16 Product Management Best Practices For Successful PMs
What product management best practices can help you build valuable and delightful products for your customers? Check out our list!
Whether you’re an aspiring product manager or an already established product professional, our list will help you reflect on your processes and hopefully improve them.
Are you ready to jump in?
- Product managers are responsible for the overall product success throughout its lifecycle.
- The product management role is very complex. Product managers carry out market research, lead product discovery, oversee the development teams as they are working on the solutions, and coordinate the product launch.
16 Product Management Best Practices
- Ensure alignment between the product vision and product strategy on one hand, and the business objectives on the other.
- Make sure the development team understands the overarching goal they’re working towards.
- Develop a solid differentiation strategy and use a mix of differentiators to help your product stand out from competitors.
- Collecting user feedback in-app is the most direct way to gain insights into customers’ needs.
- Customer interviews with different types of users can help you understand their unique needs and assess how well the product meets them. Thanks to them you can also improve usability to boost adoption.
- The sales and customer success teams interact with customers regularly, so they have lots of anecdotal data. Make sure you have a system in place for the effective sharing of such data.
- Use public roadmaps to collect feature requests and to show users that you’re listening to them and accommodating their needs.
- Product usage analytics shed light on how users engage with the product and how to help them achieve their goals. They’re particularly effective in conjunction with user feedback.
- Use a framework like MoSCoW or Kano to classify backlog items and a more detailed scoring system like the Cost of Delay to prioritize them.
- User stories help teams achieve a shared understanding of who the user is, what their problem is and how the solution can help them. Allow your team members to take part in their development and mapping.
- Prototyping and testing are necessary to validate ideas before you build features. This prevents wasting resources on features that don’t work.
- To avoid falling into the feature fallacy trap, focus on the problem you are solving. Build only the features that address your user pain points and deliver value.
- Run regular PMF surveys to check if you still have the product-market fit.
- A product’s UI is not always enough to drive feature adoption. Enhance it with contextual in-app guidance designed for specific user segments.
- Assess the performance of your features regularly, and if you see they are redundant, don’t hesitate to sunset them.
What is a product manager?
Product management is a role that’s responsible for the overall success of the product.
This means managing cross-functional teams and overseeing all stages of the product lifecycle, starting from market research and finishing with the product launch.
It doesn’t finish there, though. Product managers take care of the continuous incremental of the product to ensure it remains relevant in the future.
Product manager responsibilities and goals
The key objectives for SaaS product managers are building a product that delivers value to the customers and provides a user experience that delights users.
Product managers usually have to:
- conduct market and customer research
- identify user needs and assess solutions
- develop product vision and strategy
- set meaningful goals
- develop product roadmaps and prioritize features
- predict future development timelines
- define technical requirements
- collect and analyze user feedback and product usage data
- identify opportunities to improve customer satisfaction and retention
- manage the product team and liaise with stakeholders.
16 Agile product management best practices to help you build better products
What distinguishes brilliant product managers from average ones?
Let’s have a look at the list of 16 best product management practices that are not limited to software development:
- Your product strategy should always stick to your product vision and business objectives
- Align your development team around the same objectives
- Product differentiation is a must for product managers
- Make continuous discovery part of your product strategy
- Collect user feedback in-app to understand customer’s needs
- Do customer interviews with different types of users
- Collect more data from the sales team and customer success team
- Capture customer ideas with a public roadmap
- Track product usage analytics to understand how customers interact with the product
- Prioritize the product roadmap using an internal scoring system
- Align product teams with user stories
- Prototype and test before building features
- Don’t fall into the feature fallacy trap
- Track product market fit regularly
- Don’t rely on your product’s UI to drive feature adoption
- Sunset features at the right time
Your product strategy should always stick to your product vision and business objectives
All great products start with a product vision. This is your aspiration for the product and the long-term objective your team strives to achieve.
Product vision, however, doesn’t exist on its own.
