Imagine you’re the first product manager hired at a startup. Your new company developed its first product based on gut instinct, a little luck, and some user research. The product is relatively successful, and the company is growing. Your goal is to take the product to the next level. But since you’re a good product manager, you know that elevating the product is going to require some internal infrastructure first. Processes, communication, and culture are all essential ingredients to build a great product by working across teams.

But it’s a startup, so there are a million things you need to help get done. So to streamline your work, you decide to implement a product management system.

Getting buy-in can be tough, though. Company leaders may not see the point since they built the first version without one. They may tell you just to use a spreadsheet to manage your product. That’s the same thing, right?

If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. It’s a story we hear all the time. Gaining buy-in for a product management system isn’t always as easy as just asking for the budget. Often, company stakeholders don’t understand the benefits of these systems. That’s why we put these four talking points to help you get buy-in.

Talking point #1: You’ll better connect with your users

Most company leaders would agree that understanding their users is critical to the success of the product. After all, the purpose of your product is to serve your customers. Without really understanding your users, you’re likely just guessing at what they might want.

Product management systems help product managers streamline the collection of product feedback from your users. Using a product management system’s feedback repository, you have quick access to all organized feedback in a centralized location. These feedback repositories integrate with your customer service tools, live chat tools, email, Slack, and more. Therefore messages from customers are immediately stored and easily viewed in your product management system.

Better collect user feedback

Not only do you have the feedback, but you also have the context surrounding the suggestion. Context allows you to dig deeper into the suggestion and understand the real problem.

For example, imagine you don’t have this ability to store feedback in a centralized location. You hear anecdotal evidence from your customer success team that users have requested the ability to export data into a spreadsheet. That’s a simple enough feature to build, so you direct your development team to spend time building that feature.

After you release it, users begin exporting their data. Except, those users are spending hours analyzing the data to create dashboards with summaries of the data. If you had context on the problem before building your solution, you might have built the dashboards they needed and provided real value.

Talking point #2: You’ll more easily determine feature trends

Related to the above talking point, really understanding your users allows you to find common feature idea trends. This helps you determine what the sets of problems facing your users are and what set of solutions may best solve them.

Going back to our previous example, remember that your customer success team told you that users had asked for the ability to export data? How many users asked for that? Is it a trend, or is it just something that only two vocal users recently asked for? If you don’t know those answers, you might waste time building a feature that an insignificant number of users actually need.

PM systems help you avoid this by organizing user suggestions into different buckets. Bucketing those suggestions together allows you to organize feedback in a way that will help you identify trends.

You’ll also be able to get the exact percentage of users who suggested each feature, which is something your prioritization should take into consideration. Knowing this will help you determine if the feature idea is has a lot of value.

Identify feature trends

Without the ability to identify trends, the feedback may be an unorganized mess. Managing your product without a PM system to organize customer feedback can lead to confusion, missed trends, and incorrect priorities.

Talking point #3: You’ll uplevel your prioritization process

Better feature prioritization is something that should appeal to your entire organization because it’s how you do more with less.

You already know that PM systems can help you collect and organize user suggestions. PM systems take a step further by allowing you to grade each idea based on how it fits into your overall product vision, how it impacts your users, and how labor-intensive it will be to build.

If 10% of your users are asking for a feature that doesn’t make sense for your product vision, you might not prioritize it at all. Or, if that same feature is going to take months to build, you might give it a lower, longer-term priority.

Feature suggestions don’t come just from users though. They also come from internal stakeholders and user research. PM systems help with this, too, by allowing you to level the playing field regardless of who the feature suggestion comes from.

Without a PM system, a suggestion might get priority just because it came from the loudest voice in the room. With a PM system, you’ll be able to assess how that suggestion fits into your strategy objectively.

This objectivity will prevent you from putting something into place that isn’t actually a priority. That will save your company time and effort because you’ll be able to focus on initiatives that move the needle for your users.

Talking point #4: You’ll more easily align your entire company

Of course, creating a product roadmap is one of your most important jobs as a product manager. Roadmaps help everyone in your company understand what features are coming next, but that’s just scratching the surface.

Building a product roadmap takes time, and that’s why you need a PM system to help you do exactly that. In a good PM system, roadmaps are dynamic documents that can be updated regularly. If your roadmap is in a spreadsheet or PowerPoint, old versions will float around your company, which can lead to confusion about the development plan.

Align around the roadmap

A roadmap in a PM system also helps everyone understand why you’re prioritizing a specific feature by linking back to your user feedback and prioritization.

On top of that, you can customize roadmaps in a PM system for each viewer. This customization can be especially useful for complex product strategies where different stakeholders are interested in a unique set of information. For example, support teams may want to know when specific security updates are coming, and sales may want to know when new revenue-driving features are being released.

Finally, a public version of your roadmap makes it much easier to communicate with your users. This can help reduce churn as users will be able to see your plan to improve the product. A PM system can quickly turn your internal roadmap into a public-facing one.

Buy-in is all about ROI

Gaining buy-in for your product management system is really about proving its ROI. Before you’ve purchased your product management system, it’s hard to prove the ROI in dollar amounts.

If you focus on the specific benefits of the tool when selling it to your stakeholders, you’ll have a better chance of getting approval. Articulating the talking points above will help everyone in your company come to their own logical conclusions about what value a product management system provides.

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productboard is a product management system that enables teams to get the right products to market faster. Built on top of the Product Excellence framework, productboard serves as the dedicated system of record for product managers and aligns everyone on the right features to build next. Access a 15-day free trial of productboard today

Monty Mitra Aug 5, 2019