When facing constrains from finance/budget, how do you balance product delivery/growth and lack of resource
- I generally like to break product problems into smaller, independent pieces to help me more effectively prioritize and isolate critical ‘must do’ work
- One potential way to approach a problem decomposition like this is to think of three distinct categories of feature work:
a) items that are crucial to achieve your overall product goals (clear ‘must do’)
b) ‘critical path’ dependencies that can block success/completion and
c) things that are nice-to-have or could benefit from additional trade-off discussions (these are usually where you will gain most flexibility in terms of resourcing).
- Initially, all work (incl. potential ‘must do’ items) will benefit from going through a first order trade-off discussion to ensure criticality.
- I’ve found the following key questions to be a useful starter set to kickstart these types of conversations:
- Where can features be de-scoped to allow for growth/product delivery in increments within budget?
- Where can features be sequenced in a way that hypotheses can be tested at a smaller scale, without needing much larger engineering investments?
- What alternative solutions have been considered and is the proposed feature/work the most efficient from an engineering perspective?
- What are the biggest risks that need to be mitigated (the associated work might turn into ‘must do’ items)?
- Where can you ensure progress without too many ‘one-way doors’ that might limit opportunity/flexibility later?
- What are the key skillsets needed and does your team have those readily available today?
- Once you have a better understanding of answers to these question, it becomes easier to stac
Ruthless prioritization. Many organizations are trying to do too many things given the capacity of their teams. I'd rather focus on fewer things that are likely to have a bigger impact than trying to accomplish a larger number of them less well and with less impact to the business and the customer experience.
The biggest mistake companies make is treating product management a junior, technical function. A good PM is a strategic thinker who is market oriented. A big part in making that transition to the strategic is learning to speak in terms of business outcomes, and learning how to sell internally.
If you’re not getting the resources you need, put together a model for the business benefit you could drive with more resources. Don’t talk about story points, or feature velocity, or any of that. Executives and finance people don’t understand it and don’t care. Talk about revenue growth acceleration or COGS reduction. Put specific numbers to your proposals. Your numbers will be wrong. That’s ok, forecasting is hard. But putting a line in the sand gives you a place to begin the debate. And that debate is going to go a lot better if your executive team sees you as a strategic collaborator rather than as an out of touch techie who doesn’t understand the business.
I don't know of any company that doesn't have this constraint in some manner!
Ultimately you have to ask a very very critical question: What's important?
Here's a video of Jon Ive talking about Steve Jobs lesson on focus.
Every minute of every day: Why are you talking about this if it's not a priority?
It could be a fantastic idea, but you have to say no because you'll focus on what's important.
This is what I call "healthy tension" and should exist within any responsible organization. The reality is, as a product management organization, we are always operating within constraints. That could be a timeline, information gaps, budget, or resources. Balancing product delivery and growth in the face of financial constraints requires strategic decision-making, prioritization, and efficient resource utilization. Here are some strategies to help navigate this challenge:
Adopt a Minimum Viable Product approach to deliver essential features that meet the core needs of users. This allows for quicker time-to-market and enables you to gather user feedback early on.
Concentrate on delivering customer value with each release. Prioritize features that directly contribute to customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction.
Continuously evaluate and optimize the use of existing resources. Assess whether unused or underutilized resources within the organization can be redirected toward high-priority projects.
Explore cost-effective technologies and solutions that align with your product goals. This may involve adopting open-source tools, leveraging cloud services, or identifying more economical alternatives.
Invest in automation tools and processes to streamline development, testing, and deployment.
Consider flexible resourcing models, such as utilizing contractors for specific tasks or projects. This allows for scalability without committing to long-term resource costs.
Rigorously measure and analyze the impact of features and initiatives. Use data and analytics to assess whether our strategy is contributing to growth and adjust priorities ruthlessly.
Explore strategic partnerships or collaborations that can provide additional resources or expertise without significantly increasing costs.
These are just a few ways to navigate financial constraints while driving product delivery and growth.
Prioritization is a key PM competency. When there are constraints you need to deal with, “ruthless prioritization” becomes even more important. Some guiding principles to keep in mind when balancing with limited resources:
For any investment you are making, articulating “the why” and “why now” is an important exercise to drive confidence in your investments & timelines around them. This will help select the right priorities at the right time.
Always have a stack ranked list of OKRs and projects that map to these OKRs. When constraints come up, an already stacked ranked list will help drive funding towards the most important projects. This ranking should be made on all levels of product leadership - from head of product to an IC PM.
Keep your stakeholders informed when resourcing constraints arise and the impact it will have on the roadmap. Lack of transparency on changes in resourcing can very quickly break the trust equation with your stakeholders.