First, product vision must stem from the company vision. If your product doesn’t help realize company business objectives, it won’t have the necessary backing of the internal stakeholders.
What’s more, the product vision drives the product strategy. Product strategy outlines the milestones and the ways to reach them. It shows how you are planning to realize the vision.
Align your development team around the same objectives
Goal setting is an important part of the product manager role.
This starts by choosing the North Star metric that will guide the work of the team throughout the development process.
Which KPIs or OKRs should you choose?
Focus only on the relevant and actionable metrics and separate them from vanity metrics that don’t show any meaningful trends.
Once you choose all the objectives and how you’re going to measure progress, make sure all your team members know and understand them.
Product differentiation is a must for product managers
Whether your business has only one product or a line of them, you need to show your customers how they are different from what’s available on the market.
Product differentiation allows businesses to achieve better customer fit, improve customer loyalty and retention, and charge premium prices for their products.
How can you differentiate your product?
Using a mix of vertical and horizontal differentiation strategies is the most effective way to make their products stand out. Common differentiators include product features and design, pricing structure, quality, and customer support.
Make continuous discovery part of your product strategy
The job of the product manager doesn’t finish when they launch the product. In fact, that’s when it starts in earnest.
When you release the MVP, you suddenly gain access to more usage data that you can use to improve your product, which at this stage is normally far from perfect.
What’s more, the needs of the user keep changing and so do the markets, and you must never stop iterating to keep up with the changes.
That’s why ongoing discovery must be an essential part of your product strategy. Learn more from Teresa Torres’s framework on continuous discovery.
Use the continuous discovery framework and tools like the opportunity solution trees, to ensure that the problems you’re dealing with and the solutions are aligned with your company goals.
Collect user feedback in-app to understand customer’s needs
Why you should be collecting user feedback doesn’t really need explaining. In short, it gives you the opportunity to get insights into user needs and how to best serve them.
In-app surveys are probably the easiest way to gather user feedback.
You simply take a tool like Userpilot, design a survey, and trigger it contextually, for example, when users complete a particular action, and voila!
Such surveys are most effective when followed up with qualitative questions as this may improve your understanding of how well the product meets user needs.
Apart from collecting feedback actively with surveys, it’s also a good practice to collect passive feedback. How? Just give users a chance to leave any time they wish.
Do customer interviews with different types of users
User interviews are great for user research and usability testing.
They can help you understand different user groups, and their expectations and check how well your product is meeting their needs.
They’re also great for identifying friction points that could slow down feature adoption. They can also reveal that it may be time to pivot.
For product managers, who are heavily invested in their products, it’s a chance to obtain unbiased feedback from people who are less attached.
To use user interviews well, they need to have a clear purpose. Make sure you invite the right people, and state clearly what you need to learn from them, and why you need this information.
Collect more data from the sales team and customer success team
Your sales and customer success teams have direct access to users and as a result, they can be a source of valuable insights.
The sales teams usually know a lot about user expectations and the direct competitors that you should be aware of. The information can be useful when reviewing your product strategy.
The customer support or success teams, on the other hand, will have information about the issues that users face and how you can improve them. This could be a good way to identify friction or improve your in-app guidance to boost activation and adoption.
To make sure teams share the data, give them the right communication tools. Apart from messenger apps like Slack, take advantage of your CRM system and even specialist software like Gong to analyze interactions with customers.
Capture customer ideas with a public roadmap
Public roadmaps are a great way to collect feature ideas.
You can create such a roadmap with a Kanban-style project management tool like Trello or Notion. In the program, you create a structure that corresponds to your workflow, like ‘Now, Next, Later.’
One of the categories should be ‘Feature requests.’ That’s where the users will contribute their ideas. To make it even more interactive, allow users to vote up and down items.
Apart from capturing feature ideas, public roadmaps communicate to users what exactly you’re working on and what your priorities are. What’s more, they send a clear message that you are willing to listen to user requests and act on them.
