7 ways to gain domain expertise for Product Managers

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In the last blog, I talked about Domain expertise – Does it really matter to a product manager? Question is how to gain domain expertise. I would like to tell 7 ways to do that –

  • In-house Training – First things begin at home. Talk to your current product management team. Request for a training session on the domain know-how. Current PM would be the best guy to give you a good understanding on your product space.
  • Market Research/ Survey – If you are conducting focused market research exercise as part of your PM work, you are going to gain a lot on your domain side of the product. As users are trying to give response as per their real life experiences, you can trust more on the data you get. However, the challenge lies on how well you define your survey, get inputs from the audience, analyse data and come out with realistic findings.
  • Resources – Last but not the least, you may find free or paid resources all around. You need to invest time and money in attending webinars and reading blogs, industry reports and Books. The best part is that your employer is going to support you in your learning on the job.

Shout out to your customers. Get closer to them

  • Customer Feedback Meetings – Schedule sessions with them for feedbacks as a part of your regular exercise. The software users at your customer site will directly jump on the business. They would have stories to tell if they are able to achieve for what they purchased your software. Since they are not technical guys but real business users, you may gain a significant knowledge on their businesses, what challenges do they face, how your software is able to solve their problems, or any gap they see in your product.
  • Product Trainings – Also, as new features are rolled out, you can be a part of customer success team during trainings. Users would give you their quick feedback on the value they see in the new features which is going to give a greater understanding and confidence on the problems you have been trying to solve.
  • Sales Calls – Be part of sales calls. As sales guys talk to prospects and pitch the product and its features to prospects, you would get a clarity on how the buyers perceive your software vis-a-vis his business problems you are trying to achieve. You would get a clear cut understanding on his business and problems he faces and hence you gain more insight into the process and domain you are dealing with.
  • Events – I find events to be really enjoyable where you meet the people with similar interests who are open to share their knowledge and experience on the areas you most care about as a Product Manager. The best part is that you get to interact with the user personas, your competition and related stakeholders of your product space which opens doors to a lot of learning.

Domain expertise – Does it really matter to a product manager?

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A week ago as I was going on trip with my family, my sister-in-law announced that she is recently given the role of a Product Manager. She was all excited about it and asked me what should be the first thing for her to work on. She started her career with a global pure-play product engineering services firm as a Software Engineer and gradually promoted to the role of Technical Lead. Myself being a Product Manager for quite sometime now, I thought this is the moment I can seize to impress my in law by sharing the experience I have gained as a product manager.

I have been working in Inside Sales domain for quite sometime now. As a Product Manager at InsideSalesBox, my job is to keep myself up to date with the best sales practices and processes, sales tech trends, evolving problems and needs of sales professionals and the next move of the competition products. You would acknowledge that as we are in this tech industry where the things are really dynamic and the new products and features come up very fast, the most pressing challenge I face to stay abreast with any such developments. Being from a Sales domain since the beginning of my career as a Business Analyst and Solution Consultant, I could pick with Inside Sales domain which I consider as a niche of Sales domain.

The advice I gave to my sister-in-law is to first build a thorough understanding of your domain. As technical lead, she has been involved in building features and functions by working on architecture and software development work. She has been working on HOW part of the problem till now. However, in her new role she would be expected to work on WHY and WHAT and WHEN part of the problem. Product Manager needs to sense the gap the customers face, what he can do to solve the problem and which solutions should be prioritise for the customers to serve him well. So I asked her to develop an understanding on the business impact of your technology on your customers. I believe if a product manager understands the domain better, she would be able to successfully chart out the process maps for the problem in question and hence work with customers to find gaps and come up with the solutions to not only plugin the gaps but add value to the whole process for accelerated business impact. If a product manager is an expert in the domain she is into, she would be able to do justice to her job as a Product Manager.

To all those, we are starting their journey as Product Manager need to work on attaining domain expertise. Say, if you are working in an e-commerce company, you need to understand e-commerce space very well. You need to know global and local e-commerce companies and their products. Understand if you deal B2B, C2C or B2C e-commerce and the user personas of those who would use your product. You need to have thorough understanding on e-commerce process and engagement lifecycle from attaining vendors who supply products/ services, syncing your e-commerce product with the vendor’s inventory, customers coming on your website, going through the items, placing order, making payments, tracking, order, vendor dispatching order, delivery boy delivering order and customer again visiting your site.

The successful are going to be those product managers who would have hold in their domain, have established community network and have gained thought leadership. In the next write-up, I will be talking about on how to gain domain expertise. Stay Tuned!

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