I find that there is always so much to knowledge to be gained from other professionals. With their different areas of experience and expertise, it is an honor to learn new solutions and ideas from fellow product managers. I had the pleasure of discussing some key product management topics with Marianna Vranicar, who specializes in technological management and was very happy to share her insights with our readers.
Marianna has vast experience in reengineering operations to streamline business processes and maximize efficiency, and managing multiple centralized departments. Her key strengths include building new technology groups from the ground up, designing and implementing revenue enhancement strategies and technology capabilities, and leading large, cross-functional global teams. Marianna’s areas of expertise range from innovative and technology solutions to strategic leadership.
1. It’s no secret that managing both a team and a product can be a great challenge, especially in this competitive market. In your opinion, what are the top three most common mistakes product managers make?
One- Not taking full ownership of the product. If the product was either inherited from another PM or newly built, it is the responsibility of the new product manager to understand all the facets of the product as part of their ownership of it.
You are the resident SME subject matter expert that all others will defer to you about the product. Meaning you should understand the basic information such as how the pricing of the product was established along with its components, where the application development team is in their process, and what the current production support issue is that the product is facing.
Not taking the steps to own the product will lead to catastrophic results.
Two- Not establishing key relationships with your support partners (marketing, IT, training staff, and the sales team). These are the team members that will help solve issues, sell your product, and evangelize the product for you. You need to make sure that they are as vested in the product as you are.
As the product owner, it is your responsibility to educate and establish your vision of the product with key team members so that your product has the visibility it needs.
Three- Not understanding the market in which your product will be sold. What seems to be a common problem is not understanding the “consumer,” especially demographics or buying patterns. If there is not a basic understanding of what your product will do for consumers, no one will buy it.
Either you can create the “buzz” artificially on the product or it will explode on its own, but it’s imperative you understand the consumer need and how to fill it.
2. Which innovative trends do you recognize in product management nowadays?
I have noticed the trend for an Agile/SCRUM methodology in the build of a product. Instead of a classic waterfall approach, (I have always used Agile and think it is amazing). Teams are also seeing the importance now of co-locating and working as one big hub on a daily basis to develop and fix a quality product from the onset.
Traditionally, PM would be hands off when it comes to SDLC (software development lifecycle) of the product- just checking in to see if everyone was playing nicely in the sandbox but rarely actually understanding the true build. Now, I am finding the more adept product managers take the time to work with the on/offshore team, understand and support in the debugging of the product. This relates to the type of quality product manager that can zero in on possible solutions when the product is in post-production, because they were part of the initial build.
3. How do you prepare for a new product launch, and how do you make sure you stand out from your competition?
Visibility, Visibility, Visibility. Your product team may have spent 24/7 on the product, your entire team may think this product is as good as the “second coming.” BUT if the product does not have full visibility into the market before it launches, and that means support and buy in from the executive leadership teams as a “Top Five” product to lay their cards on, then the product will fail.
It is a trickle effect from all your key relationships that you have established at this point. If people cannot sell it or market it, and the consumers don’t get it, all that great work will be for naught.
4. A team is one of the most fundamental aspects of product management. In your experience, what is the best way to maintain a fully functioning and productive team?
Food, Fellowship and FUN= PASSION. Building a new product is EXCITING. Being a great product manager is tied in closely with being a great program manager too. You need to understand the facets to build a product and provide visibility and recognition for those who are in the trenches with you.
It is imperative you know how to work with cross functional teams in a matrixed environment, and know how to get them “vested” with you on the product success.
Often these folk will only have a dotted line responsibility to you, many of them will be on your teams for only a short period of time dependent on their contract. So it is the responsibility of the product manager to build and create that forum of trust through something as basic as getting together for meals with those close to you geographically.
For an offshore team, I schedule calls that work with their schedules. Each and every team member is key to the success of the product, and they know when you are sincere or not.
The trust that is being built in this forum by these small random acts helps solidify the fellowship with your team, which then brings in the FUN. It’s a lot of hard work building a product, from the initial business to technical requirement sit-ins, to the development and coding of the product, to the testing and deployment, and training and selling of the product.
Everyone’s efforts are part of the product success and I have always focused on providing visibility to each team member so they feel appreciated and recognized for their efforts. For example, I bring in the
Everyone’s efforts are part of the product success and I have always focused on providing visibility to each team member so they feel appreciated and recognized for their efforts. For example, I bring in the Help desk team during development meetings so they understand what can potentially go wrong. My most important personal trick is communication. I believe in giving a lot of feedback to internal and external stakeholders.
Many team members from past product launches will always reflect that the short period of time I led the team was so unique and memorable in their careers, and FUN. They will comment that they had never felt so appreciated in their entire career. The best part is when you come together to build something great. There is nothing like that feeling. The commercial financial success will come of course, but the act of “creating” something new and great is equitable to having your first child. Funny, but people often refer to their most commercial product venture as their “baby.”
The commercial financial success will come of course, but the act of “creating” something new and great is equitable to having your first child. Funny, but people often refer to their most commercial product venture as their “baby.”
In order for success to happen at that level you need to create passion with your team. This is where all the FUN comes from. People never forget that feeling and it stays with them throughout their career.