With the world in the middle of a digital revolution, it is imperative that there is a digital product for almost everything. The new business ideas are centred on the fact that digital products have become a part of the lifestyle. The well-established companies are striving towards bringing newer and better digital products catering to the requirements of its customers.
In other words, whether it is new or old businesses, the way to go these days on almost everything is digital. While it is exciting to be a digital product manager in these times, needless to say, it brings a lot of added pressure. The customers want everything as of “yesterday”. The company management wants the revenues and the profits rolling in. At the same time, the developers want more time and resources to bring out a streamlined and quality product.
The expectations of all your stakeholders are at a crossroad and you find yourself struggling with them more than the actual product! This is why setting the right expectations from the initial phase is extremely important. More so, in case of a digital product, since the tangible product can appear only towards the end of the development cycle. An impatient customer or management can, however, pull the plug as they are not able to see either the product or its benefits in the duration.
So how can you set the right expectations for a successful digital product? Here are some pointers that can help you achieve this seemingly unattainable target.
- Ensure everyone’s expectations are on the same page – As we saw in the above example, every stakeholder may have their own set of expectations that may not just be independent, but sometimes even contradictory. It is a huge part of your responsibilities to make sure one party sees the position of the other.
The product timelines and expectations must be agreed on with all stakeholders, ensuring each is convinced of their voice having been heard. They must feel part of the solution to take it to its logical conclusion.
- Set the expectations from the beginning – Expectation setting for a digital product must begin as early as possible. Preferably, right from the time the product roadmap is being drawn, without including time and budgetary constraints. Once the features included in the product roadmap meet the expectations of the stakeholders, only then should any constraints be brought in.
This is the place resistance starts developing as expectations start contradicting. Here, the product manager can play an important role by being an advocate of each side and make them see the other’s point of view. When expectations are set in such a collaborative manner, there is a higher probability of the product becoming a success.
- Build trust – Extremely critical for a customer to see your point of view, is the level of comfort they have in their trade secrets remaining secret with you. Also, a customer believing that you understand the needs of the product, are more likely to trust you with its development. As a product manager, you are responsible for setting these expectations and give the customers, the comfort they are looking for. This can be the dealmaker for your product.
- Keep the communication flowing – While all stakeholders are involved in the roadmap and planning stage and the development team may give a tangible deliverable in terms of the design to the customer, there on the road becomes tougher. While the development teams expect more time for bug-free delivery, the client starts feeling left out. This is mainly because they are unable to see any tangible output.
Your role as a product manager becomes significant at this point. You should keep the communication alive, even if it means giving periodic updates to the customer about the progress. This simple act can ensure that the customer believes you understand their expectations and will deliver a good and successful digital product. You never know, you may even be able to get the extra time needed by your team!
- Make sure the response is quick – Most customers are scared to use the product created by someone else and will try to find as many problems as possible in the product. Your role as a product manager is to address these concerns as quickly as possible. Even during the development phase, your quick response to the customer’s queries gives them the confidence that you understand their concerns.
The quick response to any concern is a great way of setting the client’s expectations about the credibility of your team. Many long-lasting relationships are built on the foundation of trust built in this manner. And when the delivery and customers trust in each other, success is guaranteed for the product.
- Take the product lifecycle to completion – While it may be tempting to believe so, the fact is, your responsibility does not get over the moment your product development is over. Proper hand holding and onboarding of your customer is equally important for them to accept and use your product.
You can set this expectation right at the beginning to give the customer more confidence in your work as a team. A comprehensive user support document helps in further strengthening the trust.
As we have seen so far, the most critical ingredient for the success of a digital product is the trust and the belief of the customers and the product teams on each other. While there can be many reasons for this trust to break, the single straightforward way to keep it going is to set the right expectations.
If the team is able to set the right expectations from the beginning and follow through on them, a long-lasting partnership can develop. This partnership of trust and understanding is the difference between the success and failure of a digital product. Thus, it is critical for the product manager to ensure the expectations are properly set from the initial stages of digital product delivery.