Are You a Product Manager or a Pointless Manager?

Are you a Product Manager Or A Pointless Manager

Insights from Praful Chavda

Let’s talk shop, Or more precisely, talk about the fine line between being a product manager and a pointless manager. Intrigued?

Praful Chavda, CEO and Founder of Chisel, recently sat down with Mike Belsito from Product Collective to discuss the critical question—are you a product manager or a pointless manager? 

Praful drew from over 20 years of experience as a product leader at Microsoft and startups and as the founder of Chisel to provide valuable insights into how product managers can genuinely add value to their organizations.

Let’s recap and discuss a few of the most impactful insights and takeaways from Praful’s webinar discussion. 

The Risk of Being a Pointless Manager

Mike kicked off the webinar by addressing the most glaring point upfront.I want to get into the meat of the session here and get right to the topic, 

‘Are you a product manager or a pointless manager?’ What do we mean by that?” he asked.

Praful responded by describing the importance of stakeholders’ perceptions of product managers.I’ve seen some stakeholders ask this question one way or another,” he said. “Lately, this debate got fueled again when Brian Chesky made the comment from Airbnb, right? They are changing the way product management works, and it has created a new wave of conversation in the community.

As product managers, stakeholders find that they get a lot of value out of you, and they want to engage with you to get advice, an opinion, or a decision, which is critical to the business.

If product managers keep providing clarity to the rest of the organization on deciding whether a product or technology they are engaged in is making the business better, stakeholders will never have to ask, ‘Hey, are you just a pointless manager?’ if PMs connect the externally focused customer and market needs to the decision of what products to build and what technology to use.”

Praful’s point is that providing clarity to the organization on whether products or technologies align with business goals is essential for PMs to validate their role. By assessing customer needs and market dynamics and translating that into coherent plans for new offerings or improvements, PMs help ensure business resources are invested wisely.

Studies shows organizational alignment strengthens when stakeholders understand how various efforts link to overarching objectives as they do not impose unrealistic expectations. As these uninformed expectations in turn are the cause of nearly 70% of projects failing. As the interface between business and customer requirements, PMs are well-positioned to demonstrate that linkage. Their analyses of commercial viability can assist decision-making by outlining likely outcomes. 

This strategic guidance diminishes uncertainty for stakeholders and emphasizes the PM’s contribution to driving shared objectives. Instead of only coordinating work, they substantiate their position as advisors by enhancing business outcomes through a well-informed point of view.

#1 The Importance of Prioritization for Product Managers

Praful also emphasized the value of “hyper-focused prioritization” for product managers.

“Product managers have always understood the importance of this [prioritization],” he said. “But this is becoming even more critical as things are changing fast around us.”

Mike further emphasized the importance of prioritization, saying that product managers should always be asking themselves critical questions like, “Should these even be the products we’re launching? Are these solving customer problems? Why are we doing this in the first place?'”

The product managers adding the most value are asking those questions first and foremost,” added Mike.

Prioritization is crucial for product managers as it ensures the team’s efforts are directed towards initiatives that create the most value. With constantly changing customer and market dynamics and growing opportunities with new technologies, prioritizing correctly keeps work aligned with emerging needs and business objectives.

#2 Pillars of Modern Product Management

When Mike asked Praful about the fundamental tenets of contemporary product management, Praful responded,,

“While the core of connecting customer/market needs to product/tech investments hasn’t changed, given rapid tech evolution, there are five things PMs must keep in mind: ‘operationalizing feedback, hyper-focused prioritization, taking advantage of newer technologies like AI, ensuring a system of record for PM data, and aligning cross-functional feedback to a single goal.'”

He then elaborated on each of these five pillars in more detail.

One is ‘operationalizing feedback.‘ Everyone understands the importance of customer feedback, but how is it used in decisions? 

Praful further explained this point in detail: 

“Operationalizing feedback is ‘weaving feedback into your day-to-day decision making,’ moving beyond just collecting feedback to ‘having the right level of synthesis of the feedback, which helps you decide which feedback synthesis should factor into what kind of decisions’ and ensuring ‘this feedback is readily available, visible and usable’ for ‘operational decisions.'”

Praful adds,

“Second is ‘hyper-focused prioritization’ as things change faster, so prioritization becomes more critical.”

“’Third is ‘taking advantage of innovation happening in new technologies, including AI,’ using newer tech to automate work and multiply productivity.”

‘’Fourth is having a proper system of record of product management data. Is there a posterity behind the decision that are made or not’’

“Finally, how do we align the force of all these disciplines behind .a single goal? And how do we get the organization marching in the same direction so that we can pick up execution velocity?”

These points highlighted by Praful are crucial for product managers to thrive in today’s dynamic environment. Operationalizing feedback and prioritizing work ensures the customer’s voice guides strategic decision-making. Leveraging new technologies helps multiply efforts and optimize processes. Aligning cross-functional teams around shared goals aids the successful execution of prioritized initiatives. 

Market data shows that the value of operationalizing customer inputs is multi-fold. Beyond generating goodwill through actions, embedding feedback loops allows for rapid iteration and alignment with shifting needs. Studies also found benefits like more than 30% higher revenue growth when companies prioritize feedback-driven decisions. While collection is crucial, synthesizing diverse inputs into cohesive snapshots enables informed prioritization and resource optimization catering to varied segments. This yields long-term competitive differentiators that are difficult for others to replicate.

With technologies evolving at an unprecedented pace and customer expectations rising continuously, addressing these focus areas is critical for PMs to add value. It allows them to stay abreast of changing realities, make informed judgments based on multiple perspectives, and drive organizational alignment for prioritized work, thereby enhancing business outcomes through their leadership.

Pillars Of Modern Product Management

#3 Using Technology to Empower Product Managers

As technology grows exponentially, advancements such as AI regularly emerge. Since product managers occupy a central role within organizations, they must understand emerging technologies and automation to streamline and enhance their workflow.

As the insightful discussion progressed, Praful also explored the transformative potential of automation and AI in revolutionizing and expediting PM tasks. 


Many organizations collect a lot of feedback from their prospects and customers,” he said.“It’s a Herculean task to manually analyze every feedback ticket, like 5,000 tickets collected over a few weeks for a bank. AI can automatically classify this feedback within seconds to identify that 300 tickets are about opening a new account, 500 are bill payments, etc. Another automation layer can summarize those 400 bill payment tickets into a draft product requirement document for me. What would take a PM days or weeks can now be done in minutes.” 

New technologies present opportunities for product managers to meaningfully increase their productivity. 

For example, a platform like Chisel can use AI to instantly classify thousands of customer tickets, summarize insights, and generate draft product requirements documents, tasks that previously took PMs significant time.

Chisel is an example of a platform built specifically to empower product managers throughout product development.

Closing Thoughts

As we reached the end of the webinar,

Mike asked, “If there is one thing that you hope people remember, either from the conversation or about Chisel, what’s that last thing you hope sticks with everybody here at the session today?”

Praful responded,“‘Let’s be mindful of our value to the organization. For every investment we make in product management, how does the organization get the best ROI? What can we do to add value back? We must educate others when our activities tend towards coordination rather than customer-focused problem-solving.”

With this we reached the end of the webinar. It was quite thought provoking and enriching.

Ultimately, product managers need to keep customers as their north star. They can boost business value by lending guidance around prioritization, technologies, and organizational alignment. However, constantly developing tech requires ongoing efforts to sharpen skills and leverage innovative solutions, ensuring focus remains on users. If product management fulfills this customer-centric mission, then their role will continue to make a significant impact. A measured, steady pursuit of user interests seems key to thriving in today’s world and tomorrow’s.

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