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Overcoming product management challenges by aligning goals and metrics

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When goals change throughout the product lifecycle, key metrics may also need to be tweaked as well. Going from creating awareness to focusing on driving revenue will impact almost every key metric you want to track.

“How’s the product doing? What’s coming out next? Are we still on track?”

These questions keep even the most seasoned product manager up at night. Luckily, most product managers know the destination and need one place to bring everything together to build the rest of the map. But then comes one of the most glaring product management challenges: constructing the presentation and telling a compelling story.

While the destination may be clear, the product management pathway isn’t exactly a well-paved set of roads with clearly marked signs. It is an unchartered wilderness full of unexpected challenges and surprises. Consider early sailors, for example. They navigated the sea by charting the stars and using their positions to understand where they were in relation to their destination. Similarly, product managers can leverage their organizational goals paired with current data about key metrics to know where their product is in the market and what they need to do to fulfill their vision.

Let’s break that down further by looking at goals, key metrics, and how they impact product development.

Tying organizational vision and goals to the product goal

We define goals as the over-arching outcomes and impacts product managers want products to achieve. Depending on the product's lifecycle, the top product management department’s goal may range from driving awareness to maximizing revenue to optimizing profit margins or customer satisfaction.

Whatever your goal may be at the moment, we encourage using the S.M.A.R.T. approach to identify when you’ve achieved it and need to re-evaluate your next goal for the product:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

By focusing on specifics, measurability, and keeping a goal time-bound, it is possible to turn “Maximize Revenue” into “Achieve $10 million in net sales in EMEA by the end of Q2 this year.” Then ask if the goal is both attainable and realistic based on what’s known about the market and organizational capabilities.

Tracking key metrics

These are the data points that help identify the trajectory of a product and can inform what changes are needed to achieve your goal. For example, a pilot flying a plane from LA to New York would track measurables like fuel levels, altitude, air speed, and direction to ensure the flight arrives safely and on time. If the goal is the destination, key metrics are the gauges to ensure your product arrives safely and on time.

One thing to keep in mind: When goals change throughout the product lifecycle, key metrics may also need to be tweaked as well. Going from creating awareness to focusing on driving revenue will impact almost every key metric you want to track, so be sure to revisit these often to ensure you’re measuring the right data points.

Aligning goals and metrics

How do product managers bring goals and metrics together to share that vision? By looking at key metrics related to the goal, it’s easier to see product health: is it in great shape or off track?

By tagging activities with the key metrics, you can quickly address product management challenges by quickly adjusting plans as necessary to get back on track. This equips product managers to confidently show where they are going, what is coming soon, and, most importantly, why that is the right set of activities. To do so, product managers must be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Is there transparency and alignment between the team and stakeholders? Many organizations have a breakdown between goals and metrics because data silos do exist. Even when silos aren’t present, finding it or even knowing who to ask to get is challenging.
  1. Are we effectively achieving goals by tying needs and activities? The best innovators clearly understand what activities are necessary to complete goals and which activities distract from achieving goals. Product managers can increase efficiency and meet deadlines by ensuring every action taken by the team ladders directly to stated goals.
  1. Are we assembling information from various product management tools to brief stakeholders? When product managers lack a single source of truth for all the information related to projects, portfolios and other critical organizational details, they are less effective. First, they waste valuable time researching the information that should be readily available. Further, that data may be outdated, which can lead to inaccurate presentations to stakeholders and disrupt the effectiveness of the product they’re attempting to develop.

The difference between good ideas and disruptive innovation often rests in the product management tools talented product managers use to make it happen. Acclaim Products by Sopheon empowers product managers to stay in control of goals, progress, and day-to-day work. Acclaim Products also gives product managers the answers they need to drive shared understanding amongst their team, keep stakeholders informed, monitor product performance, plan future products, and make data-informed decisions and trade-offs.

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