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‘Saying No’. Tough Love for Product Managers

May 12, 2014

4 minute read

As a product manager you’re bombarded with ideas from every possible angle. At the intersection between business, technology and customers, everything from brainwaves to demands makes its way to your desk. These ideas are your friends – many of them will help you to build products that your users will love. But it’s your job to figure out which ideas are better than others.

One of the hardest jobs of the product manager is more often than not saying ‘no’. There are many reasons why you might need to say no to a customer, a colleague and even your boss. Here we take you through how you can make it a little easier at any stage in the product management process.

Round 1: Product vision and KPIs

Before it gets a yea or nay from product management, the first test for every new idea should be the product vision. But the highest-level strategy for your product is not the same as the whims of your CEO. Getting your product vision committed to text and available for everyone in your team to see is the best justification for what makes it to development. KPIs help you to quantify those decisions and are one of your best weapons when turning down an idea that might sound good but just isn’t geared towards your business’s growth.

Round 2: Product backlog

Even if an idea seems to meet your product vision, you can’t be certain based on an initial suggestion alone. It would be great if you could properly interview the mastermind of every promising idea but you just don’t have the time. Instead, your product backlog is an important incubator to figure out whether something really should be built. When you capture ideas in ProdPad, you can pull upon the resources of your entire team to figure out the pros and cons. What’s more, in bringing different people in your company together to discuss the merits of an idea someone else might just say no before you have to.

Round 3: Roadmap

If an idea makes it through your initial qualification tests, the next decision you need to make is how this idea stands up against other epics on your product roadmap. Your roadmap might detail your planned developments for anything from a 12 month to a five-year period, with longer terms plans being much less specific than near term projects. Even if you think an idea is a fit, your roadmap can help you provide a strong justification for why something is a yes or no just now. All product management decisions are relative, and your roadmap is the best way to make this clear to your customers and colleagues.

Round 4: Voting

Another way you can make use of the rest of your team to decide whether a feature should be built is via direct voting. If you want to gauge the reaction of others to a possible new development, just ask! Votes provide a quick and effective way to determine the popularity of an idea, and rationales for or against its development can come from anyone in your team. Democratic decisions are much easier swallowed than product management decrees.

Following good product management processes can help you identify when to say yes and when to say no, and support those decisions both internally and externally. Allowing your colleagues and customers insight into product strategy can help you to say no, without having to say no. When everybody is aligned to the same goals, tough love from product managers is a lot less tough.

If you’d like to find out more about applying best practice, read our comprehensive guide on the 7 pillars of product management process.

And if you’re not already a ProdPad user, you can sign up for a completely free trial today.

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