Mobile product managers no longer simply oversee the product backlog or just organize their team’s tasks. Between interfacing with multiple teams, coordinating release schedules, prioritizing customer happiness, driving the mobile product roadmap, messaging product announcements internally and externally, and myriad other activities, the list of “to-do’s” for mobile product managers may seem endless, and the job is ever-changing.
In 2020, PMs play a massive role in product strategy and determining the overall customer experience. Product managers are now being seen as leaders within their organizations rather than independent contributors.
This is all great news, but sometimes, it can make you feel like this:
We know that with change comes a whole new onslaught of challenges. We hope you enjoy this list of tips and tricks to help solve some of the most common challenges for mobile product managers, as told by Parks and Recreation GIFs.
Challenge #1: I have too many responsibilities
Due to rapidly-changing technology, customers have high expectations for the products they use. When something is broken, they expect an immediate fix. This means product teams need to be more nimble than ever and possess the ability to make decisions quickly. Given this, product managers are being trusted with more and more responsibility to push the brand vision forward and maintain focus throughout quickly-changing priorities.
If you feel like you have too much to do, it might be time to restructure your to-do lists in order to adjust the priorities of your responsibilities. Also, be transparent with your manager or team if you truly feel like you have too many responsibilities to manage. Speaking up might spur a conversation around how to adjust your role to better fit your needs, or better yet, to bring in another team member to share your workload.
Challenge #2: There’s not enough time in the day
Time is the one thing we can’t buy. We can never get more of it, so it’s important to use the hours you do have as efficiently as possible. The key to rearranging your day to give yourself more time is to figure out which productivity method works for you, and to stick to it as much as possible. Whether you need chunks of meeting-free time blocked off, are better working in sprints, or find that Tuesdays are better spent working off-site, there are plenty of ways to hack your day to give you more time to get things done.
Challenge #3: We don’t test with users enough
In mobile product management, testing is essential. Whether that’s inviting your highest-value customers to participate in a beta or sending out surveys before and after a big mobile app update, you need a way to collect mobile feedback and check the pulse of your customer experience.
If you’re a PM, you’re in a great place to suggest new types of user tests throughout your mobile experience, especially if you plan the strategy and goals ahead of time. Your mobile customers are the best focus group you can learn from, and there are plenty of cheap, quick ways to give them a place to share their experiences. Consider using in-app surveys to gather feedback on a new feature, open-ended text fields to learn more about an in-app engagement experience, or proactively reach out with in-app messages to encourage customers to engage. To start, here are ten steps for beta testing your mobile app.
Challenge #4: My team is too small
Here’s the thing: No matter the size of your team, you will likely always feel as though you need another teammate (or five!) to reach your goals. When you feel this way, it’s a good sign you’re setting BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals), which is what every team should strive for. If you truly have resourcing issues, it’s always worth talking with your manager to understand your team’s hiring plan as your insight will be helpful in putting together a job description for your next teammate. If you’re in management, be sure to work directly with your teammates to figure out where your biggest resource constraints lie before asking for additional headcount.
The demand for high-level PMs has increased as well. According to this hiring trends report, the demand for senior-level PMs increased 51 percent over the last two years (compared to entry-level at ten percent and mid-level at 26 percent) with an overall jump of 32 percent in all PM-related roles. In comparison to the growth of the larger job market, the demand for PM roles in the US surpasses the increase in demand for all other roles combined by 5x.
Challenge #5: I don’t have a budget
When it comes to budget, gaining access to more is all about proving your product’s ROI. Because mobile teams typically struggle to acquire budget, even at large companies, every dollar spent and returned on the mobile product is under incredible scrutiny from executives. By supporting your product through proving ROI ahead of time, you have a stronger business case for scaling your scope, team, budget, and product positioning within the company. But modeling ROI takes time, patience, and a whole lot of number crunching.
Challenge #6: Our competitors are moving faster/earlier than us.
This challenge primarily affects people in leadership roles, but keeping the momentum flowing and accelerating is an all-company effort. When your competition seems to jump ahead of you, it can be easy to get discouraged. Instead, try to use your frustration as fuel to take a step back and realign your goals and mission. Be flexible to change, and be willing to reorder priorities and projects based on what it will take to get ahead in the market.
