• Muthu Ranganathan

    Product Manager as the Wicket Keeper

     

     

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    Wishing you all a very happy 2017, may you get the guts and courage to make the change this year.

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one of the most successful cricketers is certainly an inspiration for all of us – cricket fans and Indians. While he is a famous and winning captain, probably being a wicket keeper has helped him to shape up his instincts, strategy and execution.

    Being a product manager for few years now, I often relate to being a wicket keeper, who really wears multiple hats to help his team and win in the market. Often there is lack of clarity on the role of a Product Manager and why are they needed. In this post I would like to focus on drawing some parallels between Wicket keeper and Product Manager , especially differentiating the greats from good ones.

    Pitch reader (Market)

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    Understanding the pitch is a key aspect to winning a cricket match – so is the understanding of the market to win with a product. Wicket keepers are great pitch readers, as they stay close to it always. So is the product manager, as understanding the market is a very significant success factor for products. If product managers can read the pitch (market) well, they can certainly guide the team very well to shape the right product that fits the market.

    Supporting the bowler (Development)

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    One of the primary roles of product managers is to work very closely with development to shape and release the product. They are involved every ball, they need to be attentive to every detail, they need a great presence of mind, they need to keep motivating and appreciating every milestone. They also support the bowlers on field placements – read as key reviews of every aspect of the design of the product. They can give instant feedback and suggest changes, on the spot to ensure success. They also catch to take wickets – similar to some key contributions by product managers on prototyping and closing loop on the product.

    Alert with fielders (Quality Assurance)

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    Wicket keepers stay alert with fielders and set an example in the field, as well as guide the field on what’s coming from the bowlers. Product managers similarly are one of the initial quality assurance /testers of the product, and guide the QA on how to ensure the quality of the product.

    Close to opponent (Competitive insights)

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    Wicket keepers stay very close to the opponent batsman. They know whats their strength and weakness by closely following and watching them. This can certainly help share their insights to the bowlers. Similarly Product Managers have to stay very close to whats being done by competition, and how the products they build can surpass the competitor products, by understanding their strengths and weakness.

    Handy batsman (Sales)

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    Finally wicket keepers can also support with the bat. While they are not the strike batsman, they may be useful handy batsman as they know the pitch and the opponents, and in some situations could single handed win with their extra batting abilities (like a Dhoni or Gilchrist). Product Manager similarly can support Sales to win in the market. Product managers know all the details of the product, the market and the competition – so they can certainly help win in sales. While they are not the strike sales man, they can be an effective supporting person for the striker. Some Product Managers have a very high success rate of closing business when they are involved.

     

    There could be more parallels…but hope the above helped you understand the critical role of product manager, as critical as a wicket keeper in a cricket match, and some of the key ingredients and potential contribution they can make to your product.

    When we all started playing (read startup), we may not need a full time wicket keeper as someone wears that hat in rotation, but to make it big (beyond early stage startup) you probably need one.

    Great Product Managers move on to become Great Product Leaders and are winners….Adam Gilchrist or our MS Dhoni !

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    PS : Never thought MS Dhoni will resign captaincy when i wrote this blog post (he resigned on same day when this post was published). Anyway hoping he will continue to be a wicket keeper for a some more period, and great team player :)

     

     

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    Jan, 04
    2017
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