Prioritize what to build next
Will 2023 bring a recession? Lots of organizations are certainly poised for the possibility – more than 80 percent of companies are concerned about a possible recession in 2023, according to the latest report from SWZD. In parts of the tech sector, a slump is already well underway, with SaaS firms experiencing major layoffs in 2022.
It’s a chaotic mix – while employment and consumer spending remained strong at the end of 2022, organizations are wary thanks to inflationary pressures, rising interest rates, volatile energy costs, ongoing supply chain issues, and other concerns.
As a product manager, how does this state of uncertainty change your approach to planning in 2023?
First, remember that economic headwinds don’t spell hard times for every company – in fact, plenty of organizations create new opportunities for themselves during times of upheaval.
Adverse conditions often result in bursts of innovation and digital acceleration.
In the middle of all this uncertainty, a solid product management roadmap can be a steadying force for an organization – helping your teams pivot as necessary without losing track of their big-picture goals. Here are some key ideas on how to approach an uncertain year and come out on top.
Build stronger ties with your customers to prioritize what’s most important
Your competitors might be looking to curtail their ambitions during economic uncertainty – that means you can make an even bigger impact, with products that truly stand out.
Now is the time to refocus on connecting with customers, translating their feedback into ideas, and setting priorities to deliver an end result that will really resonate.
Explore ways to renew your customer outreach efforts for the new year:
- Take the pulse of your client base with new marketing initiatives – online or in-app surveys can help guide your thinking on the customer experience.
- Seek out a variety of angles on customer feedback by connecting with different customer-facing teams within your organization – what are customer service, sales, and other teams seeing and hearing?
- Get a vivid picture of the customer experience by attending events in 2023 that encourage off-the-cuff conversations, or inviting customers to discuss specific topics at length.
Review your strategy for organizing that feedback, prioritizing the highest-value ideas, and moving forward with putting it into action. Feedback and idea management systems are essential – especially when you have a lot of feedback to consider, and a number of stakeholders to involve in the prioritization process. Ensure feedback gets addressed and put into action quickly. Timely meetings – for example, regularly weekly sessions, or check-ins immediately following a new windfall of feedback – can keep feedback from falling into a backlog.
If you use a prioritization method such as R.I.C.E. or value vs effort, the beginning of the year is a perfect time to note where your company has strayed from its preferred system and correct your course. If your company needs to adopt a new system, search among product prioritization frameworks that might work better.
Meanwhile, review your toolset for categorizing and discussing feedback, and surfacing the highest-impact ideas. Ideally, you will be able to systematically prioritize what to build next.
Ditch the costly inefficiencies in your operations
Even in the best of times, no product manager can afford to burn time with inefficient team coordination and administrative busywork. A recession environment creates even more pressure to deliver quality products and meet quarterly goals – you need a tech stack that helps your organization succeed.
Seeking out, vetting, and adopting new technology adds yet another item to your to-do list, but it’s often well worth doing. Make the search easier by zeroing in on two key questions.
1. Where are the communications gaps in your organization?
Review how your teams collaborate – while Slack and other chat platforms are great for casual asynchronous conversations, do you have a centralized platform for collaborating as a group? All-purpose tools like Excel or word-based platforms can make it hard to parse details and communicate the strategy widely.
Instead, seek out ways to make collaboration as visual as possible – it sounds simple, but color coordination and a simple interface can provide a major boost. Visible, accessible platforms help teams to fully absorb their part of the process. (However, just make sure your collaboration platform offers ways to connect important details and context to the big picture).
Make sure you can share your views with anyone who needs them, too.
2. What busywork can you eliminate?
If you ever find yourself typing the same things into different platforms, that’s a bad sign. Consolidate your tech stack to eliminate rote administrative or repetitive tasks that take up your precious time.
Look for tech tools that coordinate together – integrations are essential for this. If your company uses Jira, for instance, look for apps that integrate with your Jira data so platforms are seamlessly connected. Teams know they’re looking at the same data without requiring extra meetings or confirmation check-ins, and it eliminates the kind of errors and inconsistencies that happen when manual entry is required.
Create a product management roadmap obsessed with on-time performance
Delayed products are costly in a number of ways. Late releases can sap finances, disappoint customers and erode their confidence in your business, as well as affect an organization’s product development investment model.
If a project is significantly delayed, the marketplace may have moved past the need for that product or feature by the time it’s ready for launch – plenty of product managers have had to mothball initiatives that missed their window of viability. No one wants to look back on wasted months of effort, especially for once-promising products.
But hitting all deadlines is always easier said than done. It’s a constant process – charting milestones while keeping the end goal always in mind, and ensuring every stakeholder is focused on completing their contributions.
The key factor to keep in mind? Organization-wide alignment that reduces silos between teams and ultimately produces better results. For example, product development and marketing need to be aligned on release dates and product launches. Marketing teams should also be collaborating on goals with sales as well as customer experience teams. Working together helps everyone hit their targets.
Keeping team and organization-wide goals front and center is another way to drive success. Clear goal setting and strategic planning can help boost accountability and help teams reach milestones throughout the process.
Above all, hitting deadlines is about maintaining focus on long-term goals – while having a plan to execute on the short-term objectives that can get you there.
The past few years have been a rollercoaster, but the view for 2023 doesn’t have to be grim. Have a plan to nimbly react to surprises – and keep your organization aligned and on track – and you can make the most of the year to come.