How do you communicate product management updates and activities to the rest of the company?
There are different types of updates that need to be communicated to the rest of the company and how those get communicated is different
- Vision/Roadmap: At least annually, live at the annual kickoff to the company. A recording should be available at all times, as well as part of the sales enablement and onboarding materials. A vision is high level and helps internal teams get excited about our direction and share that excitement with prospects and customers
- Major launches: Major launches typically are for a new product launch or new category of capabilities. These involve the most work to communicate across the company and to customers including press releases, blog posts, analyst updates, demos at conferences, webinars, internal enablement, customer references and more.
- Minor launches / Features: These should be grouped into coherent themes or focus areas to ensure the value of each feature is amplified. A mistake that a lot of product teams make is to trickle out each feature individually without articulating a larger value proposition, which makes it difficult for the rest of the company, especially customer facing teams, to see the forest from the trees. The onus is on the PM + PMM to articulate the value in a way that everyone in the company understands and can convey to customers and prospects. These may not include all the activities listed for major launches but a subset
- Customer asks: In B2B companies, this is an important aspect of what customer facing teams look for from the PM. The number of these tend to grow non linearly with the size of the PM team, and hence hard to stay on top of. A good way is to set expectations for what set of these will get updated and at what frequency (e.g. top 50 updated every month etc..). And it's also important to avoid focusing only on a small handful of the largest customers, but balance with the needs common across a larger base of customers.
At the company level, there are a few different methods of communications to keep everyone abreast of updates:
- Product Notification emails (Ad Hoc) - These emails have a set template and allow product teams from around the company to share updates to their areas in a digestable format as major features go out of the door.
- Product Newsletter emails (Weekly) - The weekly newsletter summarized major product updates and initiatives to all product team members.
- Quartery Business Review meetings (Quarterly) - These larger meetings gather key parts of the business to talk through major updates each quarter, including an opportunity for the C-Suite to interact with and pose questions to respective teams.
- Quarterly Kick-off meetings (Quarterly) - These meetings are specific to our Product Area and include our stakeholders; each team in Fintech is able to share wins from the prior quarter and plans for the coming quarter.
- Slack Updates (Ad Hoc) - For major releases, the PM will often post a message in our global product channels to notify the broader group of the change. This allows an opportunity for the team to be recognized, as well as others to be informed about the update.
Great question, and it doesn't have a single answer. One thing that is important is having a consistent, accessible, forum/location for people to see:
- What's been released;
- What's coming up;
- Issues/outages/major bugs.
The details of how you do this will depend on a few factors:
- Size of your company
- Whether you're distributed, in-person, or hybrid
- The type of space/collaboration tools you use
- The team culture
For example, a very small, in-person team might rely on a weekly Iteration Planning Meeting and some physical information radiators on the wall. A very large, distributed team might use a monthly all-hands for high-level updates and a formal product roadmap that everyone can access.
As your company grows, you'll also want to collaborate with other teams on sharing updates. For example, Customer Support or QA teams may handle centralized communications about bugs and issues that affect customers, and Product Marketing may create a customer-facing product roadmap for got-to-market teams to use.
Selecting the tools, forums and cadence that best support your team's needs, and then being prepared to change them as your team grows, is the most important thing.
Communicating as a product manager is probably 90% of the job. I would say you need to make sure you establish clear chains of communication, both internally and externally, especially as a pertains to product roadmap delivery updates. My favorite method of doing this is to create a safe, publicly available, published version that you can distribute internally and externally so that everybody’s on the same page regarding the major milestones that you’re hoping to accomplish. This can also be coordinated with marketing to help create marketing launch activities around it. As a product manager, I hope that you’re working iteratively working with engineering in a way that requires you to pivot and think about problems strategically. As a result, you may completely scrappy roadmap next quarter from what you originally published, but all you need to do is update to publish version and make sure you have a disclaimer that says these are not commitments, and they are subject to change.
As far as distributing this published version, I have had success distributing it on social media, newsletters to customers, or having just a subscription to the page so people get updates, whenever the pages are updated.
What product management updates get shared with the rest of the company and how they get shared will vary based on the size of the company and the function of the company. The goal for communication, however, remains the same and that is to keep everyone aware of what is happening with the product and how it fits into the overall goals of the company.
Here are a few activities that I think help drive better alignment and transparency across the organization.
- I am a big fan of maintaining and managing public roadmaps tied to OKRs in product management tools like Aha or productboard so that they are easily accessible by everyone in the company whenever they want. This drives transparency across the organization, especially GTM.
- Conducting quarterly roadmap sessions that showcase what was delivered in the last quarter, what is underway, and what is planned for next quarter to make sure there is a common understanding across the organization
- Monthly newsletter or update via Slack, teams, or an equivalent asynchronous tool that highlights wins/losses and key metrics.
- Synchronous meetings with sub-teams focussed on large initiatives or key announcements/launches with a readout posted to key stakeholders and execs that need to be kept informed.
- Asynchronous updates to stakeholders in case of an escalation from a strategic customer or a critical outage
- Big launch announcements and shoutouts in Slack or teams as well as company/group all-hands meetings.
