Influencing design as a Product Manager

A critical part of Product manager’s role is to identify the right problem to solve and define “what” part of the problem really well, so that that engineering team can work on “how” part of the problem.

From the very moment I stepped into this role, I was told that the product manager should ideally let the engineering team architect the solution and I should only be cognizant of the constraints of the solution. I tend not to agree with this argument anymore. If typical system architecture problems such as security, compatibility, reliability, inter-operability, maintainability etc. mess up the user experience of my product, I would rather step-in and work with the team to define right solution.

I would further say that architecture problems are not just engineering problems but rather a design problem. Product manager instead of just defining non-functional requirements should consider them as a design problem and work along with the designers and engineering team to arrive at a pleasurable experience for the user.

There are multiple ways that a product manager can help teams to take the right design decisions:

  • Customer empathy – Team might not be aware of the context and the pain points of the users. PM should be the advocate of the customer and walk-through the user pain points. PM would be truly successful if team empathizes with the end customer.
  • Provide right data – Team might not be aware of the implications and thinking very short term. As a PM if you can arrive at right set of data and metrics, influence the team to take right design choices.
  • Focus on simplifying – Software engineers like challenges, and the challenge of building complex system that serves a simple interface is especially alluring. As a PM if you can embrace simplicity in product and drive the same thought process within the team, it will simplify the overall experience.
  • Competency of the team – This is tough problem but a fair assessment of situation will help a PM analyze on how much risk can one entrust on the team, which is not having a competency in an area. PM should guide the team through and influence the team to acquire the required competency.

PM should be cautious that the team does not feel frustrated that solutions are handed over. PM should continue to focus on expected outcome and let the team know that focusing on above areas is a key for success of the product.

This article was originally published here.
November 1, 2019

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