Question: How do I start a product management role within a company that has never had one?
I’ve been hired by a software company to be their first Product Manager. There is no product manager today, and each part of the job is done either by engineers, sales, marketing, QA, etc.
What would be the first steps to establish the product manager role within the company and bring value while learning products and context?
Answer from Mara Krieps of Pivotal Product Management: Congratulations on being selected to launch the product manager role in a company! This is one of the most challenging (and sometimes risky) assignments a product manager can have, and yet it can be one of the most rewarding. Here are my recommendations for what to do during your first weeks in the role:
- Get a clear picture of the stakeholder landscape. Meet one-on-one with all known and potential stakeholders. Your goal is to answer these questions:
- Who understands the role of a product manager?
- Who currently holds some or all product manager responsibilities?
- Who is in favor of this change, and who is not? (Who sees this change as a gain vs. loss for themselves or their department?)
Based on the responses you receive, it can be helpful to draw a “map” of the stakeholder landscape and identify your likely challenges and relationship-building opportunities.
- Identify and prioritize the current issues around the product development process. Consider facilitating an Innovation Game like “Speedboat” with your stakeholders to identify the key issues in a non-threatening way. Include your own expected challenges in this exercise. They will include migration of product management tasks from the current owners, and getting the organization to agree to move from an ad hoc process to a predictable processes.
- Develop a plan for the processes and tools you’ll use to get the job done.
- Ask the team to show you the documents, models and templates they are using now
- If your own toolbox is lacking any templates, come and get what you need from ours: www.pivotalpm.com/learn
Also, you’ve correctly identified ramp-up as an underlying task. Do get up to speed on the product, customer and market as quickly as possible. As you know, your credibility ultimately will rely on your domain expertise.
Good luck in your new role!