Tips for new product managers (with expert quotes)

So you landed a new job as a product manager? Congratulations! No matter if it’s your first time in a role, or you just moved to work on another product, you probably already know that the coming days are going to be exciting and rather hectic.

A survey conducted by the 280 group suggests that almost half of all the companies do not have a consistent product management process. It is more than likely that as a new product manager you’re facing a challenge of getting it right and building all the processes almost from scratch.

How does one get started as a new product manager then? Well, is there a better way to learn than to ask some professionals with experience in the field?

We’ve asked a couple of product managers to share their best tips for new product managers. The results have exceeded our expectations. We’ve got a goldmine of information in return, backed by years of hands-on experience in the IT field.

Ready to read advice from real product managers? Let’s dive in!

Plan with a longer time frame in mind

Define your work for the coming months using a well-known but customized framework, such as the OKRs system. When in doubt and losing focus, a good and prioritized plan (based on your OKRs) will help you focus on the most meaningful and important projects.

Agnieszka Rutkiewicz, Product Manager at Tagvenue

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When you start working in a new environment, be careful not to spread too thin. After you research the product, you might want to seize all the opportunities at first.

And here’s where you should stop, take a deep breath and think again. You’re going to spot plenty of interesting things, but you’ll never be able to do them all at once. Also, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and so won’t be your product.

This is why prioritization should be your priority.

We know it doesn’t always come easy. With clients requesting new features all the time, choosing the most important ones is harder than it seems. Experienced product managers are well aware of that. Another product manager we talked to, Mateusz Miodek, pointed out that it’s better not to take feature suggestions too literally. Of course, listening to customers’ needs and their feedback should be one of the main pillars of your work, but it doesn’t mean that you’ve got to be at their beck and call.

In order to succeed, you need to make every user story a part of a larger product development strategy. Apart from incoming requests, you also have a product roadmap to stick to. Unless the issue is burning, it works much better if you incorporate new projects into your strategy rather than jump into them right away.

So, how do you make it work? As Agnieszka Rutkiewicz, the product manager of Tagvenue, pointed out, you can stick to one of the widely used frameworks, such as OKRs. If you’re not yet familiar with the term, it stands for Objectives and Key Results. These can be set for the whole product, for a particular team, and for individual employees as well.

Know when to say no

As a new product manager, you are bound to get overwhelmed easily. Don't let it pull you down. Focus on doing one thing right rather than doing multiple things poorly.

Tushar Jain, Founder and Product Manager at OnPage Champ

One of the tips that you’re going to find in every book and in every podcast on product management is to be assertive. You’re just one person and you can’t do the job of other professionals, as well as you can’t fulfil every wish of every client.

Aleksandra Klusinska, Technical Product Manager at Mapp Digital

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Here it comes: the feeling of responsibility. As a product manager, you should be getting things done, right?

Yes and no. You’re supposed to make sure that everything is on track and you’re the one responsible for the outcome, but it doesn’t mean that you need to do every single thing.

One of the most important qualities of a good product manager is the ability to delegate tasks. Not only is it going to make the process more effective, but also your team mates will feel that you trust them to get the job done.

Start from the small things

It's best to start your journey by identifying the quick wins from your priority list and focusing your initial effort on them. That builds both your confidence and understanding of the product.

Tushar Jain, Founder and Product Manager at OnPage Champ

Always build the smallest thing that will allow you to test the hypothesis. You can use proven and tested methods, such as the Wizard of Oz prototype or fake door product testing.

Mateusz Miodek, Product Manager at DataFeedWatch

Prioritizing and planning to achieve bigger goals doesn’t mean you should skip the low-hanging fruit entirely. Quick wins will help you see what works and which directions are worth pursuing. They also have a psychological effect: when your team sees that what they do actually works, they will instantly become more motivated.

The small steps principle applies to testing as well. When you’ve got a hypothesis in mind, you don’t need a fully developed product to test it, cause let’s be honest, who’s got resources for that? Sticking to lean and agile principles instead is a more efficient way.

This approach will help you save so much time, energy and, eventually, money. When you test your ideas in a very early phase, you can decide if they’re worth pursuing at all. As Mateusz of DataFeedWatch mentioned in his quote, there are many methods that will help you implement this kind of testing in your day-to-day work.

You don’t even need your customers to start – and even more, you don’t even need a computer! For instance, the WOZ (Wizard of Oz) methodology involves creating a lo-fi prototype, which can even be drawn on paper. Then, the product team members use role playing to see how the users would interact with the product. Of course, it isn’t perfect, but it’s more than enough to discover main issues at a very early stage.

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It really doesn’t take much to conduct a basic Wizard of Oz test

Another interesting approach is the fake door test. It’s a simple idea – you just need to enable users to choose an option that doesn’t exist yet. If you see that they click on it, it probably means that they would use if it was available.

Get to know your customers

If you’re not sure about something, don’t hesitate to talk to other product managers or customer-facing teams.

Aleksandra Klusinska, Technical Product Manager at Mapp Digital

We have discovered that talking to our users and validating our ideas at an early stage of a project helped us improve the final result. Instead of designing a full solution, get your customers on a call and ask them for feedback using a low-fidelity prototype.

Agnieszka Rutkiewicz, Product Manager at Tagvenue

It may seem obvious, but we really can’t stress this enough. Skip the guesswork and focus on your customers instead.

You can start from watching session recordings. This alone will help you see how users interact with your product, but there is much more you can do. If you’re lacking insight and you need it right away, try talking to your sales or customer service teams. They know exactly who’s using your product and they have tons of knowledge on the users’ habits and behavior.

Above all, you should do your best to interact with your users directly. There are many tools to make that happen, from short surveys to face-to-face user tests, where you can see exactly how people use your product in real-time.

Develop a relationship with software developers

The product team usually consists of UX professionals, a product manager and a couple of engineers. Make your team work together to solve the real customers’ issues. Although UX and product people focus on the 'discovery' stage of the product, and the engineers mostly care about the 'delivery' stage, the two groups should work as close as possible from the very beginning.

Agnieszka Rutkiewicz, Product Manager at Tagvenue

Always treat your developers like partners, not contractors. Be sure to involve them in the prototyping phase.

Mateusz Miodek, Product Manager at DataFeedWatch

Last but not least, don’t forget about your team. You’re working with talented people, and you’re working together. Delegating tasks is essential for optimal performance, but it is also essential to keep everyone in the loop.

What does it mean for your product team? Don’t treat your engineers as a separate entity. You should be aware of each other’s potential and limitations from the very beginning. Sometimes both parties are not even sure what the other team is doing. Closer collaboration is sure to prove beneficial for both developers and product people.

Key takeaways for new product managers

If we had to come up with a single piece of advice for new product managers, it would be to stay curious. The world of digital products is developing fast, with new technologies, methodologies and opportunities emerging all the time. The key is to never stop learning and read insights from other, more experienced product managers. We hope this article has been a source of inspiration for you!

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Kalina Tyrkiel
Content Specialist @ LiveSession