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By Pavel Kukhnavets

Remote Product Management

What are the keys to successful remote product management?

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When the whole world was confronted with the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses did not know what remote work was and did not understand how to restructure and adapt their activities to new realities.

In product management, the adaptation of distributed work was less painful compared to other areas. However, this is only at first glance. Today, many companies can already give a clear answer to the question “Can product managers work remotely?”

This post is dedicated to remote product management, as well as a profession that is gaining more and more popularity every day – the profession of a remote product manager.

remote product management

What Does It Mean to be a Remote Product Manager?

Surprisingly, there’s not much difference between a remote product manager compared to a PM who works from the office.

Perhaps, being a regular product manager, you are already doing part of your work remotely. For example, you can run user interviews or hold meetings with your stakeholders virtually with the help of online video conferencing tools.

So what does a remote product manager do?

Different businesses have specific needs. Let’s say, remote product managers have the exact same roles as their office-based counterparts. Here are some of their responsibilities:

  • Lead a product team.
  • Lead the product development and the product strategy.
  • Conduct user interviews.
  • Discover user requirements.
  • Build actionable user stories.
  • Develop the product vision and work on positioning.
  • Set clear timelines and ensures product planning runs well.
  • Prepare and manage a product roadmap.
  • Choose and apply quantitative and qualitative metrics.
  • Implement various tools to create mockups and wireframes and mockups, gather feedback, and deliver results.
  • Maintain customer and stakeholder communication.
  • Collaborate with other teams to ensure unified product development.
  • Create new feature announcements.

Why remote product management?

Now we can confidently proclaim that remote product management is a current trend and offering remote work will become necessary to attract top product talent.

Product teams all over the world must adapt to this new way of working by creating all conditions and implementing the tools that will help them be successful. Remote work encourages discipline, transparency, and crystal clear communication, which are essential for successful product management.

Running a remote product team requires transparency, communication, and autonomy that should be at the core of your remote product culture.

A remote product manager

What are the skills you’ll need as a remote product manager?

Efficient product managers need to have some of the most varied soft and hard skills in a team. And it’s not only about good communication and organization skills.

Here are some of the most essential skills that top companies are looking for from the potential remote product manager:

  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • Strong leadership
  • Organization skills
  • Prioritization capabilities
  • Time management
  • Ability to work autonomously
  • Client management abilities
  • Critical thinking
  • Managing multiple projects
  • Budgeting skills
  • Ability to troubleshoot customer issues at a distance
  • Problem-solving
  • Ability to work cross-functionally
  • Strong technical skills
  • Understanding of key metrics

What you will need above any of the above skills is product sense. It means that you first have to become a subject expert and learn all the sides and details about the product.

Why do people still avoid working remotely?

We know that most job descriptions assume that you’ll share physical space with your colleagues.

Many still think that conducting business at a distance is a real challenge. However, we are living the consequences of the Internet revolution and in many cases, individuals can work from anywhere. But why do people still avoid working remotely?

  • Most businesses still have strong hierarchies and managers think that their employees require supervision. They think that being side-by-side is the quickest way to answer a question or reformulate a task.
  • Although there are many workflow methodologies, they involve gathering as a team at a certain point (and team meetings are much simpler when sharing the same room).
  • Presence is simply faster. Speaking to a colleague next to you is much quicker than setting up a conference call.
  • The factor of informality also plays a role. Sharing the office, the kitchen, and even the parking lot make communication easier and better.

Distance is not a problem if you have powerful product management tools and techniques

Does it make any difference that you are working in Munich or Vilnius when you are dealing with digital products? The right answer is “no”.

Remotely or not remotely, as a product manager, you have to divide your efforts between different aspects of the job. Being methodical and dividing tasks into smaller groups can significantly facilitate your day-to-day efforts.

Product team members who are able to neatly allocate duties across time are more than ready to work remotely. They just need to design workflows that avoid bottlenecks.

There are many roadmap models that eschew uni-linear progressions for alternative, more networked frameworks.

In fact, standard roadmapping software that your colleagues use at the office can also work for you. You will just need to add some extra details, so those in different locations feel like they are in the loop.

