If you want to be a bad product manager, keep your product development team uninformed about how your product is performing. Why would a graphic designer need to know about revenue? Why would a product support representative need information about competition? Why should an engineer care about market share? Those are things for you to worry about and for you to communicate only to those people within the company who absolutely need to know.
If you want to be a good product manager, share information about your product with other stakeholders and interested parties within your organization. Product managers usually are the internal “face” of the product, and as such should keep others informed about the product’s revenue, market share, profit, competition, and future plans. It is important to connect what an individual contributor is doing on a daily basis to the bigger picture. Putting each person’s efforts into context can help align tactical efforts with product and organizational strategy.
One of the best ways to keep everyone informed is with a “State of the Product” meeting. Similar to the State of the Union and State of the State addresses, a State of the Product meeting is an opportunity to present the current situation, review the past, and look to the future. Rather than the always-glowing speeches that happen at a national or state level, though, you should present an honest assessment of the product’s performance and position. This is an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments, detail work in progress, and rally support for upcoming changes.
If you’re skeptical, try it just once to start out. Invite everyone who is in some way involved in developing, selling, marketing, or supporting your product. Allow yourself enough time to present information and have a discussion — 60-120 minutes depending on the size of your product and audience. Provide snacks and refreshments. Prepare some slides or material to discuss but try to make it as informal as possible. After the meeting, get feedback from the attendees, either direct to you or via an anonymous survey. Most likely there will be great appreciation for the information that was shared, especially if it was not usually shared in the past, and desire to continue in the future.
Set a regular schedule for your State of the Product meetings and stick to it. Three to four each year is a good guide, though you can adjust based on your product and market. The more meetings you have, the more you will get comfortable presenting the right information to your internal audiences and learn more about what questions they have. Over time it will turn in to less of a presentation they learn things for the first time and more of a “checking in” point which provides an update since the last meeting. You can get others involved as well — have engineering leads discuss engineering changes, invite a salesperson to present a successful sale they made, and let your marketing group present the promotional campaigns they are creating.
Communicating with your internal audiences is an important part of product management. As “president of the product,” you are seen as the leader and should take your communication responsibilities seriously. A State of the Product presentation is a great way to bring the whole extended family together to share important information, answer questions, and align all of the roles with your vision and strategy.