Stakeholder Management and The Product Manager

I was at a Product Manager meetup the other day and was asked the question how often do I get the executives together.  A young product manager looked somewhat confused when I said, “it depends”. Startups here in Silicon Valley can move so quickly sometimes daily is not enough. Things change quickly around here. In most cases, you can look at your product release cycle and know how often the stakeholders need to meet. The most important aspect is that you keep the stakeholders informed and engaged.

Most of the products I have managed have had a fairly predictable release cycle. Web and mobile products can release more frequently, but Enterprise software products tend to move slowly to keep the installed base from creating too much churn. I have met with executives on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis, and on a quarterly basis.

I have always found that it’s important to bring data to the meeting. Not just raw data, but data they can use to make business decisions. And not only data, but recommendations based on the data. Never be afraid to ask for something you need. If you are presenting a problem, always have 2-3 options for ways to solve the problem and be sure to have a recommended option when pressed. Always have the “why” in your back pocket. When pressed why you would solve a problem in a particular way, think through the questions you will be asked and be sure you can defend your answer.

Make sure you can answer the questions and if you can’t answer a question don’t panic, just let them know you’ll have to get back to them on that. Try to anticipate the questions and do your homework. You will find patterns in the questions that you are asked to help you continually improve your preparation. Now is a good time to plug Toastmasters Tabletopics. Typically a 2-3 minute answer with an opening, body, and conclusion is best. Some questions can be answered with a simple yes or no, but often the supporting data should be shared as to why you answered the way you did.

Stakeholder management is a significant key to success as a Product Manager. Do it right and your product will have a better chance of success.