Track product usage analytics to understand how customers interact with the product
Users often can’t express what they want or simply don’t know what could improve their experience.
That’s why feedback should always be paired up with product usage tracking to generate additional insights.
For example, let’s say you run an NPS survey and identify who your promoters are. Next, you watch how they interact with the product and which features they use.
You compare it to the habits of the detractors and look for differences. If you find some, you can use in-app guidance to help the latter group through the activation funnel to improve their experience.
Prioritize the product roadmap using an internal scoring system
How do you know which features to develop first and which can wait?
There are a few common prioritization frameworks that can help with that.
MoSCoW is one. The team members decide which of the features Must be included in the product, which of them Should, which of them Could if there’s time and money left, and which of them Won’t.
Kano Model is similar. It categorizes features into the Basics, which the product must have, the Satisfiers, which should be included to improve value, and Delighters, which are meant to exceed user expectations.
Once you have features roughly grouped into categories, you may need to use another system for more granular prioritization, like Cost of Delay.
Align product teams with user stories
User stories convey information about the user, what the solution is, and how exactly it’s going to benefit them.
It is usually the product owner (like in Scrum) or product manager that writes the user stories but it’s much more beneficial if the whole team is involved.
By engaging the team in story mapping, you make sure that they know what problem you’re solving and why.
Moreover, it gives you chance to seek specialist input from your UI/UX designers or developers.
Prototype and test before building features
Before you decide to build a feature, make sure you test it thoroughly.
We may not be able to distance ourselves from our ideas to see potential flaws. Likewise, our team may be unable to foresee issues because they often look at things in the same way.
To save money, time, and maybe even your reputation or job, run prototype testing to validate your idea. Sometimes even a basic low-fidelity prototype can be enough to eliminate a flawed idea.
Fake door tests are another cost-effective way to do it, just make sure you don’t overuse them.
Don’t fall into the feature fallacy trap
Many teams measure their effectiveness by the number of features that they release. Sometimes they are also under pressure from stakeholders to develop certain features just because the competitors have them or because customers request them.
The problem is that many features don’t solve any specific user problems. In the best-case scenario, they help you build a parity product that has no competitive edge over competitors.
To avoid falling into the feature fallacy trap, focus on outcomes, not outputs. Find a need and look for innovative ways to satisfy it.
Track product market fit regularly
As mentioned above, the fact that you have achieved product-market fit, doesn’t mean you will retain it. New customer needs can emerge or new competitors can disrupt your position.
To avoid it, conduct product-market fit testing regularly. The PMF survey is simple to carry out in-app. You ask your users how disappointed they would be if they couldn’t use the product again. If less than 40% of them say ‘very disappointed’, you’ve got work to do!
If followed up with a qualitative question, the PMF surveys can help you figure out how to adjust your course to stay relevant.
Don’t rely on your product’s UI to drive feature adoption
No matter how brilliant your user interface is, there’s still a risk that your users could be experiencing friction. That stops them from experiencing the product value and slows down product adoption.
The antidote is in-app guidance. Tooltips, modals, and hotspots are a great way to highlight existing or new features to users and lead them to activation.
With a tool like Userpilot, you can design such in-app guidance without any coding whatsoever and then trigger them contextually for each of your user segments independently.
Sunset features at the right time
Sunsetting features is never easy especially if you and your team have put a lot of effort into their development.
However, it’s sometimes inevitable. For example, the user problem that the feature is solving may not be there anymore and the engagement drops. Or you may be developing functionality that solves the problem better and it becomes redundant.
Keep track of how users engage with your features and if you can see it drops, look for reasons. If you can’t improve it or keep selling the product, pull the plug. It will save your teams time and energy they could be using on developing features with better prospects.
Having a list of product management best practices can help you identify ways to improve the process in your organization. Which of them will make the biggest difference to your product?
If you’d like to learn how Userpilot can help you become a better product manager and build products that delight your users, book the demo!