Tech @ GoCardless
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Tech @ GoCardless

Should I accept an internal product management role?

This was a bit worrying.

Reach is not the same as impact

  • The extent to which you solve a user problem; and
  • How large and ambiguous that problem was to solve.
  1. Performing customer research as an input into my decision-making;
  2. Leading without authority; and
  3. Launching products iteratively.

1. Build your customer research chops

  • As an internal product manager, it’s easier to access your users. This ease is particularly stark when compared to how hard it can be to access external customers, where you usually have to fight to get funding for research, convince account managers that you’re safe to talk to a customer, or send out surveys that only give you snippets of the user experience.
  • So you haven’t done card sorting, usability testing, treejacking, shadowing, user interviews or ‘buy a feature’ before? No problem! With internal customers, the stakes are lower (you won’t lose a customer if your research technique isn’t 100% polished). As long as you have prepared for your sessions with a clear research plan and you manage your user expectations, they will be more than happy to be a part of what you’re doing.
  • Creating hacks;
  • Using another third party tool covertly;
  • Getting your team to do it for them; or
  • Avoiding using your product overtly.
  • Shadow your users to get a clear picture of their needs day to day.
  • Monitor adoption rates — take the time to ensure your team sets up monitoring of your measures of success (avoid measures that you have to update manually as these inevitably stop being measured).
  • Monitor Slack — Slack is a goldmine for user feedback and questions (i.e. where your product is not yet meeting user needs).

2. Influence without authority

  • Receive more requests, more frequently; and
  • Be expected to be hyper-responsive to these requests, if not just do them.
  • Involve your key stakeholders in your strategic process. As the PM, you are still accountable, however this doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate with your stakeholders to lay out all of the areas the team could focus on to have impact. After doing this, together confirm which of these areas you will focus on, over a time period (e.g. 1–2 years) and why.
  • Once you have your strategic pillars, draft your measures of success. Usually for internal product management, you will focus on some combination of speed of change, quality of change, reliability of the product and cost. Draft some back of the envelope sizes to give an order of magnitude of each measure and work with your stakeholders to select the measures you’ll look to move.
  1. In stakeholder meetings: empathise, don’t make promises. Listening is often more important than committing to a solution.
  2. Make it your goal to mention your strategy in every session. Use a visual to show stakeholders where you are currently in the strategy, and where you’re going next.

3. Launch products iteratively

  • Establish a set of test users of different experience levels, tenure, and teams to test out your solution iteratively and provide feedback. Don’t forget that showing something unpolished to users will get you more feedback than if it’s totally polished and looks ‘done’.
  • Upfront, confirm the single thing, or couple of things that you need to ‘nail’ in order to achieve product-user-fit/build affinity/build trust. This will help your team to know where to spend effort in iterating, versus just making things functional.
  • People say ‘fail fast’. Just failing is not the key. Failing and systematically learning from these failures is how you succeed. Keep close eye on your measures of success to test how these are moving with each iteration. After each iteration, you will learn something. Take this learning into your next iteration. Use what you learn to help you figure out what to do next, and how much you’re willing to invest.

Conclusions

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