The Challenging Role Of The Product Manager/ Product Owner In An Organisation.
Organisations that build solutions, products or develop outcomes for their in-house and external customers are faced with many challenges from funding, resource and market competition. These challenges are the headaches of directors in the organisation, however the role that carries this on their shoulder each day is the product manager/ product owner (PM/PO) role. They dedicate their entire time to product management to ensure it delivers value to the organisation. They adopt and adapt frameworks, practices from marketing, finance, science, product development and work with all relevant stakeholders to deliver value to the customer to meet market and customer needs. They value their customers and engage them regularly to keep the customer close to their products.
As a product manager or product owner (PM/PO) your products will drive organisational growth or could lead to its collapse and a danger if it is the key dependent product. Most entrepreneurs wear the hat of PM/PO when they develop an idea and work tirelessly to ensure that their product grows in the market and attracts expected customers. Hence directors in most organisation will spend most of their time reviewing their services/ products continuously to ensure that they are not impacted by the changes in their market. The challenges are rife, and I will first share the benefits of having the PM/PO role.
The benefits of the role are:
- They are involved in the initial assessment of the product and work with stakeholders to select the right product/initiative that will return business benefits
- They prioritise delivery of product features by working with technical and non-technical colleagues to plan, define build, deliver and roll out product to the market
- They engage with finance at stages of ideation, exploration, build and rollout to secure funding, monitor sales and customer feedback
- They drive product strategy, growth and success daily
What then are the challenges faced by Product Manager/Owners (PM/PO) in large and small organisations that want to be ahead of the market?
- Lack of ongoing support from senior directors and leaders in large organisations. Leaders tend to take a holistic look at the organisation and want to provide support to each arm of the organisation to the detriment of the key value stream that drive profit in the organisation.
- Resource scarcity and sharing between product management and business units, this leads to delays and lack of focus in the product delivery teams.
- Constant changes in the organisation, technology and the customer’s environment lead to uncertainty and difficulty in making the right decisions.
- Pressures and strong demands from teams and some customers impacts the product development lifecycle.
- Scarcity of funding as the organisation orders and prioritises its initiatives that can potentially deliver value or benefits.
- Unavailability of the right stakeholders during product refinement leads to poor selection of requirements that deliver end user value.
The challenges above are among many experienced by product manager/owners in their role. They can be resolved with continuous strategic leadership support and engagement with various stakeholders. These challenges can also be linked to the product manager or owner role as they through their experience, skills and knowledge can be the cause of the challenges identified. The Agile Lean mind set is required to change the culture and embed a relentless improvement discipline in organisations that want to deliver value to their customer.
Resolving the challenges above and delivering value to the organisation.
In taking a holistic view to resolve the challenges in organisations Product manager and owners must continuously deliver products of value to the organisation that will impact the profit margin. They must develop persistent strategies to engage with business stakeholders at all levels so they can solicit the adequate input during product development. They also, must communicate benefits achieved to all stakeholders, celebrate success with all parties involved in the delivery, create a culture of shared ownership and encourage continuous involvement of stakeholders in the process.
Above all adopt a different mind-set for the customer, “the customer is king” – John Wannamaker, so PM/PO’s must always have the customer at the center of all discussions. The customers’ expectations must drive discussions, policies and be the driver to strategic engagement with all parties. A lack of customer focus can lead to a detrimental impact on the financial bottom line and could lead to the collapse of organisations that were once profitable.
Is the PM/PO roles less relevant in the current turbulent markets? Obviously, the rhetorical question offers us the time to ponder, review and retrospect on the benefits, challenges and recommendations suggested in this article. The search for a panacea or that silver bullet to resolve this situation is not a one-time fix for organisations. It requires the discipline to ascertain the current state, list clearly improvement activities and be disciplined to relentlessly implement the recommended actions.
SPC – Agile Consulting and Training
Director – Lean Icon Technology and Training Ltd