Hello, we’re Alex and Alena and we both became Product Managers just over a year ago (how the time flies!) in Kaluza, part of the OVO group building the energy billing system of the future! In this blog we’d like to share our top 5 tips for new Product Managers at OVO from what we’ve learned during that time.
Alex - I’m part of the In-Life squad within Kaluza, building products to manage contracts and tariffs for energy retailers and their customers to support billing.
Alena - I’m part of the Developer Platforms squad within Kaluza, we build products for other developers and product teams.
There are of course loads of different areas to develop and it can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming at the beginning. In our view these are the main things to get right that will make your life easier and help you accelerate your progress:
- Build your network
- Build trust
- Focus on productivity and influence skills
- Prioritise and focus
- Don’t neglect the basics!
Build your network
Our first tip is to build up your network. This is both from a perspective of stakeholders and subject matter experts but also the other members of the product community internally and externally.
At OVO our subject matters experts may be people who deeply understand the energy industry, customer service agents who talk to customers on the phone daily etc. Building relationships with these people will enable you to get closer to your customers and understand the problems they are facing that your product can seek to solve.
Additionally, as a new PM it will be a steep learning curve learning what your role is where you should be spending your time. We're lucky to have fantastic communities of practice here at OVO where we share tips, learn and support each other. Having a mentor is also great for getting more specific feedback and coaching to develop in your role.
As a product manager at OVO your role is to guide the strategy and development of the product and delivery of value through collaboration with engineering and user experience, keeping the focus on the customer problems you are trying to solve; whether that be jobs that need to be done or business goals you need to hit, a key element to achieving this is building trust with your team.
Trust can be built by creating good working practices i.e. through discovery, refinement, planning. As a PM you can often find yourself as the interface with business stakeholders, so it is important to communicate openly and honestly (no BS) and where appropriate bring your team into those discussions.
Focus on productivity and influence skills
Skills such as communication, time management and organisation, (previously called soft skills) should not be overlooked, these skills are crucial to success in your role as Product Manager. You’ll find that you’re super busy and there will be loads of things to juggle. The key is finding a routine that works for you and where possible block out focus time for yourself. Don’t be afraid to decline invites to meetings you don’t need to attend, or propose an alternative time that works better for you.
Prioritise and focus
Being clear on what the most important customer problems to solve or business goals to meet will help you prioritise to focus the team and evolve the product. It’s important to define a strategy for your product that ladders up to the overall squad level, platform level and company level goals.
Visualising the strategy and your roadmap will help you in prioritisation conversations with stakeholders, making it easier to say no to something that doesn’t fit the strategy or where there is another piece of work which you believe adds more value. Mind the Product has a great article on A Product Manager's Guide to Saying No.
Don’t neglect the basics!
You should focus on the problem, iterate to learn quickly and use this to guide you to find the right solution to achieve the right business outcomes. However, while solving the newest customer problem you have discovered, you should also be keeping an eye on the foundations of your product such as security, compliance or monitoring/reporting. We also recommend learning about incident management - in complex systems things will inevitably go wrong so you want to be prepared and know how to react when this happens.
We hope you found our recommendations useful. Everyone’s experience is different and the learning never stops so if you have any other tips for new Product Managers we’d love to hear them in the comments!