Product Management is a cross-functional, creative, and strategic discipline and being a great product manager requires one to possess a swiss army knife of skills. What are some well-documented challenges that occur daily in the life of a product manager and how does one smoothly overcome them? Curoloy Fmr Head of Product Harbani Malhotra shares frameworks, tips, and tricks to help product leaders navigate common product management challenges such as stakeholder management and product strategy.
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On the importance of stakeholder management
Harbani has had the good fortune of seeing companies scale from a couple of 100,000 consumers to, in some cases, hundreds of millions. Whether a company is catering to a handful of users or a handful or regions, stakeholder management and product strategy is core to the role of product management. In the first section of her presentation, Bani dives into the fundamentals for understanding various stakeholder groups.
“As product managers, 50% of the role is stakeholder management. Unless you believe to the core that this is a fundamental part of the role we play at our companies, you will not be able to be effective.”
“Unless we invest in building trust with our stakeholders, we will not be able to get engagement. Unless we invest in building empathy, and really understanding the pain points of our internal stakeholders, we may or may not be able to replicate that to our external stakeholders.”
“Unless you have alignment, shared ownership, and shared motivation, it’s going to be really hard for you to run that relay race because you’re all going to be running on different tracks.”
“As a rule, there is no one person who has answers to everything. You are better able to position yourself, your product, and your service when you have access to those experts in house. We as product managers don’t need to know everything, but we need to know who to go to, and how to get access to those insights”
On delivering on business value
Bani lays it down succinctly when she says that the crux of product management lies in delivering business value. Each day comes with plethora of challenges to achieving that goal; great stakeholder management is one manner of removing potentially significant bottlenecks and roadblocks
“Unless you don’t have the mentality of ‘it’s all of us against the problem, not you against me’ when you have disagreements, you’re not going to be able to tackle those big bets. You are going to be spending your time going back and forth between stakeholders.”
“Without actually being in the room, the customer is probably your most important stakeholder group. Product, in conjunction with design and engineering, are supposed to be customer advocates.”
The Four Keys to effective stakeholder management
When half of the job is people management, it’s imperative to get it right. Bani lays out a clear set of best practices for product leaders to be successful in their own stakeholder management.
“Are you giving your stakeholders a seat at the table? It has everything to do with alignment. In order to do that, everybody needs to be on the same page, they need to share the same version, and they need to be aligned on the polls.”
“Am I investing in those relationships and building trust? Without building trust, building extraordinary products is going to be a really big challenge, or it’s going to be untenable. Even if you’ve done it once, replicating it is going to be really hard. In order to join forces, it’s really important to align and build trust.”
“You do that in a variety of ways, but one of the most important ones is constantly communicating. Communication changes over the lifecycle of your relationship and over the lifecycle of your product development process. Essentially, use communication to enable your stakeholders, to make better decisions, provide you insight, and for stakeholders to be heard.”
“When you deliver on your promise, especially when that promise is to deliver value, you will get into this really beautiful place with your stakeholders. You will be seen as somebody who not only orchestrates well, but takes everyone along on the journey and delivers on the set promise.”
Watch the entire video above to catch all of Harbani’s insights on stakeholder management and where product strategy comes into play in those relationships.