Mastering Communication for Product Management & Development

Mastering Communication for Product Management & Development

Creating user value is the holy grail for every Product Manager. Determining the value discipline that best suits an organization influences every decision made when moving from product discovery to product development to positioning and pricing. The time spent in deciding how a product will add the most value to customers helps shape the strategy that brings superior products to market.

However, in getting to the finish line, a few other components go into how efficient that cycle will be. Components like vision, communication, planning, team & culture, focus, and internal processes determine how successful a team will be at running its product cycle. For the start of this series, we will focus on what the majority of managers highlight to be the most important skill absolutely essential to the role of product management: communication.

As one of the skills that run through the entirety of a project, it is important that as a Product Manager, communication is harnessed properly. When a business idea becomes a business opportunity, one of the key focus areas to starting up is with getting the team you need to work on the vision. Getting the right people on board is determined by how effectively goals and functions are communicated. Just as it is with anything of value, communication occurs in different facets, and a Product Manager’s approach in those facets is determined by the receiver and the priority level attached.

Three relationships are analyzed in this piece to fully comprehend what it takes to keep communication lines open between different groups important in a product cycle: the relationships between Product Manager and Product Owner, Team Members & Customers are the relationships analyzed and we will be taking a bilateral overview on these relationships.

Product Manager — Product Owner Relationship

As a Product Manager, understanding your key responsibilities in the organization gives an outline of what communication will be like with the Product Owner. The general responsibilities of a product manager can be said to be constant in different organizations but it is also important to determine what it is your product owner needs you for that part is contextual. The product owner drives the progress of the project, especially on the business side, and ensures that efforts are directed towards the vision of the project.

Difference between the product manager and product owner

Communication with a product owner has to be brief and intentional. Since the management of daily operations of the team has been assigned to the product manager, the product owner mainly requires information that gives an overview of high to medium priority tasks. Asides from the progress report shared with the product owner, disparities in project timelines, budget, and value are the key areas to pull a product owner’s attention to.

Outside the formal aspect of communication, it is important to understand who your product owner is in order to determine the best ways to manage up to ensure information is always passed across timely, honestly, and clearly.

As a Product Owner, communicating the vision of the project is the main priority. Being able to find the balance between business (value), design (usability), and engineering (feasibility) helps direct the team towards focusing on what needs to be accomplished.

Communication with the product manager has to be comprehensive and clear. Being able to sift through the daydream and find stable ground to support the decision to start a project helps determine the clarity with which the role of the product manager can be explained.

Highlighting the product managers’ key deliverables is essential in setting key performance indicators (KPIs) and evaluating performance over periods. Doing this gives the product manager autonomy in determining the best process that helps achieve key results while measuring progress against expectations. As a product owner, it is important to give ownership to those in the team to give room for creativity.

Product Manager — Team Member Relationship

As a Product Manager, this is where the majority of your work is done You could be working with a team handpicked by you or a team that was already established before you got there. Regardless, your work involves ensuring each team member understands what is expected of them and how they are to work with each other.

Ensuring everyone is on the same page is what makes a difference in how a product is effectively pushed to the market. Communication takes a holistic approach with this group in the sense that, as well as the product manager evaluates the work being done, the personalities and relationship dynamics of the team also have to be managed.

This is not to say excuses have to be made for everyone but to say that each person’s environment has to be assessed to understand the factors that influence their progress to help determine what decisions need to be made to help the team. The product manager has to share in-depth information necessary to take each team member from the start to the finish line.

As a Team Member, each member has a role they have been brought in to play and it is imperative that each member plays their part well. Everyone has their own reason for joining an organization but it is important to find that common ground where personal and organizational goals align and can both be achieved.

Communication with the product manager should be fast and intentional. Because of how hands-on team members are with products, delays in communication can sometimes turn into delayed deadlines and increased budgets, and being the cause of such disparities isn’t something anyone wants on their record.

Speaking up when issues are faced, no matter how small, when dealing with products is a priority. If those issues are not addressed properly, they can turn into something that can kill a project in the long run. Always speak up and give quick responses when reached out to, time really is of the essence.

Product Manager — Customer Relationship

As a Product Manager, your customer represents the key relationships required for the success of the project: relationships with investors, partners, and, of course, the product users. This relationship is all about highlighting the benefits of the product to the customer: what the product will be able to do for them now and in the future, and when they can have access to it.

Communication with customers has to be honest and done in confidence. Sharing problems or setbacks with customers gives an air of levity that most people don’t want in a person they are going to be giving their money to.

Sharing the vision for the product is what will keep this group engaged in the process. Making them understand the journey and what reaching key milestones will be like. Be careful of oversharing details or deadlines to avoid disappointment when unavoidable delays or removals occur.

As a customer, your main role is letting the product manager know what works or doesn’t work for you. This doesn’t mean that the product manager has to implement everything you say, it is about giving critical feedback on what your journey was like with their product and what can make things easier consequently.

For investors and partners, communication here is about getting to that middle ground where terms are accepted and upheld for the duration of the partnership. Communication should always be open and collected.

All in all, communication is something that will always need to be worked on. Different people respond to different initiatives and your job as a product manager is to make sure you find that sweet spot of keeping everyone on the team engaged as often as possible. To help those who might be having some difficulties mobilizing or motivating their team, I’m going to share some of the productivity & communication tools that help us here at Gumi remain on our A game.

  • Slack

This is all about fast and easy communication. Slack provides a secure platform for hundreds of employees to share data in real time. The best features about Slack are the work apps integrations and channels.

  • ClickUp

This is all about monitoring everyone’s progress. With ClickUp, each team member has a broader view on what everyone is doing. For managers, you can update tasks here (or have team members do that) and tag responsible parties and get status flows of tasks.

  • G Suite

This is the foundation for everything that needs to be done. Emails, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, you name it. Being able to have access to all the tools you will need in one place helps with data management and collaboration.

  • Spotify

When you need to get everyone on the same energy or get a feel of what vibe everyone is on, music is always the go to. It is also a good way to get the team to know each other (or creep each other out with their music taste).

  • WhatsApp

This is for the less formal conversations, giving room for team members to get to know each other outside the workplace helps bring that harmony to work.

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