Your First Days as Product Manager

You’re in your first days as a product manager. In no time, your calendar will be full and you’ll have a zillion emails. There’s so much to do. Where should you begin?


Before the demands of others overwhelm you, you need to prepare yourself to be the business and market liaison to the product team. Your role as a product manager or product owner is to make the best business decisions for the product, working from the best available information.


Refresh your domain expertise

If you’ve been in your industry for years, you probably have strong domain expertise but you may not be up-to-date on the latest information.


Review the corporate pitch. Perhaps the fastest way to get up to speed on your company and its role in the industry is to review the product and corporate slide decks. Whether your company is a bellwether in the industry or on the periphery, what’s been said in the past will help you understand how your company and its products are perceived, at least from the perspective of your new organization.

Catch up on the latest blogs and articles. Take time to review the latest thinking in your industry. And even if you’ve been in the domain for years, it’s always helpful to take a new look from your new perspective as a product leader. Reports from industry analysts may reveal new industry trends, and perhaps show how your company and products are influencing them.


Fill out your technical expertise

You may have some familiarity with the product from your past research. Now it’s time to get into the raw details.


Know your new product. What documentation exists for your product? You can probably find some customer documentation and help screens, release notes, product plans, sales and conference presentations, white papers and ebooks, and sales enablement tools. Review them all. Learn the key capabilities, particularly those that are competitive differentiators.

Review the product roadmap. And where is the product headed? Has anyone developed a roadmap for the next few releases? How does what you’re seeing align with what you know about the domain and industry?

Understand the architectural themes and challenges. Talk to the developers about the technical challenges for the product. What percentage of development effort is spent on architecture and defects versus new functionality? And while you’re at it, interview the developers about their perspective on your role in moving the product forward.


Update your market expertise

You likely have some market expertise but it never hurts to give yourself a refresh.

Sit in on some customer support calls. Want to know what’s going on with your product in the field? Ask customer support. They know about technical problems with the product as well as customer implementation problems. Sit in on some support calls and listen to customers directly.