Do you remember those sayings your mother used when you were a kid? She repeated them so often you probably just ignored them. Things like “Don’t make that face, or it will stay that way” and “You’re going to put your eye out”. It’s amazing how those stick with you…
I recently gave a presentation about DAXKO’s latest and greatest release to our Professional Services Team – implementation project managers, trainers, and support reps (all of which talk to our customers every day). While explaining a particular feature, I found myself using the term “export” in a completely different way than everyone else in the room. This baffled me… I thought everyone used the word “export” in the same context as I.
As it turns out, that’s how everyone on my development team refers to “export.” This minor miscommunication was quickly resolved, but it got me thinking about my mother’s over-used saying… “If you hang around with pigs, you’ll smell like a pig.” Don’t misunderstand… I mean no offense to my engineering friends. I truly admire their talents and have, on multiple occasions, wished I was one of them. But this situation was clearly a case of… “If you hang around engineers, you’ll start talking like an engineer.”
A product manager should constantly be in tune with the market, your customers and competition to truly understand positioning, product needs, and product strategy. But do product managers also need to be directly involved with the development team? Absolutely! To effectively plan and prioritize a roadmap, you need input from both the market and your internal engineering function.
The key is to balance the inputs and stay focused on what the market is telling you, so you can relay it back to engineering. Be careful, however, not to communicate everything you get from engineering back to the market. Otherwise, you might find yourself telling customers or prospects something like…
- “That feature would be simple to add. All we have to do is add a field to the screen, modify the filter, add a method to the controller, and throw in some logic. Oh, and update the DB schema. That’ll be 2.5 points.”
- “Unfortunately, we can’t add a total to that list because we don’t have the latest version of EXT.”
- “The variances can’t display a dash because if you start with amount zero and add to it, the percent variance is actually INFINITY….not zero. Plus we’d have to refactor the entire class hierarchy for that.”
As a product manager, if you can relate the preceding situations, you might want to hop on the phone with a customer or prospect and get back in touch with your market. Better yet… jump on a plane and pay them a visit. It was just the wake-up call I needed!