the table and elevating their voices only makes sense.

Think of any profession and identify the best of the best in those markets. Whether sports, architecture, entertainment, tech, etc. At some point, I’d bet that each of them had a mentor or boss who gave them the tools and support necessary to maximize their talents and hard work.

I’ve seen companies with incredibly talented product managers who never reach their full potential. Very often, many obstacles beyond their control handcuff and disempower them. To be a top-tier company and achieve sustained successful innovation, product managers must have the full support of those who’ve hired them. Let’s take a closer look at ways organizations can empower their product managers.

Over-communicate the vision

Directors and VPs of product management almost always have a clear vision of where the company should be and what obstacles customers will overcome from using their products. This doesn’t have to do with revenue, disruptive innovation, and bright, shiny launches—all of which are important. Vision is more culture-based and less data-driven, but it still needs to be achievable.

When product managers understand the vision, they have a North Star to guide the products that build toward the kind of world the company is attempting to create.

But what are the best ways to communicate it? First, share the vision from day one. Onboarding should include a clear outline of the vision, including the aspirational aspects necessary actions to achieve the vision, how the vision and corporate goals align, and what guardrails are in place.

Then, check in—and check in again. Product managers can be pulled in a million different directions by sales, engineers, C-Suite, etc. It’s easy and understandable that while pleasing so many different stakeholders, products can stray away from the vision. Set consistent time with product managers to determine if they’re still on the path to achieving this vision and if adjustments need to be made to ensure strategies align with the vision.

Define product management success

Product managers have a much easier time working toward success when the vision is explicitly outlined.

But how does your organization define product management success? What are the goals and metrics? Of course, revenue targets are at the top of the list for most companies, which are relatively easy to identify and work towards. But what are the other success metrics and goals? Perhaps it’s hitting the right ratio of new products to new features per quarter. Maybe it’s more challenging, like improving customer satisfaction over a specified period.

Whether concrete or a little more nebulous, write out what success looks like and ensure your product manager understands each KPI's impact—and what it means to them. As we mentioned when talking about vision, it’s critical to define and clearly articulate what success looks like to a product manager instead of laying out a series of vague criteria that can’t be quantified in real-time.

Having everything on the table ahead of time gives product managers—and the organization as a whole—a much better opportunity to succeed.

Let product managers lead

One of the most consistent complaints from product managers is that most of the responsibilities land on their shoulders, but they don’t have the power to do anything about it. When all is said and done, product success or failure lands at the product manager’s feet, so giving them a seat at the table and elevating their voices only makes sense. Product managers want to create and innovate. They don’t want to be an autonomous robot that spends most of its time completing monotonous tasks like chasing JIRA tickets or working at a ‘feature factory.’

The most innovative organizations reserve a seat at the table for product managers. They understand the customers’ pain points and how to address them through new product development or creative features. Their voices are heard, and their opinions are respected. I believe it comes down to asking why you hired a particular product manager: to check boxes each day or to help develop the next big thing. If it’s the latter, product managers need room to do what they do best. If it’s the former, you’ll likely be looking for a new product manager in 18-24 months.

Allow product managers to take calculated risks

The best product managers see a novel way to solve a customer problem—or spot an emerging customer problem altogether—and move forward. No matter how experienced and talented a product manager is, some great ideas just fall flat. And that happens. To be clear, it can’t happen over and over. But when an organization allows product managers to dust themselves off, learn everything they can about what went wrong, and bounce back, the chances of success improve dramatically moving forward. Very often, there is success in failure, so having their backs goes a long way.

Invest in the right product management tools

Empowering product managers to take those risks also requires the right product management tools. Data is key to any decision, and product managers can quickly access what they need at a moment’s notice with the right solution. They can also spend more time ideating and moving innovation forward. Arming them with product management tools that give them accurate, real-time data across the company provides the answers stakeholders need to stay informed, monitor product performance, plan future products, and make data-informed decisions and trade-offs.

Product managers can’t be dropped on an island and told to survive. They need the support of the organization to put their talents out front. Do that, and you’ll be in a much better position to churn out winner after winner. And Acclaim Products does just that. Learn how Acclaim Products by Sopheon gives product managers the information they need to deliver consistent innovations.

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