Strategic Product Leadership: Empowering Product Managers for Success

In many organizations, product managers serve as the linchpins, connecting various levels — from executives to teams and customers — and are responsible for overseeing the development and lifecycle of a product from conception to launch and beyond. Product managers drive product vision, prioritizing features and aligning teams with market demands and goals, whether for business or technology products. They advocate for customers, oversee roadmap planning and guide teams to successful launches and iterations. However, there are instances when product managers may feel overwhelmed. This typically occurs when they’re inundated with tactical day-to-day tasks or juggling multiple responsibilities, leaving little time to focus on the bigger picture.

How can this challenge be mitigated? It’s a delicate balance. On one hand, product managers must ensure the products they’re involved in building align with company goals, requiring strategic thinking. On the other hand, they must collaborate closely with their teams while staying informed about competitor activities and customer needs.

It is critical for overall company business performance that product managers are successful and effective in an organization. Research conducted by 280 Group underscores this importance, showing how optimized product managers have the potential to elevate company profits by 34.2 percent. This statistic highlights the transformative impact of effective product management practices on overall business performance.

Product manager challenges

Navigating strategic alignment challenges

If they’re not careful, product managers can end up in the weeds and not communicating enough with company leadership. Business leaders and product managers must be unified in the desired business and technology strategy. However, often the business makes corporate decisions without including the product or technology team. To ensure a successful digital transformation, it’s imperative to integrate technology swiftly to maintain a competitive advantage. When creating a corporate strategy, it’s crucial to engage both business and technology leaders – and that includes product leadership.

For one company’s digital transformation, we worked with a client’s product team to help them organize strategic alignment sessions with their leaders and ensure their corporate strategy was clearly understood. These sessions focused on how product goals and strategies could effectively contribute to achieving corporate objectives. As a result of this collaboration, the outcomes achieved included aligning on strategic goals and vision, prioritizing the items to focus on next, and creating a more collaborative relationship with the leadership by having more frequent alignment sessions. This facilitated a clearer understanding of how the product initiatives fit into the broader organizational strategy, fostering a more cohesive and coordinated approach towards digital transformation.

Wearing too many hats

Product managers play a multifaceted role, deeply involved in product business strategy. They engage with customers to understand their needs, analyze the competitive landscape and assess product capabilities. Additionally, they collaborate closely with the portfolio team to align on product requests, prioritize initiatives and develop roadmaps. Furthermore, they liaise with development teams, conveying the product vision and objectives. These myriad responsibilities can overwhelm product managers, diverting their focus from critical priorities. When inundated with day-to-day tasks, they risk losing sight of product strategy and key details, potentially diluting the focus of product development efforts.

By defining clear roles and responsibilities within product teams and providing targeted product management and product owner training, we have helped organizations empower their product teams to execute their roles effectively. We also help equip companies with skilled product resources, such as product owners, product/business analysts, and product managers, to enhance their product development capabilities.

Lack of communication

Many product managers aren’t clear on business and technology strategy. Or perhaps, the strategy isn’t being passed along to them in the first place. When the company leaders aren’t communicating strategy to the product manager, it’s likely that strategy will not be passed along to design and development teams. It has a ripple effect. Likewise, customers and subject matter experts might give valuable feedback that doesn’t get passed through the organization. It also can happen that leaders will go straight to design and development teams, leaving product managers in the dark, which results in sacrificing agility – the very reason for the product manager’s role.

Recently, we not only helped a client bridge the strategic alignment gap between product and its leadership teams, but also worked closely with that client’s product management team to provide them with tools to stay customer-focused, including initiating customer-focused product sessions, implementing customer feedback loops and conducting customer journey mapping sessions.

Empowering product managers for success

To address the challenges product managers face and ensure their success, organizations must proactively support their role and provide the necessary resources and practices:

  • Clarifying the product manager role: Organizations need to define the role of product managers clearly and ensure they have the necessary support structure. This may involve hiring additional roles such as business analysts, product analysts or product owners to assist with day-to-day tasks, allowing product managers to focus on strategic oversight and big-picture thinking.
  • Providing oversight and support: Product managers require oversight and support in developing and executing product strategy. Clear communication channels and regular check-ins with senior leadership can help align priorities and ensure strategic alignment.
  • Investing in training and development: Organizations should invest in training and development programs tailored to the needs of product managers. This may include providing training in product management skill sets for individuals transitioning from other roles or domains. Additionally, ongoing professional development opportunities can help product managers stay abreast of industry trends and best practices.
  • Fostering collaboration and soft skills: Product managers must excel in collaboration, negotiation and communication to effectively navigate cross-functional teams and stakeholder relationships. Organizations should foster a culture that values and promotes these soft skills, providing opportunities for skill development and growth.
  • Granting time and space for strategic thinking: Product managers must be given the time and space to focus on strategic thinking and product strategy development. Organizations should recognize the importance of this aspect of the role and create an environment that supports and encourages strategic thinking.

Ultimately, empowering product managers for success involves providing the necessary support, resources, and practices to enable them to fulfill their strategic role effectively. Protiviti has assisted numerous clients in implementing these successful practices, setting up product managers for success. Our tailored approach enables product managers to drive product success and maximize their impact within their organizations.

To learn more about our work with product managers and other technology strategy solutions, contact us.

Sofia Hansen

Director
Technology Strategy and Architecture

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