In the dynamic realm of digital product management, encountering failures isn’t a matter of “if” but “when.” These challenges, though formidable, serve as the crucible for wisdom and personal growth. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the 10 common failures that digital product managers are likely to confront. Our goal is not only to impart wisdom but to equip you with practical strategies to surmount these obstacles.
1. Too Many Stakeholders Will Want Something ASAP
Example: Imagine you’re managing a project for a mobile app, and the marketing team, sales team, and customer support all want urgent updates simultaneously. Each department believes their request is the top priority.
To navigate this challenge:
Embrace Prioritization: Recognize that you can’t cater to everyone simultaneously. Prioritize based on strategic goals and user needs. In this case, prioritize the marketing team’s request as it aligns with an upcoming product launch.
Data-Driven Decisions: Arm yourself with data to substantiate your prioritization choices. Use metrics showing the potential impact on user acquisition and retention to justify your decision to the stakeholders.
2. The New Release Will Be a Disaster
Example: You’re about to launch a major software update, and during the final testing phase, critical bugs are discovered. The release date is looming, and the CEO has already announced it to the public.
To weather this storm:
Expect the Unexpected: Prepare for glitches, bugs, and unexpected issues by conducting thorough testing. In this case, you should have contingency plans in place for addressing major bugs and a clear rollback plan if necessary.
Roll-out Planning: Develop a meticulous roll-out plan that includes a phased release. Communicate openly with stakeholders about the issues and delays, and adjust your timeline accordingly.
3. You Will Get Sick/Need to Take Time Off
Example: You fall ill and need to take unplanned time off right in the middle of a critical project phase.
To handle personal setbacks:
Self-Care Matters: Don’t hesitate to take time off when necessary. Ensure that your team has access to all the necessary project documentation and that someone is designated to make critical decisions in your absence.
Train Your Team: Cross-train your team members to ensure they can seamlessly cover for you during your absence. Ensure that someone on your team is familiar with your responsibilities and can step in if needed.
4. Your Team Will Get Sick or Need to Take Time Off
Example: During a crucial project, a key team member falls ill, and you can’t afford any delays.
To ensure your projects stay on course:
Flexible Sprint Goals: Instead of relying on one person’s expertise, ensure that sprint goals are flexible and that tasks can be reassigned as needed.
Resource Redundancy: Cross-train team members so that multiple people can handle critical tasks. In this case, having someone else on the team who can step in and cover for the absent team member is crucial.
5. Your Product Will Stop Working
Example: Your e-commerce website experiences downtime during a major holiday sale (e.g. “Black Friday”), resulting in lost revenue and customer frustration.
To address downtime:
Learn and Adapt: Treat each breakdown as an opportunity to learn and grow. Implement proactive monitoring and alerts to detect issues faster. For example, set up automated alerts to notify you if server response times exceed a certain threshold.
Avoid Self-Blame: Rather than dwelling on what could have been prevented, focus on building resilience for the future by investing in redundant servers and a disaster recovery plan.
6. Important Metrics Will Go Down
Example: Your mobile app’s daily active users suddenly drop significantly, causing panic among stakeholders.
To maintain your composure and take action:
Stay Calm: Don’t panic; take a deep breath. Remember that fluctuations in metrics can be normal.
Root Cause Analysis: Investigate the causes diligently. In this case, you discover that a recent app update introduced a bug causing crashes on certain devices. Address this issue promptly and communicate the fix to users.
Stay Tuned: Keep a close eye on metrics and trends, and be prepared to iterate on your product or marketing strategies if necessary.
7. Key Players Will Leave Your Team
Example: A senior developer on your team decides to leave for a better opportunity, leaving a skills gap that’s hard to fill.
To handle personnel changes:
Adjust and Communicate: Revise your project plans to accommodate the team’s new composition. In this case, you may need to extend project timelines or allocate additional resources to cover the skills gap.
Farewell Gracefully: Wish departing team members well. A supportive atmosphere ensures a smooth transition and leaves the door open for potential collaboration in the future.
8. Important Aspects of the Work Won’t Be Ready
Example: A critical component of your project, such as a third-party integration, isn’t ready as promised, jeopardizing your project’s success.
To address this challenge:
Quality Over Speed: Prioritize quality over speed. Implement a comprehensive checklist and ensure all acceptance criteria are met. In this case, consider alternatives or workarounds while maintaining the quality of the final product.
Better Late Than Subpar: It’s better to be slightly delayed with a polished product than to deliver something subpar that could harm your reputation.
9. Your Product Will Get (Potentially) Hacked
Example: You discover a potential security vulnerability in your application that could lead to data breaches if not addressed.
To respond effectively:
Control What You Can: Comply with legal requirements and promptly address vulnerabilities. In this case, immediately patch the vulnerability and notify affected users about the security update.
User Trust Matters: Prioritize security over expedited feature releases. Rebuild trust by demonstrating a commitment to your users’ data security.
10. You Will Be Sick of It All
Example: After months of constant pressure and high expectations, you’re feeling burned out and overwhelmed.
To cope with the stress:
Recognize Your Limits: Acknowledge your human limitations and don’t hesitate to step back when necessary. Take some time off to recharge and refocus.
Career Reflection: Evaluate whether your current role aligns with your long-term career aspirations. Consider seeking new challenges or opportunities if necessary.
Each failure is an opportunity for growth and resilience. By mastering these common challenges, you’ll emerge as a seasoned digital product manager, well-equipped to thrive in the dynamic world of digital products. Remember, success often lies just beyond the failures you conquer.