When I was at Google, the best product manager I worked with was named Phil Mui, now chief of product and engineering as an EVP at Acxion. At Google, his role was interesting in that he was at the same time both 1) a lone operator as well as 2) the epicenter of collaboration for our product, Google Analytics. Quite a contradition, right? Here’s what I mean…
The lone operator aspect manifested in that he had few people who actually directly reported to him. For a while, he had zero direct reports. However, at the same time, he was basically the acting CEO of Google Analytics, leading all team weekly meetings as well as defining product vision, roadmap and priorities – and thus the collaborative part. He would represent Google Analytics to executives as Google and work closely with all teams, including engineering, marketing, legal and sales and support – and do all this without a hierarchical team of his own.
Phil’s Quandora use would have been typical to what we hear from Product Managers who use the product. They use it in a dually faceted way. The first way is on a project basis which is highly cross-functional. In our case, it would’ve been the Google Analytics project as a whole. The second way is knowledge sharing with other product managers – same function but cross-organizational – who are also the acting CEOs of their products.
Project-based knowledge sharing
A Quandora knowledge base makes an excellent hub for a team focused on a project or product. It’s a place where the product manager can post information and links, make updates and share and discuss vital top level information from all the teams related to a product. Quandora is useful is in saving a PM from having to answer the same question over and over as it comes in from individuals via email. Everyone on the team can see a posted question and the answer. Imagine the time that would save a product manager who is leading a project with dozens of cross-functional team members? Questions that might come in include:
- An engineer might ask “What are the latest sales numbers since June 1…”
- A sales person might ask, “What are the next features on the roadmap…”
When these people don’t necessarily know who to ask or where to go within the team’s product ecosystem, a ton of shoulder tapping can happen all throughout the team – especially to the product manager – and result in a lot of work interruption. All these questions can be answered, usually through links, on a project based Quandora. Each functional team has it’s own answers, dashboards, microsites, etc, and the product manager can surface them here or delegate answers via Quandora’s invitation system.
These question and answers aren’t the same nature as the specific expertise and learning questions we see from teams of developers, but they are no less valuable.
With other product managers
From PMs, we also hear a lot about best practice sharing. Each product manager is handling the specifics of his product and it’s team and organization. Sometimes they can be islands, working more solitarily than one would think – don’t cry for them, it’s not a bad thing. They are constantly interacting with others, just not always collaborating on a specific task. Their tasks can be standalone, from creating product requirements documents (PRDs) to optimizing communication between clients and engineers so that the right features get prioritized, to presenting progress to upper management. Everything is done with consultation from other team members, e.g. engineers, sales managers, etc, but the final product is their responsibility. Product managers from across the company can share best practices to achieve these tasks.
Some potential questions we’ve heard about are:
- “What is the best PRD template the world has ever seen?”
- “What stats does the executive management team like to see when presenting to them?”
- “How do I get usability lab help?”
- “How do I foster culture on my product?”
I simultaneously envy and do not envy the job of a product manager. A good PM in my opinion is nothing less than a good leader. They can get so busy, being constantly asked questions by all parts of their organization, that Quandora can be a huge help.