For a Product Manager, there is always a fine line between balancing the long-term with the short-term. Many PMs question where their focus should be and how to allocate the right amount of time to each. The answer to this question can vary depending on the type of company you work for and the organizational structure. At a larger organization, there are typically more resources so that PM may not be asked to focus on such a broad scope. For a smaller organization, or a startup, the PM does not have that luxury. In this situation, something that I have experience with, you have no choice but to focus on both the short and long-term scenario of your product.
The Macro View
The macro view, aka the long-term, is what many Product Managers are typically used to. They are the ones who dictate and monitor the roadmap, so they need to know what the plan is for the next 6-months, as well as the next 3-years. They must own the vision and the strategy. More importantly, they need to make sure the whole team is onboard with the overlying vision because unless everybody is aiming for the same goal, your product will end up in no man’s land. This is the tricky but fun part of the role. You must advocate and be the voice of your users but you also have to balance the needs and wants of the other stakeholders (executives, marketing, sales, etc.). All in all, you are responsible for where the product is heading and therefore it is important to invest a large chunk of your time to analyzing competitive and market trends, talking to your users and understand their growing problems, and connecting with others within your company who are close to the product and the target users. As the foundation begins to get solidified, you could start dedicating 60-70% of your time to building and understanding the long-term path.
The Micro View
Although the broad view is key, the devil is in the details. In my current role, for a small organization, I am essentially both the Project Manager and the Product Manager. So this automatically means I have to look at both the right now and the tomorrow. When I first started my job, I was strictly focused on the right now. Learning how things operate, working to create better process flows, getting to know the team and how they are, understanding the technology as best as I could, and digging into the market and competitive landscape. As the Project Manager on the product, I have to monitor how we are progressing, analyze where we are at, understand how we are building and test our new builds. The details are extremely important when you are playing a dual role. It is also on me to be as detailed as possible when writing the specs so that the engineering team understands what problem we’re trying to solve and why.
At a larger organization, the PM may not need to worry about the details. They are strictly setting the vision while others manage the implementation. At a smaller organization, you may be required to run both the product and project management aspects of a business. Nonetheless, it is important for the PM to balance both the short-term and long-term elements of a product. I try to spend 30-40% of my day on the micro – communicating with our engineering team, testing our product and writing the specs and details. I need the engineer team, or at least the engineering lead, to also be on the same page of what we are currently building and where we plan to go next. Why? Because what we build today should account for where we want it to be tomorrow. So although it is fun to be the visionary, you can’t get to tomorrow without understanding what is going on today.