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Product manager and its role in the team

Wiktor Sobczyk
4 minutes read

Word backlog meant that product manager did not sleep at night. In the first days of creating and running your business, you are most likely trying to solve immediately any problem that appears. As you mature, you deepen your knowledge about the industry, processes, users and their problems. Satisfying their needs without losing orientation can be challenging, and failure to meet their requirements can result in their loss. What to do then? Paul Graham used to say that in one sense there is only one mistake that kills startups: avoiding doing what users want. 

However, this does not mean that you must suddenly solve all problems immediately. In fact, you probably can't build everything right away, unless you have an army of programmers and designers on your list.

As a product manager, you can easily lose sight of the wider picture and prioritize the wrong functions when you are bombarded with function requests and your task is to prioritize an overcrowded backlog that even your project management tool is unable to handle. And when you mistake function priorities, a huge part of your resources is consumed, and customers will leave you for a competitive product that adapts to their requirements.

So how do you prioritize the right functions? Check it out:

  1. Mind the Vision

There are two types of products - those that adopt a certain attitude and those that try to please everyone.

At a time when people are looking for immediate satisfaction, it's easy to give in to short-term goals and try to meet customer demands in hope of keeping them. However, this will only lead to chaos.

When you try to build a product that tries to please everyone, you ultimately don't please anyone, including your own team. It's difficult to understand what a product does, how to use it, and even find out where the buttons are. Your marketing team will have a hard time coming up with a story, the analytical team will not track the right indicators, and the project team will need a vacation to match another amazing feature to the product. That is why product manager is so important.

Worst of all, the customer, for the very reason you built all these low suspension functions, will be frustrated and will most likely stop using your product at all. A good example of how not to get crazy is Apple, known for not allowing its users to download files to phones since the release of the first iPhone in 2007. Growing companies must learn to deal with feature requests that do not match the product vision. If you want to build a product that stands out, you will have to make difficult decisions and refuse, even if it means accepting a lot of criticism.

Stay true to your product vision, even if it means refusing the best paying customer.
  1. Where are your users on their way to the product?

In a perfect world, most of your active users will shout at you that you are not building a specific set of functions. In fact, prioritizing functions is not that easy. When you look at the feature's backlog , you'll probably see that it changes from "simply adding image filters" to the more complex "engagement report of all uploaded photos".

Different feature requests make you wonder why users with similar profiles have needs that have nothing to do with each other. Take a step back and see where users are on the way to the product.

The user goes through various stages before becoming a user of your product. Each built feature should help him move to the next stage without any problems so that he can achieve his goals quickly with the product.

When a user uses your product, it basically belongs to one of the following segments:

  1. Saved
  2. Activated
  3. preserved
  4. Delighted

Before you start exploring the feature, run an analytical tool and think about where most users are located. The feeling of a user who has just registered and performed several actions will be different to the user who has been actively using your product for six months.

For example, if you plan to build a reporting feature to help users see a large picture of what they have achieved, think about whether users have done enough basic actions to see the value in the report generated by your product.

Create features to move most users to the next phase of their life cycle.
  1. Impact of characteristics

Not all functions have the same effect on the product. There are those that will make your users become a superhero. And there are features that a well-paid customer will need, but in reality they are just another set of pleasant, but not necessary, amenities. To build a function that is actually necessary, it is worth placing it on a chart that will compare the frequency of its use with the number of people who will ultimately use it. The idea is to focus first on those that will be used by all users every time. The more you deviate from this scheme, the more there is a danger of building functions that only some users will use, and even worse - only in rare cases.

Functions should be prioritized based on their importance and impact. Not because of how much the customer pays.
  1. Effort and complexity

Do you want to be sure that you have set your priorities well within the backlog and satisfy the customer? Also consider how much effort (time) it will take to provide ready-made solutions.

After all, each time you develop a new feature, the project team will have to spend time researching and interviewing customers, and the engineering team will rethink technical complexity and gain knowledge of new technologies. This is crucial because it involves your most limited resource - time.

After determining the effort required to build a function in the backlog, you can map all your functions to values ​​according to a 2x2 effort matrix.

Your objects will be mapped into four parts:

The upper left corner - high value, low effort - this category of functions should shout: Why are we not doing this !? These are features that provide high value for users and can be built with minimal effort.

The upper right corner - high value, high effort - functions categorized in this quarter are the ones that you would like to ignore because of the great effort that is needed to perform them, but you can't. These are the functions that will increase the value of your product. Consider dividing them into small, executable modules that you can re-map to a 2x2 matrix and change priorities.

On the bottom right - low value, high effort - these are functions that you should not work on now, unless you have exhausted the entire list of function requests and backlog errors . It's more likely that you'll bring more value to your users by focusing on the other quarters.

Create functions that provide maximum value with minimal cost / effort

Product manager has an overall picture in their minds and change it into further achievable actions, and thanks to the right priorities they can transform a product that has problems into a product without which customers cannot live. What may seem simple from the outside, however, requires thinking from different angles.

With a long-term vision in mind, think about where the user is in the product lifecycle. Consider how many users will use the feature. Analyze the effort that should be spent on the functionality. When you go through this process and choose your requirements priority, give your team feedback - then everything will go according to plan.


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    Wiktor Sobczyk
    Co- Founder, Key Account Manager
    Damian Sitek
    Co-Founder, Developer