If you want to be a bad product manager, try to get everyone to agree on features. It should be easy to get all of your various stakeholders to agree on what features the product should have. If you can’t get them to agree, how are you going to have their support for anything you do? Sure, everyone has wildly different ideas about what the product should include, but it shouldn’t be too hard to come to agreement in a meeting or two. It’s your job as a product manager to make sure everyone is okay with the things that you’re adding in to your product.
If you want to be a good product manager, get everyone to agree on goals. Even with just a few different people involved in the creation of a product, there will be divergent views as to what the product should include. Each person will likely have their own “pet” feature that they would like to see included. Their desire may be for a legitimate reason, like a customer support representative lobbying for a change that would reduce unnecessary support calls or a business development manager asking for features to help get certain partner agreements finalized. However, often features are requested for less legitimate reasons, such as a developer wanting to try an implementation of some cool new technology or a marketer demanding a certain feature just because a competitor has it.
It will almost never be possible to include every request in the final product because of time and resource constraints. Even if it was, this would likely cause the product to become overwhelmed with unnecessary features and complexity and lose focus.
Similarly, getting all of your stakeholders to agree on the features is virtually impossible, and even if it was, it would require an unwieldy amount of effort. Product managers — not a committee of dozens — are responsible for defining what goes in to the product. If a product manager is just tallying votes from others, then what value are they adding?
These problems can be avoided by getting agreement around the vision, strategy, and goals for your product. This may be challenging, as stakeholders who are familiar with just submitting feature requests may resist this change. One way to make the transition is for product managers to spend time with others to understand the underlying goals behind their requests.
For example, a salesperson who keeps asking for 802.11g support is not mentioning this because it is her own personal desire to have 802.11g support in the product. Likely, it is because she is getting requests from customers for this technology or potentially has lots sales because it is offered by competitive products. Instead of just adding this feature to the list of future enhancements, use this as an opportunity to clarify the goals — whether they be around market share, revenue, number of customers, type of customers, or even broad areas of functionality. Maybe she is losing out on sales because she is targeting customers that are outside of your core market, and those in the core market do not desire 802.11g support. Maybe your goal for the next year is to improve battery life and adding 802.11g would hurt battery life. Ensuring that you and she and all of your other stakeholders are in agreement on the goals will make it easier for you to make the decision as to whether 802.11g support will best help meet that goal or whether your efforts should be put elsewhere.
An added benefit of focusing on goals rather than features is that it will show your stakeholders that you have a strong command of the product’s direction and that the product is in capable hands. Stakeholders are more likely to strongly demand specific features when they are not confident in the management of the product. Showing that you can manage the product well by defining and aligning the vision and strategy will increase others’ confidence in you and your ability to be a successful product manager, allowing you to spend more time collecting ideas from others than trying to get everyone to agree on them.