Product Management — A stakeholder approach

Why product itself matters the least for a ‘Good Product’ manager

Traditionally, when we talk about product management, following diagram comes into picture and fit in an approach.

This approach is neither completely correct, nor it is wrong. It’s just not yet there. Let’s find out why.

This approach talks about skills required to be a product manager. But, the result of it is missing. Some times there may be more skills required to drive results thus making this model is very rigid.

If you think about what a product manager does in general is driving results to generate value for their stakeholders. They does not have to deliver skills but uses them and develops them as needed for their products.

Generating value to their stakeholders has to be a bit elaborated here.

Stakeholders for product manager includes following clans

  • Users — Who use your product?
  • Team — Who builds your product?
  • Investors — Who funds your product?
  • Competitors — Who else is impacted by your product?

All the above hinges up on the fact that you drive results to generate value for them.

The basic block of this framework is built on the fact that, all stakeholders are humans and there is always a human emotion that drives their expectations and satisfactions.

Users

User is the key stakeholders who directly invest into the product as their primary business of solving their problem.

A product manager’s basic responsibility is to meet the expectations of this primary stakeholder of the product.

A good PM need to advocate user’s problems and strive to solve them.

Users pay to get the product/service. If they are not managed well, product has no meaning and it won’t exist.

Team

The team that helps to build, operate, sell and manage product is also an important stakeholder without whom, we cannot manage the expectations of the primary stakeholder — User.

Managing and meeting expectations of team is the next most important responsibility a Good Product Manager ensures.

Team comes with lot of aspirations, dreams and values they believe in. Making sure the product goals and team aspirations aligned and motivating team to align so makes an important ingredient of product/business success.

Investors

All the hustling we do solving user’s problems and making sure team behind product is happy and delivering the right thing is to finally deliver — business goals.

Without investor, a Product Manager cannot fund his/her product. Because investor takes risk in investing his hard earned money into the product, they deserve to get the attention on their returns. A good Product Manager has to ensure their Investors are well informed about product’s health and progress. They would genuinely extend relevant dividends to them with utmost diligence.

Competitors

Competitors might look quite off in this list. But they are surely one of the key stakeholders as they have stakes in how you perform. One need to consider competitors as ‘Stake minimizing’ stakeholders. (On the contrary, we need to maximize stake for Investors of our product)

Clarifying a bit, PM should approach:
Investor as a function of Max(Their Investments)
Competitors as a function of Min(Their Market share)
And, these functions are mostly mutually exclusive.

What a Product Manager needs to do keeping competitors as part of their stakeholders is to continuously watch them and respond to their market actions.

Especially in the case of extremely competitive markets (red oceans), Product Manager need to attend competitor actions as frequent as they attend user and team actions.

You

(The Product Manager personality)

while all the above stakeholders need to be managed, there are no right answers most times on how to do something. This is the beauty about product management function. One need to use their level of wisdom to take decisions and approach every interaction with these stakeholders.

What tools you use?
Who are more important?
What problems to solve?
Who are your real competitors?
What does market think of your product?
How do you REALLY make money? (Business model)
Does your current strategy sustainable? (How long?)
How do you decide which technology to use?
What skills are actually required to build and maintain your product?
What is the best way to handle team? (Leadership)
What does my investor actually want? (Do they value growth or P&L?)

BIG QUESTION:
How can I influence any of them to achieve a common great outcomes?

There are more such introspecting questions one should ask themselves being a product manager and find answers themselves.

How one answers these questions makes a difference to their product.

At the end of the day, Product is just a tool or means to achieve stakeholder value generation.

[exaggeration alert]
Product Management can be a soul searching exercise if passionately done.

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Kishore Mokkapati

I’m a believer in power of games to change the world! Building games for 15 years. Strategy, Product Management, & Economics are my other areas of interest.