Otherwise, you will need a standard set of PM features: from convenient online Kanban boards to powerful prioritization frameworks.

Hygger kanban board

What Are the Opportunities of Remote Product Management?

1. Cost savings

Remote product management work impacts the budget you can save along the way. You do not need to pay locally price-adjusted salaries that can significantly cut your payroll expenses. Moreover, you save on office space, hardware, and operations.

2. Greater talent pool

When your organization is not physically limited to local supply, it can tap into a global talent pool. Many admit today that companies offering remote work opportunities find qualified specialists faster.

3. Better focus

Many people nowadays prefer remote work because they can focus better. They avoid chatter and long coffee breaks going on at work. Although virtual work can feel lonely at times, it can enhance your ability to focus on a given task.

4. Outside inspiration

If you use the same apps every day, there are few chances that you will be inspired to develop outstanding products. Having team members all across the world and constant traveling can allow you to tap into a much greater pool of outside inspirations. Your remote colleagues can present the local versions of their favorite apps and maybe spark some new ideas.

What Are the Challenges in Remote Product Management?

1. Different time zones

Remote product teams can work virtually in various time zones. This often leads to scheduling problems. In such conditions, product managers should be always capable of finding common meeting times that ensure the continuous flow of communication.

Nonetheless, distributed team members will face times in which night sessions will be unavoidable. The job of PMs is to make their teams aware of any potential problems arising.

2. Aligning stakeholders

Product management is a highly collaborative area where you need to align yourself with developers, marketers, designers, sales, customer service, and the company’s management. Everybody has to be made aware of remote product management to work. The task of a remote product manager is to convince everybody in the company to follow along.

3. Assessing team fit

If you’ve never seen one of your distributed colleagues in person, it may become harder to assess team fit and qualifications. Such essential aspects as communication skills, team player capabilities, multitasking are difficult to grasp in a couple of video interviews.

Therefore, it is rather important to implement certain processes to standardize your interview process.

4. Maintaining team morale

All of us sometimes face problems with motivation when every task at work appears to be cumbersome and dreadful. It is cool when there are friendly colleagues around who can help and lift your spirit.

But what about working in a remote setting? Distributed employees can be lonely at times. This may affect their mood and ultimately the ability to perform. In order to avoid these situations, you may initiate enjoyable on-site events that can act as a great morality boost. This will help your remote team members get to know each other better.

Remote Product Management Best Practices

PM remotely

Here’re some essential tips that will help you to quickly master remote product management:

1. Communicate constantly

In the case of remote working, one-on-one meetings will be more insightful than ever. Additionally, you need to understand that working remotely will take extra effort for maintaining the friendly work relations you had in real life. Try to communicate and create strong bonds that will eventually build up employee retention.

2. Maintain a regular schedule

Flexibility to work whenever you want to is one of the top benefits of virtual work. Be ready that as a product manager, you will have to mold your schedule according to when the rest of the team is online.

And remember that postponing work will cause serious gaps in your team’s productivity.

3. Use video tools

They will help you to bridge the communication gap and will fully replace your face-to-face office meetings. The screen sharing option will save the day every single time.

4. Set clear review patterns

You will need to establish performance review methods to assess whether the work your remote team puts into a product is efficient and spot potential bottlenecks.

5. Address risks timely

Remote product managers also need a highly detailed action plan for tackling risks before any panic installs. It can be a common doc any team member will access to read and find out how they can manage their own crisis.

6. Keep the team on board

Product managers as people who are held responsible for any success and failure of their teammates, they’re in charge of cultivating a desire for remote success within the team.

Conclusion

A remote product manager is a product manager no matter where he/she is.

The evolution of professional methods and tools has made it increasingly easy to work at a distance from the office. Product management is not an exclusion. There are many available platforms and services you can use to bridge the gaps your absence can open. Anyway, the most serious change you and your team have to make is in your minds.

A remote product management job needs careful planning and consideration. By enhancing these skills, you will establish priorities, limits, and ways of working. You may even get advantages that are impossible for one that comes to the office every day.