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In the third and final part in her Product Management Confessions, Wendy shares her take on:

  • Why an open dialogue between Sales and Product is not only useful, but necessary
  • The benefits of a weekly roadmap sync for the entire company
  • Leading with confident decision making as a head of Product

Here are Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them the first time around!


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Matt: ... twenty, thirty, fifty a thousand people those processes break down. On the other hand, how do you communicate to those people and how do you really drive home the important changes that you're making in your platform once you get to a bigger scale?

Wendy: What we're doing in Wizeline ... we will track all this and tell people these are things that you asked for and we're starting to build them. These are things that are not being built. When we sit down on those weekly product roadmap update meetings, we do tell people if things are dropping off releases and we explain why. It really goes around the table of opening up to say, "Hey, I don't actually agree with this. This could cause me to lose a very specific deal that I've been working very hard on." We can really talk with that sales folk and actually talk to them about these other things are coming out that we think will add similar or more value. Let's try to get the user not to focus just solely on the one problem they have right now, but how we can change the landscape of how they're working on their product decisions.

Matt: Because you have the specifics all at your fingertips, it's less of a conversation about general throwing your weight around but rather, "Here's why we're doing it and here's the specific deals that we're going to be able to drive with these platforms." Now that you're using Wizeline and you have a SaaS platform for all your requests, your roadmaps, all of that stuff, how has that changed how you communicate with your team compared to how you use to do it at other companies?

Wendy: I think it's offered a lot of transparency and communication for the entire Wizeline team. For example, we have a weekly product roadmap update where we sit down in a team meeting and everybody delves in. We share the roadmap in Wizeline for that quarter and we just go down that line that says "today" and any release that's touching today we go over what's the status of this? What have we released? Are there any setbacks? What values to the customers that you guys are talking with today? You guys being SDRs, sales, marketing, what value does that bring those customers? So, as you're speaking to them you can tell them these things are coming soon and these things are for certain. You're not selling features. You're selling things that coming in the next weeks or quarters.

Matt: One of the things there's constantly a tension between is the idea of agile versus waterfall. Agile being we're just going to do what needs to be done now. We're going to respond to the customer. We're going to be looking at analytics all the time. Waterfall is that thing where you're telling your sales team, "You can see this right now because it will be coming soon." I think there's some fundamental tension between that unplanned agile approach to the very heavily planned waterfall. What do you think is the right way to handle that tension?

Wendy: I think at Wizeline our philosophy around handling the agile versus waterfall tension is really just thinking of it as, you can have strategic initiatives that your company is aiming towards. Whether that be a company-wide objective like increased mobile retention or something that's tied to KPI like, "We want to be able to increase engagement by 250 percent in a certain piece of the platform", we're able to set those strategic initiatives and from there work in a more agile manner and say, "What feedback are we hearing from the market that's really leading and links to these initiatives? We can prioritize those things as we come along. Where it's still falling into a theme, so you're still planning but you're still able to be agile as you go along. One of the things about agile is you can end up being very reactive but at the same time with waterfall you can be non-reactive because you decided you're going to building this thing for the next 2 years and you don't care what the market says.

Matt: Sometimes you can be a little too agile, right? Last question. This is one thing I've wanted to always hear your opinion on is, you've come from a different place than most product managers. Coming from your background, especially in the fact that you didn't come from the traditional well of product managers, what is your advise to other people who are in your similar position? They know product, they know how to building things, they've done it for years but are looking to break into a lot of companies' more prestigious role of the product owner. How do you think they can be successful? Where do they need to really look? How do they need to present themselves to the rest of your organization so they can make that break through?

Wendy: One of the first things I learned after becoming our head of product here at Wizeline is you don't have to be certain, absolutely 100 percent certain these things are going to succeed? You just need to make everybody else feel confident that you're making the right decisions as you're moving forward. That's one of the biggest things I can take away is that there is no school of product. There's no book you can read to say, "Okay, now I'm the perfect product manager. You can come from various backgrounds, but I think what people are looking for is number one, do you have the discipline to be able to drive towards a goal? Number two, if we're driving toward this goal and we're hearing feedback, or the markets have changed or the economy's crashed, something outside is happening, are we paying attention and are we strategic enough to be able to shift a little or are we just going to be going off that bridge?

Matt: So it's not just how many lines of code can you write in a day? It's do you have discipline, strategy and the grits to do it? Thank you so much, Wendy.

Wendy: Thanks, Matt.

Posted by on Thursday, March 24, 2016.


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