Updating product management activities to the rest of the organization involves communicating changes, updates, and progress made by the product team to the wider company. This helps to keep all stakeholders informed about the product's direction, the features that are being developed, and any changes that may affect the company or its customers.
The content of the updates may vary depending on the company's needs and objectives. Some possible elements of product management updates could include:
- Progress on key product development initiatives
- Changes to product roadmaps or timelines
- New features or functionality being added to the product
- User feedback and insights
- Competitive analysis or market research
- Updates on product launches or major releases
- Key metrics or performance indicators for the product
- Changes to the Product Management Team
To communicate product management updates and activities to the rest of the company, the approach can vary depending on the organizational culture.
In a completely remote organization such as GitLab, modifications are usually documented in-depth in an issue and communicated to the larger team asynchronously via Slack or by tagging specific individuals on the issue. Additionally, synchronous meetings for product updates were frequently held, recorded, and shared with the entire organization (and occasionally even with the community) for consumption at one's convenience.
For smaller, in-person organizations, product management updates and activities would typically be communicated through synchronous "all-hands" or quarterly update meetings, followed by a summary in an email or the company's knowledge management system (such as Confluence, wiki, etc.).
In cases of human-related organizational changes, it is important to update HR systems promptly to establish a single source of truth and clarity around the changes, making it easier for everyone in the organization to know who to reach out to for specific product domains.
I leverage different channels & format of communication depending on what I am communicating and who the audience is.
Here is few different types of updates I use consistently:
Product Execution Updates: A summary of how execution to executives/VPs is going with high level status update emails periodically ( weekly/monthly) with metrics/insights charts. A more deep-dive for major milestones / releases / events where I cover wide range of topics including PR updates, perceptions around releases, first interactions with early adopters, risk mitigation strategies.
Product Reviews: Internal meeting with Product Managers ( occasionally with close counterparts from engineering & design ) to deep-dive into product roadmap, key results we want to achieve, behaviours we want to change, levers we will be deploying and how we will pivot & manage risks. The goal of this exercise is to purely get better at PM craft and get strong as a PM organization.
Impact & Insights communications: It is extremely important to communicate not only results but the importance of path we took to get to the results. This is form of communication goes to entire vertical or even company to highlight the impact we are making on the customers and company overall. The content is usually wins in term of metrics / OKRs we moved, success stories of customers, big rocks we conquered along with the nuances on risks we managed. This communication to celebrate the wins and give credit where its due.
Product Goals & Roadmap updates: These updates happen quarterly and yearly. The main goal of these updates is alignment - To answer any hard pressing questions, to uncover probable roadblocks/ issues in execution and to accelerate momentum that comes from joining forces. I do this kind of updates for 2 different audiences : 1. Internal facing ( Product, Engineering, design, research, Data) 2. External facing ( Marketing, CSM, Account execs etc.)
The main difference between two audience is level of details. For external facing, we want to be clear on outcomes we are driving and who we will be delivering value for. In addition, what are we not going to focus on in our strategy. Internally, we want to follow it up by Pre-mortem exercises if there are big risks or concerns around execution.
It is important to tailor your communication methods to your company's culture, teams, projects and their needs.
Here are some of my favorites ones:
Slack (messaging) Updates: Send out regular email updates to relevant stakeholders via short but sweet Slack messages. These updates can recent product launches, upcoming features, and any significant metrics or even challenges.
Town Hall Meetings: Hold regular meetings to share updates. This could be a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meeting where you can share more details (beyond Slack).
Centralized Product Roadmap: accessible product roadmap that is visible to everyone. We use Jira Product Discovery which is super helpful.
Company wide Blogs or newsletters: Publish internal blogs or newsletters that highlight important product launches, share success stories, metrics impact etc. I use Confluence for this purpose.
1:1 or team Conversations: Nothing beats meeting someone 1:1 or sharing updates in cross-functional meetings.
Ongoing Demos: Organize team demos on key feature rollouts or record them via tools like Loom and share them in Slack
This varies a lot based on the size and stage of the company - so it's important to think about:
Which audiences you want to communicate updates to
What level of detail each audience needs
What frequency each audience needs
What existing mechanisms and forums exist where you can make these happen
Once you do this analysis, I would recommend starting with the most detailed and frequent need (perhaps it is to the other teams in your pillar who need good detail every week). Then use this to create the content for the other audiences and forums.
You can then build a communication calendar that might look something like:
Weekly updates to the pillar via email
Monthly updates to the full group as a segment in the group all hands
Quarterly updates to executives and full company via a memo and company all hands presentation
There are 3 dimensions here - the size of the company, the audience and the type of update. At the current size we have the ability to connect with the entire company on a regular basis so the updates can be delivered live as needed. From a content standpoint (which also controls your content), if this is a strategy/roadmap update then quarterly refresh is what I recommend. If this is a Show & Tell (what got released in the sprint) then its up to the squad but I would recommend every sprint. Outside of these depending on whether the company has a WBR, MBR rhythm there are additional updates that can be delivered through those means.