Tips to Align Stakeholders
6 July, 2021
Product managers are the only breed accountable for ownership and a holistic view of everything related to the product. Whether dealing with a services organization, which would ultimately manage the delivery of the product to customers, or the marketing department, our responsibility was to allow the technology to speak for itself. So, when I joined the company, in all honesty, I was not handling the product in the right way. I was doing wrong to ensure that all stakeholders related to the product shared the same view of the product as I did.
The only reason I suited as the product manager was that I believed in it, the profit that it would bring to the company, and its potential. What about others? That was when I realized that the success of the product depended more on the stakeholders. After all, it was not me who was executing the product vision but rather all the stakeholders. Perhaps the biggest mistake for me was not expressing it out loud. I had all of it in my mind, and I knew where I was headed, yet I could not bring all of it to the different stakeholders.
I utilized all of my energy in visualizing and translating all the work that the team needed to do. After that, I would only talk about the components that I had come up with so far to create a narrow scope of discussion. Talking about specific features allowed the team to focus on the details of the rudimentary micro functions instead of the macro, complex functions. They needed the microscopic granularity, even though it had nothing to do with motivating them to move forward with what they were willing to do.
Another aspect was that my product was not being pitched by the go-to-marketing teams and customer engagements, which I was not always privy to. The company is a huge organization with more than 150 teams working on various projects, while the marketing team was focused on their primary agenda. They were busy selling the product without taking a thorough look at the entire product catalog to see what else they could do to accelerate sales.
Product success was my responsibility, and if others were not doing their job well, we needed to figure out enough failsafe mechanisms so that they did not slip through the cracks. Therefore, I had a meeting with the sales team, knowing that it had been a repeated problem. After probing through a few questions, I justified not everyone was familiar with the product. That was why they were not confident to sit across the customers at the same table to present our product.
As soon as I realized that I had not been marketing my product correctly, I started having sessions with different stakeholders about the product vision. I drafted the entire product vision, which had not been revised in the past 3 years. In the meantime, the COVID-19 situation came into effect, which was when we brought in more changes. We could not afford to invest in more and had to scale down.
I presented my vision to the senior management, who were mainly controlling the budget. After their acceptance, I conducted the sessions with the engineering team, product marketing team, and regional teams. Since we worked hard to make a great product, we had to work harder to promote it.
On the other hand, the finance and accounting team changed the pricing and construction for my product without my knowledge. Speaking of multi-million Euro deals, it does not take place based on one portfolio of the product. Deep diving into this issue, we found a legacy system carried out for the past 8 years, which affected our sales. When small teams do not take ownership to ensure that they were doing the right thing, that was when I stepped in.
We had a framework called Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF). It was all about putting down some numbers against the business values to find out the opportunity enablement. Then there was a risk reduction part that typically rolled up other aspects like GDPR Compliance. We used the Fibonacci number series for assigning value because we were aware that the value needed to be higher than a certain threshold for it to be designated to a new level of value. Since the engineering team was always keen on coming up with innovations, we had an innovation sprint. That was where their creative juices would flow through to keep up with the morale of the team.
- Results happen over time, not overnight. Hence, an essential responsibility of a successful PM is to get the correct perception of the product with all the stakeholders in the organization. It is not always about just “building the product,” but also understanding the business goals and aligning everything accordingly.
- As a PM, you always need to keep the people aspect active in your mind. While the features are being built spot on, are they translating into final sales and revenues for the company? And if not, what are the possible obstacles? Keep that in mind.
- You will have to look for systematic ways of doing things. One of them for me was to prioritize work for every quarter.
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