Product Teams

3 ways product managers can become more effective right now

Published May 19, 2020

Today, most product teams are focused on retention and keeping their customers front and center of everything they do. While this is important, product managers (PMs) can also benefit from looking inward — how can we ramp up new team members more quickly? How can we collaborate better with other departments? How can we innovate faster?  

One of a PM’s core responsibilities is to keep the rest of the organization — especially leadership — informed of (and confident in) the product’s current state and future development plans. When everyone is working remotely, this already-challenging task becomes that much more difficult. Teams need to ensure they have the right tools to not only ideate, plan, and build great products, but communicate and collaborate with stakeholders effectively. 

As companies look for ways to increase efficiencies, product managers should take stock of their current workflows and systems to identify opportunities to improve and streamline — and lean on those who are there to help increase their efficiency. After stepping out of the PM world and into product ops, I’ve been focusing on just that. Here are three steps I recommend:

   1. Tackle data fidelity issues 

Data is central to a product manager’s job, and if data accuracy and cleanliness wasn’t top-of-mind before, it should be now. The good news is that product data has the potential to be the cleanest data set available since there’s no opportunity for it to get altered by human-input error. Because of this, product data is even more impactful for the business, making it crucial that it’s easily accessible for teams across the organization.

A key action item is to ensure you have a single source of truth for product data. What’s equally important is to make sure that information is accessible in consumability as well. Be thoughtful in how you organize data, for example by creating different dashboards for different stakeholders (customer success, sales, executives) or company priorities (retention, new feature launches, etc.).

   2. Ensure onboarding is cohesive

Internal onboarding can be a big time suck, which, for product teams, means less time spent on more important things like talking to customers or mapping out a new key feature. One of the best ways to increase efficiency in the onboarding process is to lessen the number of instances that it is required. Think about it: would you rather have to onboard new team members onto four different systems four different times, or all at once?

This notion comes into play when you’re assessing the value of your current (or prospective) tools. When possible, seek out platforms that fulfill multiple capabilities or needs in your product tech stack. The less time spent teaching product managers how to use these tools, the more time they will have to actually reap the benefits.

   3. Assess your tools for opportunities to consolidate

Similar to onboarding, how can you minimize the amount of time and resources spent on integrating the technologies your product team uses? Answer: think critically about where you can consolidate. 

When efficiency is the goal, product managers should always turn to their technology stack to determine what they could (or should) live without, including functionality that can be replaced with another existing tool or manual workaround. Especially when teams are working remotely and relying on technology for things that historically happened face to face (e.g. whiteboarding sessions or data reviews), you need to make sure the tools you’re using are providing true value.

Using fewer systems also reduces licensing costs and eliminates the need to manage as many integrations across multiple systems, which can be labor-intensive for your operations function. Plus, your finance team will thank you for reducing the number of vendors they have to deal with for billing. You won’t necessarily be able to consolidate every single system but it’s important to think critically about where you can combine, depending on what’s available in the market.