There are scores of situations where a Product Manager might find herself/himself getting entangled completely in tactical aspects of product management because the situation demands it or there are simply too much chaos in the organization due to a disorganised way of working. There are also situations when one is with an off-shore development team, “far away” from the customers and key decision makers. It is easy to get completely disoriented and frustrated at the situation. There are ways to salvage out of the “situation” of being a “Shadow Product Manager”:
- In-depth data analysis: They say, data is the plural of anecdotes. I have found that in chaos, people miss out in-depth data analysis; there is always some signal hidden in the pile of data for you to figure out a feature for your road map – at least a clear hypothesis. Once, I remember that analysis of support tickets over a period of time told me that users were not rebooting the machine after installing our application as most users postponed doing that. We worked to build something that required no restart and made life much simpler for the user.
- Collect anecdotal evidences via social media: There are always keen users of your product who are upset when something does not work and make their displeasure known through social media – but are more than happy to help if you collaborate with them. Do not react to each such signals, but pick and choose whom you want to respond to.
- Get into the good books of one or two sales folks: Sales personnel meet the customers all the while but lack of product makes them either succumb to pressure or to overcommit and harass the product manager. However, once you befriend them by helping them understand the product better, you can get involved in sales calls – a lot of them are remote and get connected to the buyer (a typical case of B2B product).
Where most often I as a Product Manager have flawed is to assume that product folks who are geographically near the customer would have spoken to the customer and gathered anecdotal evidences. I have seen instances where not even a decent email was exchanged and the customer was happy when I spoke to them over phone. There is really nothing like a ‘shadow product manager’ – there are only ‘self motivated product managers’ and ‘complaining product managers”.
Photo Credit: Hamid Saber