When working as a product manager the overall responsibility of the business growth from the product maturity is in your hands as you are driving the product roadmap and making the call on what makes the cut for the future releases. To take a step back and understand the importance of that responsibility and how a collaborative product management style can help lead to a greater success, it is important to know the results of what bad decisions or lack of preparation can lead to. Let’s start by reviewing what most tech startups quote on a normal basis, 9 out of 10 startups fail and based on surveys of founders, here is why they fail.
The more you understand your potential failure reasons, the more you can prepare and come up with a plan to avoid it. Using a collaborative product management style the focus is less about you as a product manager but your overall team, your users, your advisors, looking at what your competitors are doing, showing the product and getting ideas from influencers and experts in your space. The style is about working with everyone to get feedback and funnel it down to drive the product forward based on letting the most popular ideas find their way to the product roadmap. If you were to roll out a collaborative product management style, this would help improve your chances of avoiding the following failure points based on the survey of why 9 out of 10 tech startups fail:
No Market Need: This is 101 of doing product planning. Before you even write your first line of code, you should be working with your team to review what your planned feature offerings are and how they compare to what already exists. Your initial roadmap needs to layout what will put you ahead of the competition and this should be based on working with users that are on those platforms to understand the shortcomings and needs that you can still provide.
Get Outcompeted: This falls on the lap of the product manager as it was a failure due to lack of knowing your competition, your user needs and driving an aggressive product roadmap that keeps you ahead of the curve. It takes a village to raise a baby, and it takes a team to build a product. To avoid falling into white noise as a platform you need to hear what your team is saying, where you are weak as a product and constantly work to improve and move forward.
Poor Product: Again, this is product management 101. There is a balance between features, usability, and quality and the product manager needs to work this balance and listen to the team around them on what areas need to be focused on. If your support team is getting high volume of tickets, then spend the next sprint fixing issues. If your sales team is slowing, spend time on delivering key features. If you are getting trials but no one is getting setup, work on usability. Work with your team to identify what needs work and focus on that in your product roadmap.
Ignore Customers: Nothing will make a customer move on quicker than lack of support or involvement with the product team. When you maintain a collaborative product management product roadmap, this requires you to do user interviews, listen to your customers and have their feedback on your roadmap. Once implemented, closing the feedback loop to let them know you heard them. This is why they will stay and help you continue to grow!
Lose Focus: This can be a number of things such as distractions personally but also that as a product you lost focus on what you are there to build. The features being implemented are not aligning with the overall strategy. The product manager needs to ensure each release and feature on the product roadmap is laser focused on the long term vision and taking steps to get there. By showing and reviewing the product roadmap with your team you can be kept honest if you are still aligned with each feature you plan to add.
As you can see from the list and the explanations, many of the failure points related to why a tech startup fails is tied to product management. The better the product management is, the more likely you are to succeed. As a result, you need to ensure you do not get in your own way as a product owner or manager but instead listen to your team, your users and stakeholders to hear what the product needs to be improved. Take in all ideas and feedback and look to implement the most impactful change that is requested. A collaborative product management team can help balance lack of industry knowledge, technical knowledge or other areas as no one person is great at everything but as a team, you can be really strong at most.