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6 Questions For Product Managers To Make Effective Decisions

Product Managers make decisions every day. Some small decisions, some very large decisions. These decisions impact our products, our customers and our business. But how do we know we are making good decisions?

Here are 6 questions to periodically ask yourself about the decisions you are making:  

 

  • What are the various options, and can you clearly articulate the alternatives on which you are deciding?

 

This may sound simplistic, but if you succinctly document what you are actually making a decision about, it helps you to lay out the implications of the alternatives after you’ve gone through some of the following questions. For example, if you are deciding whether to approve a new product or not, one alternative is to undertake the project to build the product and the other alternative is to spend no time building that product.  Again, this step seems simple, and in many ways, it is. However, without clearly articulating what the various options you are deciding upon are, you sometimes miss the details later on.

 

  • What are the data needed to make the decision?

 

Even those of us who have a great instinct for business or decades of domain experience need data to make good decisions.  For any given decision, identify the data and information you need to analyze to make an informed decision. For example, historical revenue numbers, forecasted development hours, or customer sales wins and losses.

 

  • Can you access the data needed?

 

Identifying the data you need is one thing, but does that data exist today and can you actually access it? Do your internal financial systems house the historical data? Has your technical team completed the development forecast yet? If you don’t have the data, you will need to find ways to access it and/or work towards creating that information.

 

  • What are the implications of the various options?

 

You’ve now laid out the various options (question 1), understood what data you need to analyze those options (question 2) and have determined how to access the data (question 3), so now you need to document the implications of those alternatives.  To use our example from question 1, the alternative to build the new product would have implications of all of the resource time, capital investment and other activities needed to develop a product. It would (or should) result in some financial return.  Alternative 2 would be not to build the product and the implications would be freed up resources and capital but also no incremental revenue.

 

  • Who are you involving in the decision-making process?

 

None of us should be making decisions in a vacuum. Alternatively, you also don’t want to get mired in the bureaucracy of every single stakeholder having a vote. There should be a good balance of which cross-functional partners you are involving in the decision. The general rule is if someone’s team or customers will be directly influenced by the decision, it is probably a good idea to involve them up front in the decision-making process. If they are more of a “nice-to-know” level of involvement, you likely don’t need their buy-in.

 

  • How are you tracking the success of the decision?

 

Finally, how are you tracking the results of your decision? If the decision was to move forward with a new product, then you can track the success of that product through your normal product success monitoring. Even for smaller decisions such as a new feature or a new promotion campaign, you must ensure that you are tracking usage, interactions, transactions or other important indicators that the decision met your expectations (or did not).  Obviously, you track this so you can continuously improve upon your decisions.

 

These questions are what you should ask themselves each time they make a decision. I would bet that you are already taking many of these steps without even knowing.  The scale and time you spend on each of these will depend on the decision, of course, but if you are intentional in your efforts, you will learn to make better decisions.

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