How to Manage Risk as a Product Manager

Anu Ramakrishnan
The Startup
Published in
6 min readFeb 11, 2020


An aspect of a Product Manager’s job that’s often not discussed enough is their responsibility to own and manage risk. There are several stages in the product lifecycle where PMs are expected to assess and call out risks — whether it be in regards to scope, timeline, ability to meet KPIs, and just about anything that directly on indirectly impacts the product (including but not limited to current happenings, political climate, etc.). The downsides to failing to manage risk can be substantial — unhappy stakeholders, frustrated customers and likely a stinking reputation as a PM.

Product Risk can fall under two broad categories — strategic and executional. Strategic risk is ensuring that you’re building the right product/features at the right time while building confidence on the product or release’s ability to meet KPIs set by the business & customer (For example, what’s our confidence that this feature will meet the 10% DAU growth KPI set for our product in the next 3 months?). This risk often needs to be owned and accounted for in the formative stages of product/release planning and will likely need the inputs of stakeholders like the executive team, business development and user & market research. Executional risk is assessing potential roadblocks and issues to the operational aspects of product development — such as the design & development timeline, quality (i.e. no high impact bugs) and delivery (for example, releasing a new software version during off-peak hours).

A few key strategic & executional risk considerations at various stages of the Product Development Process (self-illustrated)

As a PM, here are a few questions & following strategies one could use to identify, assess and potentially mitigate risk to ultimately ensure the launch of a successful product.

  1. Have you prioritized the right thing?
    As PMs, prioritizing a roadmap can be particularly challenging and prone to risk because you’re often factoring several things into consideration while trying to gather enough supporting evidence to back your decisions. I’ve discussed ways to prioritize a roadmap in another story, but it’s crucial to make sure you’re prioritizing based on the metrics that align best with the goals of the product, business & executive expectations and what the customer needs the…

Anu Ramakrishnan
The Startup

Head of Product @ Early stage Neuroscience venture | Ex @Roche @Samsung l Alumnus @UW @Dartmouth | EB1A Green Card Recipient & Coach @