Any company + product manager ≠ a product company.
The day-to-day role of a product manager is constantly changing and becoming more strategic. Many product managers are still trying to escape the trap of getting projects handed to them by the C-Suite and being told to simply ‘build something’ or ‘make it better.’ This isn’t exactly much to go on. Where’s the vision? Where’s the communication? Where’s the direction?
Roadmapping is one of the keys to gaining product focus. It’s shocking to see that 57% of product managers say they don’t spend enough time on roadmapping and goal-setting. Without objectives, and the proper planning and research, how can you be sure your product will succeed? How can you be sure the market won’t devour it? The number one company-killer is the lack of a market. Sure, you can go ahead and do whatever you want, but the market will always win.
So why exactly do most products fail to meet business objectives? Let’s take a look.
4 Reasons Products Fail to Meet Business Objectives
- No market need
Products fail when they aren’t solving a market problem. Often product managers are stuck tackling problems that are interesting rather than addressing those that serve a market. In fact, according to CB Insights, the number one cause of startup failure is no market need. The only way to test your assumptions is to put your product in front of real users as quickly as possible. Your objective needs to be toward fast learning and rejecting hypotheses instead of closing early outliers.
Product opportunity is all about timing. Product managers have to do customer research - it is at the centre of their role - and think through their market to validate if there’s a product opportunity. Your business objectives won’t be attainable if you’re focused on the wrong product or feature and if there’s no customer need, everything falls apart. As such, it is essential to be able to paint a detailed picture of the customer and ask critical questions to understand customer pain points and meet market expectations. If you set roadmap priorities and business objectives with shoddy research and without any real market feedback, what exactly are you working towards?
A deep understanding of the market, internal resources and competitive landscape are all factors that affect the decision to include or not include a feature. It’s all about aligning features with the fundamental company objective and how those features will deliver ROI.
Holes in communication
Lack of communication and collaboration between teams can result in the overall failure of your product delivery - which can ultimately lead to not being able to reach your business objectives. You have to use empathy to build an open-minded work culture that encourages collaboration, opinions and feedback. One of the most significant responsibilities as a product manager is to build a shared understanding of the product strategy through listening, influencing and repetition.
Your time is devoted to repeating the strategy to team members and the CEO to prevent the product vision from getting lost in translation. There’s nothing wrong with over-communicating. In fact, repetition clarifies priorities and fills in any gaps. It’s a chance for product managers to vocalize what should go into the product, how to market it, and how to sell it.
Unclear objectives and lack of business focus
If you don’t have any business objectives set up in the first place, product failure will be inevitable. How do you know what you’re working toward if you haven’t set up any goals? This is why roadmaps are essential in giving organizations direction and product focus.
However, if you have too many stakeholders clouding the vision and the roadmap with high-level ideas that aren’t backed by evidence and research, you can’t validate whether the market truly needs what you’re building. If product team members rely on disparate or disconnected tools and don’t use a consistent and focused methodology that prioritizes market input, the product results will suffer.
Lack of validation
If you launch your product before adequate validation, it doesn’t give you the chance to work out any bugs or tweak any areas that need improvement. You could be presenting a faulty product to customers, which not only makes you look bad as a business, but also prevents you from achieving any of your business goals. The truth is, some product managers might not be spending enough time validating the market, customer, pain points or value because they spend more time on unproductive attempts to influence the organization.
At Bain Public, we’ve actually come up with our own mode of production. We force the craft back into discovery and decision-making. We slow down the discovery process to make sure everyone is aware of the possibilities. And through experimentation, we develop a strong and comfortable mastering of problems to be solved (i.e. market input), taking the time to think and experiment about the feature release.
How to Make Sure Your Product Succeeds
There are a few steps you can follow to ensure your product succeeds and meets business objectives, from setting up a formal product management process and using the right tools to proving yourself as a great product leader.
Set a formal product management process:The single biggest thing an organization can do to increase the skill sets of its product management team dramatically is to establish and follow a consistent and formal product management process based on best practices. It must be focused on adopting a structured process in prioritizing. At Bain Public, we provide a methodology that prioritizes continuous discovery, solving problems and making good decisions throughout the process.
Ask us for help:Bain Public can help guide your overall product strategy and serve as coaches to your team of product managers. Product managers won’t necessarily learn these skills on their own, and we act as coaches and mentors to expedite the process. Drop us a line today to find out how we can help.
Use the right tools. The right tools allow product managers to gather information, structure it and fill in the gaps. It makes them organized, forcing them to become objective decision-makers and allowing them to learn alongside their stakeholders. The right tools and processes in place help them to become thought leaders within their organization. Ask yourself, ‘Why am I using these current product management tools?’ ‘Are they beneficial to attaining my goal?’ Do they make it easier to discover and validate?’
Be a great leader: As we say here at Bain Public, "Work should be organized, things should be managed, but people can only be encouraged, inspired, and led." Good leadership will focus on features that map and complement the mission. With Bain Public, you do more with less. Slow down the process. Collaboratively make the best decisions. Be a leader that quickly moves your organization to new levels.
As you can see, there are many actions you can take to ensure that your product meets your business objectives. Remember, any company with a product manager doesn’t make them a product company. There are fundamental steps involved to get there. Identifying market fit, experimenting, setting clear objectives, communicating and using a structured process in prioritizing - these actions all play a significant part in making sure your product succeeds.
Written by Loren O'Brien-Egesborg. Thanks to Paul Orthchanian and Gabrielle Drouin for reading drafts of this article and overseeing aspects of its publication. Also, if you have any feedback or criticism about this article, then shoot us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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