Software product manager’s first 45-90 days at a new job ….
January 13, 2010 2 Comments
This is a continuation of my previous blog post of Software product manager’s first 30 days at a new job …..
Now that you are already settled into your new job and the first 45 days have gone by. You have done everything that was listed on the 30 day checklist. You have met with the stakeholders, they know who you are, you know the product, you are gaining momentum. Now what next? (BTW, in case you are wondering why I skipped the time period from 30-45 days, read on.)
It is hard to describe what the next steps need to be because it will depend on many factors such as organization structure, where the product is in its life cycle, your vertical etc. But here are 4 things I recommend you do during these 45-90 days to keep up the momentum. I think these 4 things apply no matter what product you are managing.
- 90 day plan – If your boss and you have not already put a next 90 day plan, you put one together. Create a proposal on what you think you need to accomplish, where you need help from your boss etc. Then sit down with your boss, refine it and finalize it. This will speak volumes to your boss of your organizational skills, your ability to set goals etc. But then, make sure you follow them and get it done. Achievements and not goals are the only things that matter after everything is said and done.
- Customer visits: Try to visit at least 5 current customers. If customer visits are not possible, try to make phone calls at the very least. If I am still not completely comfortable with the product/service by now and are nervous to engage with a customer, I try to go with someone else who may be visiting the customer. This could be a sales person, another product manager, customer support person etc. Here is what I typically tell these customers during these calls:
- I am new to the company (sets expectations that you are not an expert on your product yet)
- I introduce myself to them including explaining what my role is (believe it or not, many customers don’t understand what a product manager does, I also tell them that my call is not to sell them anything)
- I want to understand their business processes and where my product fits into their business process
- Understand why they chose to use my product or service?
- What do they like about us?
- Where do you think we fall short? Make sure that you set expectations that you cannot commit that these will be fixed. Remind them that you will get the information to the right people and that you are still a newbie.
- I want to build an ongoing relationship with them to make sure I continue to listen to their needs and painpoints, run future ideas by them to get their early feedback etc.
- I leave my direct phone number and email with them
Write a report on what you heard from customers (good and bad) and send it to your product team and other stakeholders. This will help you build credibility within the organization that you are quickly getting up to speed and that you have started gathering real market data. In the future this credibility will help, because others won’t mistake your recommendations to be just your opinions but instead ones grounded in market facts.
- Secure early wins in areas that are important to your boss and where you build credibility within your organization. But before you commit to do anything, get permission from your boss. While the idea is to start getting yourselves en-grained into the process, you also don’t want be the newbie to be assigned a task by someone because it is an unpopular task and a setup for failure. What you should be looking for are tasks where you can start making contributions that your boss and others in the company start recognizing you and getting to know you. Try to find tasks that others may not want to do – that is OK. The idea is to help the team win. This may be anything such as:
- helping putting together a customer presentation
- updating the product roadmap by incorporating the latest changes
- testing a new piece of functionality that has been implemented
- helping with usability testing on a new feature (helps you get in front of a customer, observe and listen to how they react to your product)
- providing your input on a small feature that is going to be implemented. Research how the feature needs to be implemented, write requirements document. Believe it or not, this will help you understand all the inner workings of your product – what it takes to make even simple changes.
- writing release notes for an upcoming new release
- helping fill out an RFP from a prospect etc.
- Product demo – Call a meeting with your product team and anyone else who think can help you. Tell them that you would like to do a product demo to them to simulate a customer situation. Let them know that the whole point of the exercise is to gauge where you stand in terms of knowing your product in and out and also figure out gaps which you need to fill. This event is not because product managers will be demo jockies, but because you as a product manager must be able to demo your product in the event of a crunch.
Now why did I leave out the 30-45 day period. Only because I think to complete everything that was listed in the previous post will likely take you 45 days. Stakeholders will ask you to reschedule your 1 on 1 with them, you will run into hurdles such as getting accounts setup for all the tools you need to use etc. And if you don’t and you are rocking, I am sure your boss will give you new tasks to do that you had not planned for.
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