Congratulations! You’ve just landed your first VP of Product Management job and expectations are sky high. No pressure!
Here’s a 7-point plan for your first 100 days. The objective of this particular plan is to get you playing offense right out of the gate.
Before we get to the plan, here’s the first thing you’re NOT going to do. The Playbook:
The First Thing You’re NOT Going To Do!
The first thing you’re NOT going to do is meet with your peers in development, sales, marketing, services, etc. Why?
At this stage, you have nothing to offer except more of your witty and charming personality that everyone experienced during the interview process. And all they’re going to do is give you the saltier version of what’s wrong with product management.
Bottom line – this meeting has no value to either party right now, and the resulting to-do list makes you nothing more than a fixer for a lot of tactical issues. You’ll be forever playing defense.
VP of Product Management: Your 7-Point Plan for Playing Offense
1. Meet Customers
Schedule a series of 1-hour meetings with 15-20 customers that best represent your target markets. Thanks to zoom meeting, you can knock these out your first few days on the job.
In fact, tell everyone your start date is the day after the last customer meeting. That way you’ll be able to facilitate these conversations free of any interruptions or hair-on-fire distractions that might handicap your still untainted perspective.
These meetings are NOT to discuss your products. Your objective is to understand the industry dynamics that are driving your customers from the top down and their strategic and operational priorities, especially in areas of their business where your products are relevant.
Even though you’ll be meeting with VPs and Directors, it’ll be hard to keep the conversation away from products. Build 10 minutes into the end of the agenda to hear what customer have to say about your products. It’s always valuable.
Walking into your role with this kind of boots-on-the-ground information means you’re fully prepared for any conversation about anything. Plus, it’s your ticket to a portfolio strategy for the next 12-24 months that’s guaranteed to deliver high value to the market.
2. Create a Portfolio Mission Statement
Using the information from your 15-20 customer conversations, create a customer-facing portfolio mission statement (actually, it’s just a phrase) that reflects the ultimate goals of your portfolio in terms of customer business value.
3. Meet Your Team and Your Peers
Now you’re ready to meet your team and your peers in engineering, marketing, sales, services, etc. You’re in the driver’s seat with much to contribute since you now know more than everyone else about the market dynamics and the business priorities of your customers.
You’re now in a great position to tell everyone what you’re going to do, why, and how it’s going to benefit them and the customers. Their feedback is welcome and will be far more constructive at this point because you’ve completely changed the complexion of the conversation from products to customer value.
In relative terms, your job will become much simpler because anything that doesn’t align with the business priorities of your target customers is just noise. Highlight and click TRASH!
4. Re-Visit All Product Investment Priorities
With market dynamics and customer business priorities as the backdrop, you’re now in a position to make well-informed decisions on portfolio and product investment priorities.
Create a simple portfolio strategy that consists of customer initiatives you’ll tackle in priority order. Then align individual product roadmaps (features sets) to that portfolio strategy accordingly.
5. Structure Your Product Organization for Value
If quantifiable customer outcomes are going to be the mantra of product management, give your organization a hard look and re-align where necessary to ensure its best structured to uncover high value needs and deliver quantifiable outcomes…at scale. This includes touchpoints with all other internal disciplines.
6. Create Your To-Do List
Identify and execute action items required to establish stronger working relationships with engineering, marketing, sales, finance and customer success teams. These are things product management is committed to doing because they make everyone else more successful.
This list should be pretty straight forward now that everyone is on board with a vision and supporting priorities that revolve around customer business outcomes.
Here’s the thing. When the product management revolves around products, everyone’s opinion can be right. When product management revolves around customer priorities, there’s only one version of right, the customer’s, and it’s a whole lot easier to get consensus on that version.
7. Define Your Performance Metrics
This can be a slippery slope, so keep it simple and make sure the metrics are 100% objective and easily tracked. Sales, retention rates, adoption rates, etc. Establish and implement the infrastructure and then get into a cadence for communicating the performance metrics you want to be measured by.
The VP of Product Management’s Real Job
There are a lot of things that go into successfully leading a product management function. Superior knowledge of the market/customers and strong leadership skills are top of the heap.
The real job of product management is to make sure the organization can successfully build, market, sell, deliver and support solutions that make customers quantifiably better at their business. In other words, your job is to set everyone else up for success. In return, the organization consistently meets its strategic and financial goals and does so at scale.
If you want to get your product management team out of the “tactical fixer” rut and position them to start playing more offense, contact us about a personalized hands-on workshop where you’ll learn what good looks like for you.