New Product Managers — Do This in the First 30 Days
February 10, 2017

New Product Managers — Do This in the First 30 Days

by Melissa Hopkins

“We should not launch this.” It was a surprising announcement to make just 30 days into a new product management job. My friend had been hired to own several products at a telecommunications company. After doing her research, she could see that the newest product concept, which was woefully behind schedule and poorly defined, was going to fail.

It was a passion project of her predecessor, but there was no real market for it. So, she made that tough call. And it was a smart one. She could have spent her first 30 days moving forward with a product that no one would buy. But instead, she spent that time doing meaningful research.

She met with potential customers and internal team leaders and asked questions. How would the product really help? What was that help worth? What features were really needed? And what would it take to deliver them?

The answers drove her first big recommendation on the job. Fortunately, her boss had never been fully convinced of the value of the product from the beginning and was open to her research and findings. Ironically, saying “no” to a new concept that was going nowhere set her — and the rest of the product team — up for success.

Her story reminded me of how important your first month on the job is — the actions you take will impact the products you manage and your credibility. And you can never get that time back.

This topic recently came up on Roadmap.com, an online community for product management professionals. Someone posed this question: What things should a product manager do in the first 30 days on the job?

It was no surprise that “do your research” was a common theme. But I was curious what else topped the list. So I posed the question to the Aha! Customer Success team — all experienced former product managers — to get their thoughts.

The team quickly agreed on the most important actions that product managers should take within the first 30 days:

1. Get clear on strategy
You need to understand the company’s strategy and how your product is meant to fulfill it. And if you are working with strategy teams, it’s important to disambiguate what parts of the strategy you own and what parts they own early on. — Justin

2. Check your ego
It can turn a lot of people off if they sense an ego or desire for power. Do your research before you make business-impacting decisions. I’ve seen too many people come in, trying to make big changes without really having the information to inform those actions. Instead, you should focus on asking questions, listening, and building relationships to earn credibility. — Matt

3. Meet everyone
This includes setting up meetings with all the different teams within your organization — the ones who work on or with your product. It also includes scheduling meetings with your customers. Ask a lot of questions: How is your product helping them? What things do they think could make it better? And what are they struggling with? Deirdre

4. Investigate the past
Products always have “skeletons in the closet” — hidden challenges or invisible constraints that affect decision-making for building features. Uncover these by speaking to the experienced engineers and customer support people, or by investigating past developments. — Tom

5. Get to know the product
Use your product. Use it every day, if you can. It will help you learn the ins and outs and assist with any conversations you have with development. If this is not possible (and it might not be, depending on the product), then get to know the customers who do use your product. — Donna

6. Understand the metrics
Understand how the product is measured. What are some of the unknowns of the product performance? Find out what you want to know about the product, and then make sure there is a way to collect that data. So once you start making changes, you can clearly see the impact. — Dru

7. Look for quick wins
As you get to know people across the organization, ask yourself, What are the things I can put into place quickly to establish that trust? Help your new colleagues to see that you can come in and make things better — even if it is not directly related to your formally defined responsibilities. — Austin

A new job can be a fresh start for a product manager. And there is no better time to build your own framework for success — and building positive habits — than in your first 30 days.

So, put things right from day one. Acknowledge that you have a lot to learn. Then invest the effort to get up to speed. Of course, this will not always be easy. It might even lead you to make some tough calls (like my friend had to). But it is ultimately worth it.

What do you think product managers should do in their first 30 days?

Melissa Hopkins

About Melissa Hopkins

Melissa loves using technology to help people solve their problems. She is the VP of Customer Success at Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software. Melissa has more than 20 years of business and software experience. Previously, she managed teams at Citrix [CTXS] across consulting, education, supply chain operations, and IT.

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