Above all, remember that it’s not just about the competition; shifting priorities can help you better deliver a product your customers will love.
Challenge #7: We don’t get enough customer feedback
The most dangerous thing a company can do is make business decisions that reflect the needs or desires of a small data set. Yet, most brands are making major decisions based on feedback from less than one percent of their customers.
The good news is that there’s some low-hanging fruit to help companies get more mobile customer feedback.
- Can you reach out to a larger segment of your customer base?
- Is there a better place to prompt customers for feedback within your mobile experience?
- What do you offer customers for their time once they share their feedback?
All of these places are easy ways for you to gather more customer feedback, which gives you a better sense of what customers want to see improved and changed.
Challenge #8: We don’t know what to prioritize on our product roadmap
Prioritizing features and product ideas is definitely challenging, especially if your team has actionable mobile customer feedback to work off of. You’re probably brimming with good ideas.
The best place to start? Identifying the cause of shifts in customer sentiment. If you have a tool like Apptentive in place, you can quickly and clearly identify places where customer sentiment has increased or decreased. This can help you determine what problems need to be triaged first.
Overall, we recommend leaning heavily on first-party customer data to drive your decisions. By listening deeply to customer feedback and sentiment, and asking the right questions at the right places and times within your digital experience, you can build exceptional products and rally your company around a single, centric point of reference: the customer.
Challenge #9: I don’t have the right tools in place
So, you already understand the immense value of capturing in-app customer feedback – great! The real challenge comes when you’re deciding how you want to execute on this concept and actually begin gathering mobile feedback in your own app. Where do you start? What tools do you use? How do you manage all of that data? How do you create a successful feedback ecosystem?
We’ve compiled a list of the best tools for mobile in-app feedback—from the technical, back-end side to A/B testing to analyzing VOC (voice of customer). Incorporating these tools into your customer experience tech stack will drive more engagement, deliver high-quality customer feedback, and help inform your product roadmap.
Challenge #11: I want a better work/life balance
It’s as important to take care of yourself as it is to take care of your mobile product. If you’re feeling stretched too thin by your work, take time to seriously consider how to better balance your home life and professional life. If you don’t take the time to focus on you when you start feeling work/life balance stress, burnout is sure to follow.
Challenge #10: I don’t have the authority to make decisions
In Gartner’s November 2019 “Accelerate Buying Decisions” article, analysts make an important distinction: “Technology buying is typically an act of change.” That’s a big deal. The people who do have the authority to make decisions carry a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. But as we mentioned before, the role of the product manager is changing faster than ever. While historically, they might not have held much decision-making authority, that’s changing rapidly.
We recommend PMs start learning more about customer experiences as a whole and how to work with other teams on VoC initiatives. Expanding your horizons in these two areas will put you in a better position to advocate for yourself and make better recommendations.
Challenge #11: We release with too many bugs
Code reviews, beta tests, automated tests; there are many ways to test software and squash pesky bugs before they wind up in production. Take a look at the current process your engineering team follows in order to see where quick improvements can be made. The more technical you are, the better you’ll be able to understand how to fill the gaps in this process, so if this is a challenge you’re facing, we recommend brushing up on your developer-speak before you start.
Challenge #12: My product hasn’t hit product/market fit
Once you hit market fit, everything generally becomes easier: expanding product usage, shortening your sales cycle, boosting your prices, etc. But while you’re waiting to hit market fit, learn as much as you can about what would make your product better from your customers. This is the time to dig into churn and understand why people are leaving, and what might have kept them around and paying for your product. Ask questions, gather feedback, and re-prioritize your product roadmap based on what you learn.
Challenge #13: People aren’t finding our app in the stores
Although we know you can get much richer insight on the customer experience through other channels, we can’t deny that mobile app ratings and reviews are a pretty good indicator. App store optimization, or ASO, requires thinking strategically about all components of your app’s descriptive content, including your title, description, keywords, screenshots, videos, and more. Interested in improving your mobile app ratings and reviews? Download our comprehensive and actionable eBook to learn more.
We hope these tips help you conquer whatever mobile product management challenges are thrown your way. And remember: