With a fast-growing technology company, the challenges of product management crop up on a regular basis. It is tough to balance desires and ideas from prospects, customers, partners, sales, support, services, engineering, analysts, and competitors. We’ve learned a few things over the past nine years related to product management.
At my company, we’re always learning as we go. We recently implemented a change to all of our applications, where we put a big “Give us feedback” link in the header or footer of the major product screens. The feedback link points to an idea exchange specific to the product that solicits input from customers, prospects, partners, and employees. This approach has really helped gather ideas from a broader range of users, and it helps the best ideas rise to the top by way of the voting process.
We also have a full-time client advocate for each product line who reaches out to customers to proactively solicit feedback. Our client advocates are awesome at doing quarterly check-ins, answering questions for clients before they need support, and being contact points to help get things done. Also, our client advocates represent one of the voices in our product roadmap decision making process.
Internally, we have a 24 month unpublished product roadmap. Why don’t we publish it? Well, we’ve published it in the past, only to consistently have at least 20% of the items on it change. This causes consternation for clients who were anticipating a specific feature. A roadmap is very important, but we’ve learned that being fluid and agile with respect to continual feedback and market input is even more important. The world changes fast, and so do our plans.
These are just some of our main approaches to product management. Product management is a tough discipline that requires synthesizing input from many stakeholders, and is more of an art than a science. Someone once said “the product is the marketing” and I couldn’t agree more. The product is the marketing and product management is one of the most important things any technology company will do.