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With an objective to enable continuous learning and progression for our learners, PremierAgile curated several learning articles. Out of a wide range of topics, you can choose to learn from the real-world experiences by practitioners in the areas of Agile, Scrum, Product Ownership, Scaling, Agile Leadership, Tools & Frameworks, latest market trends, new innovations etc.

Product Management Challenges

Building a product is not an easy job. From conception to delivery, there are innumerable challenges and obstacles. And bearing the brunt of these challenges are the Product Managers. In any company, the role of Product Managers is unique in that they have to wear different hats at different times. At one point, the Product Managers are the leadership team members, and on the other, they are the team leaders leading and guiding their teams through the day-to-day work and helping them solve the problems they face while working. Apart from this, they not only have to steer through changes in the market efficiently, but they also have to keep an eye on the fluctuations in sales and frequent turnover of the team members. The challenges faced by Product Managers do not end here. Their role involves getting or arranging the required resources and having knowledge of and understanding the customer's needs. Add to this the responsibility of product marketing and managing the team, and you can see the diversity of roles played by Product Managers. And to play these roles effectively, Product Managers need to have excellent communication skills, be innovators and organizers, be research-oriented, and be able to make strategies. 

Like the various roles played by Product Managers, their challenges also vary. It does not make any difference what type of industry or organization you work in; if you are a Product Manager, there is no escape from Product Management challenges. But although the diversity of functions makes the role of Product Managers quite complex, most Product Managers won't like to avoid or escape from these challenges. On the contrary, they flourish by handling these challenges because they love their work's fast-paced and diverse nature. They derive satisfaction from guiding their teams, executing the plans, and delivering customer value and satisfaction. But here in this article, we will discuss the unique Product Management challenges faced by the Product Managers. These are not the routine matters handled by other managers because the work of Product Managers is not routine. The success of Product Management depends to a large extent on how the challenges are identified and handled. Surmounting various challenges also boosts the confidence of the Product Managers and enhances their capabilities. So, here are the various challenges faced by Product Managers.

Product Management challenges
More responsibility, less authority:

This is a typical challenge faced by Product Managers irrespective of their industry. They are responsible for the entire product, similar to running a company. But the difficulty is that they are not as empowered as many other managers. The teams that Product Managers handle are usually very diverse, involving people from different functionalities or departments, so they don't have enough authority over them. The key is to have excellent interpersonal skills so that people listen to them without having formal authority over them. So, Product Managers have to build some kind of authority independently apart from whatever authority is provided by the organization's leadership. They should be able to emphasize their role in front of the top management and should be able to influence them. This is the challenge Product Managers have to overcome with their skills and competence.

Getting the product roadmap priorities right:

This is important and is a challenge that most Product Managers face. You can't create a product by intuition or a top decision-makers directive. Customer feedback, thorough research, and market validation are essential for building the right product. These are the basis of building a roadmap for the product and getting the priorities right in the roadmap. The data gathered from these sources is a critical input for prioritizing the roadmap. Prioritizing a product roadmap without correct or no feedback from the market is an arduous and risky task. Another challenge in setting the right roadmap priorities is the unpredictability and sudden changes that may encounter. But if the Product Managers build a solid foundation with the help of market feedback and sufficient research, they can overcome this challenge to a great extent. There are several techniques available that you can use as a Product Manager for your roadmap prioritization. Some are the value complexity matrix, value-risk matrix, weighted scoring, and opportunity scoring.

Managing technical dependencies:

This is one challenge that Product Managers often face. They are dependent on others to complete a particular functionality, or they are dependent on third parties/suppliers for some products or services they need to complete a feature. Due to these constraints, it becomes difficult for them to make schedules for completing features or a specific task. A function may be dependent on another function and may be unavailable. So, this uncertainty hampers the progress of development. It is about managing two initiatives in a specified sequence. If one initiative depends on the other, then the second one must be completed first. And if the second initiative is to be completed by another team, then the problem becomes more serious. This is particularly true for cross-functional teams as this situation crops up very frequently. The problem becomes more acute when the dependency is on the technical team, which is not completely aligned with what the leadership wants. Here, the Product Managers have to play a dual role. They have not only understand the leadership's anxiety but also convey the dependency on the technical team to them astutely. It isn't easy, but a diplomatic approach would greatly help.

Managing the fiercely competitive markets:

One of the significant challenges of Product Management is how to remain competitive in the market. With such a cut-throat competition and every organization vying to be seen and heard, it becomes too crowded. Creating a unique value or feature in such a scenario may be a challenging task. Market saturation is a real thing. And if not saturated, the market may be already crowded with established brands. At the same time, if you are innovating, then your competitors are also innovating. So, entering the market with a product that will be competitive and become a customer preference is a huge challenge. It may seem complicated but is not impossible to manage. Here, a customer-centric approach, customer feedback, understanding the customers' needs, and matching your product with them play a crucial part. And this should be done at the initial stage of making decisions. If these factors are carefully considered at the beginning, you will be able to build a product that will stand out in the market because the customers will see it meets their requirements. 

Clearly defining the business problem to be solved:

As we said earlier, customer needs should be carefully considered at the initial stage. If you are trying to develop a new product, you are trying to solve a business or market problem. So, it becomes imperative to define the problem being solved clearly. This will be instrumental in creating the roadmap. Any hurried decisions without clarity would lead to wasting resources.

Moreover, the product team might be working on projects, not in sync with the organizational goals. Therefore clear identification and expression of the business problem should be made precisely. Otherwise, the product team may lose direction, and one of the two things could happen. Either the product team would go down the wrong path and be unable to find the right solution, or it may come up with a trailblazing innovation. Still, it may be for the wrong problem, and another product team may have to be formed, leading to further delays and injudicious use of resources.

Managing change, being flexible:

It is an ever-changing world, and the changes in the industries are taking place at a much faster pace than anywhere else. We see changes happening everywhere every day. And for Product Managers, changes seem to be coming from all directions. The market scenario keeps changing continuously. Some old competitors leave the scene, and some new ones enter, new technological advancements coming out every day, and volatility in customers' needs and wants which keep changing every other day, keeps produce managers on tenterhooks. This may lead to the constant churning of the product roadmap discussed above. The challenge is that you can't control or block the changes. But what you can do is be flexible and adaptable to the changes. These changes may significantly impact the success or otherwise of your product. Hence, there is an urgent need to keep abreast of the changes happening in the market landscape and be in control of at least adapting to them. This way, you will not only be able to acknowledge the change but will be better equipped to handle it.

Establishing a smooth process across the organization:

At one point or another, the product team has to work with other cross-functional teams or collaborate with different departments. The organization's culture is significant in determining how different departments connect. How willing to cooperate with the product team is crucial.

Moreover, even each department of the organization has its subculture. So, it is tricky for the Product Manager to get cooperation from all. It requires special skills like networking ability, the capability of socializing, and a high level of diplomatic skills. Moving through the organization's culture and earning the cooperation of all concerned is no mean business, but for the product team's success, Product Managers have to do this task. So, for the continued success of the product team and to assist in better Product Management, a smooth process should be established throughout the organization.

As we have seen, Product Management has numerous challenges, and the product team must skillfully handle them to give the best results. Product Management is unique in a complex way as it involves many variables. The challenges faced by the Product Managers are themselves unique in one way or the other. But if you know the potential challenges, you can act proactively and handle them more effectively. This article has provided insight into the challenges that may come to any Product Manager. So, you will be better prepared the next time you face any challenges.

References
  1. https://www.productplan.com/learn/challenges-product-leaders/
  2. https://bigpicture.one/challenges-in-product-management/

Author

Paula

Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.