I've just started as a Product Manager, now what?

My goal as a Product Manager, not just in the first 90 days, but in perpetuity, is to go from reacting to business and customer needs, to predicting them.

This post encapsulates what I would do in my first 90 days. I think this goes for any new role, but as you can imagine, my product-focus leads to bias.

1) Identify success, for your business and your customer

In this role we have a two-sided contract; one side exists with the business and delivering a product that makes our business more successful, and one side exists with the customer or user and delivering a product that helps them meet their goals.

We have to deliver on both, in order to do so, we need to know two things:

a) What does success look like with this product for my company?

It may be profitability, this product helps improve the company’s bottom line.

It may be education, your product produces a more educated customer, that once educated, now knows they need more of what your company produces.

It may be data, your customer works for your company and by doing work in your product you capture necessary business intelligence that would be difficult to capture otherwise.

b) What does success look like with this product for my customer?

It may be effectiveness, your product helps your customer become more effective by eliminating work that was time consuming or difficult to perform prior.

It may be cost savings, your product replaces work that we were doing with another service, or with a full or part-time employee, and your customer is now saving money.

It may be education, your product helps your customer know more about a subject or industry.

Doesn’t matter what the success criterion is, the point is to identify it as soon as possible so you can start to measure.

2) Become a customer

Don’t forget you have two customers, see 1 above.

My first 90 days starts with an almost maniacal obsession with the ins and outs of what we are building.

As a business customer, I want to install and deploy the product. I want to see what we are measuring (if anything), how often we measure it, and where the reports go.

As a product customer, I want to use the product for the same reasons our customer uses the product. Can I achieve the goal with the product? How difficult is it to achieve that goal? If I run into issues, does the product documentation help me? Does our pitch tell the customer they will achieve their goal? Does the product give me feedback that I am achieving my goal, or that I am improving on the long path toward achieving my goal?

3) Build a gap inventory

With 1 & 2 in hand, you can start to inventory the gaps you see, gaps in; what the team measures, how the team measures it, how the team prioritizes, how the product delivers for customers, how the product delivers for the business, how the product is pitched, how partners outside the team are kept in the loop, how the team operates, the list goes on.

This gap inventory is for you, and you alone at this point. We must remember that we were not there when a decision was made, trade-offs happen everyday.

Gaps are opportunities to step up and lead. Be humble, a good listener, and nonjudgemental.

4) Know your team

The team you partner with is an incredible resource, you can learn so much about the product you are building just by meeting and listening to each team member in turn.

In the first 90 days, find ways to meet with everyone on the team (lunch is great for this).

Ask them about 1, 2, & 3 above. What are the goals they have identified in the two-sided contract. How do they use the product? What gaps have they identified?

Listen to what they say.

That’s it.

If you read this and think “that’s it”. You’re right, “that’s it”, and “it” is a lot more than you think.

Coming from Netflix, I have a strong desire to make an impact early, and I have to remind myself to resist giving into that urge too early.

I’ve seen it happen too many times, that you try to make an impact early and you do, but it’s negative. Either you get off on the wrong foot with your team or partners, or you build the wrong thing because you didn’t fully realize what you were supposed to be building.

5) Revisit this list

So that’s not it?

It is, the last thing is use this list to serve as that reminder to not start on next steps too soon. 90 days isn’t set in stone, you’ll feel it or you won’t and you may make a few mistakes.

The last point I’ll make is the negative outcomes of pushing too early or too late are recoverable. Keep honing your craft and focusing on improving yourself and the product, and you will make it through.

If you’re struggling with that, ask for feedback from your colleagues. What gaps have they identified in you?

After 90 days

If you’ve made it past the first 90 days, congratulations. You should be educated and ready to shaping the roadmap and to start pushing new initiatives forward.

My thoughts on those aspects of the role coming soon, stay tuned.