Product managers drive innovation, listen to customer feedback, and guide their products toward success for their company. It is their responsibility to ensure that the product is aligned with the company’s vision. How can PMs be creative and strategic in leading products that are different from what the company does at large? Twilio Product Leader Arnab Basu shares the top 5 strategies for innovation when working with products that aren’t your company’s top priority. 

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On Strategy One of Driving Innovation: You Are Only Limited By Your Imagination

In the world of innovation, thinking outside the box is one of the most important aspects of product management. Especially if the product is not your company’s top priority. As product managers and leaders, we want to provide our customers with something new and exciting. And in order to do that, we must use our imaginations. Being flexible with roadmaps, and being willing to try something new can help take your product to the next level. Here are some ways to prioritize products that are not the company’s top priority: 

“If you’re [building] a product that’s in an organization where [the company] is not worried about immediate revenue metrics, or contractual obligations, it may not be on the top of everyone’s mind.”

“It’s up to you to decide how you’re going to represent your product and how it fits into the larger roadmap, strategy, and portfolio of the company.”

“This gives you a great chance to set yourself up within the organization to succeed over time.”

On Strategy Two: Ensure Privacy 

When creating a product, it is always important to build safeguards for both users and for your company. As a product manager, with a product mindset, you need to know how the changes you are making affect the end-user. Minimizing company liability should always be a top priority. Investing in best-class solutions for GDPR, CCPA, or whatever regional compliance, helps ensure you are protecting the consumer and the company. And making sure you know your company’s privacy policy, terms of use, EULA, and other related documents minimizes liability. This is what is important to remember about ensuring privacy: 

“No matter where in the world you are, if you’re working with a product that is used by hundreds of thousands of users, you are going to have to deal with privacy concerns that they may have.”

“It’s important that you know, whether it’s a button you’re changing or a new feature that you’re adding, how it impacts the contract that you have with your end-user.”

“Knowing how to minimize the liability of your business is a pretty important thing to have in your tool chest.” 

On Strategy Three: Know Your Target Audience 

Those who pay for your product may not always be the ones who are using it. For example, Wonder Workshop has dashboard robots that were marketed to parents and teachers. But the actual playtime and usage were happening with the kids. So, when dealing with these different personas and use cases, it is important to balance out what the incentives are for each group. There will always be some competing patterns that you have to wade through as a product manager. Balancing the journey between the customer and end-user is a great way to facilitate product growth. Focus on these aspects when considering the target audience: 

“As a product manager, when you’re dealing with these different personas and use cases, you have to make sure that you’re balancing out what the incentives are for each group.” 

“There’s probably a third and fourth class of user that’s not being represented here, which is those that are enabling [end users and customers], you also need to take those into account.” 

“There’s a balance between what the contractual obligation for a customer is and what the actual end-user experience for the consumer can be.” 

On Strategy Four: Build Your Own Playbook 

Building your own playbook is crucial when re-prioritizing products that are not your company’s main focus. It’s important to build your own roadmaps. And through the roadmaps, build connections with the other product teams. When resources are limited, communicating with other teams and leaders expediates innovation. Your main goal is to deliver outcomes, so you must think outside of the box. Having an entrepreneurial mindset, building a playbook, and utilizing all resources available can help re-prioritize your product. Arnab strongly suggests trying these strategies for product management: 

“When your product either has a limited set of resources or requires coordination with another team, in order to successfully deliver on outcomes, you need to be able to make your own playbook.” 

“You have to earn the trust of these other teams that might have a slightly different mission. Over time you find a way to coordinate between teams to deliver on outcomes for your product and end-users.”

“It helps if you work in an environment with severe constraints, either on time or resources. It brings out the best in you because you have to think outside the box to find outcomes and to deliver on them.”

On Strategy Five: The Path to Innovation

The road less traveled is one full of innovation. Market shifts are inevitable, so it is important to learn from the variables and to be prepared to change course. Keeping certain constants and standard operating procedures is important, but so is switching out variables. Every product is different, and your path to success may not look the same as other companies. Understanding the target audience and the dynamics of the industry can help you identify some of those variables. Check out these tips for product growth: 

“Take the non-obvious path, technologies and markets are going to shift all the time.”

“A reliable way for you to build bench depth is by making sure that you keep certain things constant, while you focus on learning from slightly new variables.”

“How do you build flows and experiences in a way that actually delivers on that Northstar metric? That’s the fun challenge.”

About the speaker
Arnab Basu Twilio, Product Manager Member
About the host
Deba Sahoo Fidelity Investments, SVP, Senior Product Executive
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