Reflections of a Rookie PM
I complete 1 year as a Product Manager in SAP Industry Cloud and it’s time for reflecting on the lessons I learned. While I put together my experiences, hope this would help someone who is leaning toward becoming a PM.
Previously, I spent around 7 years in SAP as a techno-functional expert in the procurement domain where I worked closely with customers: understanding their business scenarios, fixing technical bugs, discovering product gaps, building features, and overall figuring out how technology can be used to simplify our customers’ lives. The role equipped me with some core competencies such as customer obsession, process building, and most importantly ownership, especially when you are the sole developer working with a specific customer.
A few other things that kept me curious apart from customers were the market, competitors, and overarching business strategy. So, I went ahead and pursued my executive MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Let’s keep another day to talk about the competence and confidence I gained in business essentials from my MBA. Next, I wanted to level up by taking responsibility for a product from conception through its launch and thereby, grabbed myself a product role with SAP S/4HANA Discreet Industries.
Here is my humble attempt to stitch my learnings with the top 5 phases of product development:
Problem discovery is a broad topic that includes understanding the market, customers, users, and their problems, gaps in the existing business processes, and competitors and then identifying opportunities to tap into.
- CMI CompeteONE: When I got my first topic based on subscription, I jumped into CMI CompeteONE to read and make notes on the research articles published by our CMI team. I used to get lost in the beginning considering the ocean-size research materials, but believe me, this place would be your best friend for all the research work as a PM.
- Subject Matter Experts: SAP consultants are simply put walking books, with the loudest and deepest business knowledge, and expertise in industry best practices, and they can help you know the customers better. Make them your work besties and you have won half of the battle as a PM in SAP.
While I was focusing on smaller details, my mentor used to keep reciting about the “Bigger Picture.” It took me a while to realize that I was missing the forest for the trees. But now, I comprehend why the product direction which starts from Product Vision, in turn, aligned with Company’s mission, is so crucial to PMs. Just like a CEO, whose focus is to increase the valuation of the organization for shareholders, we PMs ought to increase the value of products for our customers. In simple terms, define the purpose of the product and how it is benefiting the customers.
- Learn about Company’s Mission and Strategy
- Develop Product Vision and align it to the company’s strategy seamlessly.
- Define the target customer segment and how the product value is delivered to them (product strategy)
Owning the product direction would also help us to influence all the stakeholders we work with better.
Product vision and direction are closely followed by crafting a clear roadmap. While a roadmap becomes an evaluating criterion for PM’s competence, don’t take it all on yourself. The best way to build a roadmap is to involve everyone (product owners, architects, designers, consultants, and even customers to influence the larger picture.) This would help PMs to plan the product releases as per the available resources and timeline. Always remember Long Term growth and success>>Quick wins.
What would help you to come up with an ambitious yet collaborative roadmap?
- Building healthy relations: I cannot stress the importance of this point. Such as getting into a developer’s mindset and understanding where they come from makes a big difference in PM’s life. Be authentic and empathetic
- Communication, communication, communication- Does this mean over-communicate? Absolutely not. But PMs need to communicate a lot, like a LOT! keep different modes of communication running- meetings, broadcasts, blogs, customer demos, GTM alignments, and the list goes on and on. Making your product conversations persuasive and assertive by supporting data and information is everything and I am learning it all from my mentor. No one can counter once he opens his memory list – dates, numbers, names, and everything right.
- North Star: The only way to stay focused amidst all the communication and stakeholders is your North Star e.g., Product Vision.
- Prioritization: There is a lot of product jargon, which sounds cliché, but we realize their importance only when we start doing it. While there are a lot of frameworks for prioritization, everything boils down to the value-effort ratio. The objective is to deliver the most value to customers with the least effort. This also helps in stakeholder alignment by rallying the team, buying into other’s confidence, and making PM’s life relatively easier to Say NO
Here comes the real execution step – creating mockups. PMs along with POs, work closely with designers to come up with mockups, which are functional and focused on usability. We take these mockups to customers and get their feedback before starting the development work. Never shy to repeat this process till you reach a well-defined and highly likable product for the customers.
- Love Testing: The fastest way for a new PM to know the product is to test it by yourself. When I got my second topic of Complaint Handling, the first thing I did was get hold of those application URLs, activate my user access and keep trying every functionality I see on the screen. That, of course, cropped up a truckload of queries, but the sooner the better.
There is a lot that goes into product management. Your success is ultimately the success of your product. While all the above-mentioned product management capabilities and skills are vital, make Self-learning, and self-reflections your soulmates and for everything else, earn yourself an empowering and caring mentor 🙂