Balancing Stakeholders and Users in Product Management with Booking.com PM

This week our #AskMeAnything session welcomed Bruno Pais, Product Manager at Booking.com. Bruno discussed what it’s like to be a Product Manager at Booking and gave key insights into balancing stakeholders in product, as well as managing users.

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Meet Bruno Pais

Bruno Pais is a seasoned Product Manager of Payments at Booking.com, where he helps the company to embrace the love for travel and a passion for creating the perfect customer experience. A driven and self-motivated professional, he has spent over 7 years progressively attaining higher positions at the number one destination to book any type of accommodation Bruno is a leader by nature and has succeeded in many endeavors throughout his career at Booking.com.

He began his professional work as a Junior Account Manager; while responsible for hotel partner acquisition, his efforts got quickly recognized and later he took up the position as Account Manager, Innovation Specialist and eventually Product Owner of Growth and Payments. Thanks to his high performance in terms of business development and account management, his work eventually has taken him across Europe to support other Booking.com offices: in Barcelona, Palma, to the company’s headquarters in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where he is currently based.

How do you manage “I like this… I do not care about the user”?

Interesting question and a common “trap” when it comes to product development. I believe as a Product Manager you are always the ultimate translator of the customer’s voice to your team and your product should reflect exactly that.

A critical step to ensure you don’t fall in this trap is before you ship you have a clear definition of what success means and you know exactly how to collect feedback from the users.

As an aspiring Product Manager from a business analyst position, what do you think are the biggest blocks to have in order to get hired? How can I best position myself to be attractive to tech firms?

Great question. A critical part of my day as PM is definitely around data gathering and interpretation in order to understand not only the current behavior of my product but also opportunities for the next features.

As Business Analyst, you are already way advanced in that area, but primarily your stakeholders are internal teams. Looking at the entire scope of a Product Manager, I believe most customer-centric knowledge such as design and UX are definitely skills important to develop when transitioning to this role.

When it comes to user interview to understand where, what and why after the product is out in the market for 4 years. Is it right to reach out to users who are power users or let me name them as most sticky users and know from them what, where and why?

I believe there’s no strategy that can tell what is the right or wrong approach. In this case, I believe the important aspect is that you have clear who your initial target audience to test such a feature and you randomize your sample size as much as possible.

Sometimes we tend to be biased to interview our frequent/older customers and that can leave you no space for innovation by not listening to those new ones that haven’t experience your product for such a long period.

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As a former Account Manager, how did you start the conversation with your internal PM teams to get the initial opportunity to transition into a Product Manager role?
What skills gaps did you have to fill in order to position yourself a competitive candidate over an external experienced hire?

This was definitely an exciting moment. Going back to my period as an Account Manager, same as a lot of you, I felt there were certain areas of my day to day that could be optimized.

I took the initiative to start to understand if more people in the same role had the same pain point and after some research, I end up building up a business case and presenting it to management.

After that and having the opportunity to share feedback with product teams I did a deep dive to understand how they will tackle that problem and constantly keep conversations to help them to explain user cases.

After that was the moment I started to educate myself with some online courses. I also started to learn how to communicate with the development team which was critical in making the transition to Product. To recap, fake it till you make it.

How do you manage different stakeholders in the product life-cycle, instead of being reactive, how do you remain productive?

That’s definitely a constant challenge for PM’s, the time management, stakeholder management, and the classic chaos management too.

In my experience, the things that have been pretty much working are all around building a clear documentation structure, which includes: roadmap, document what your product is doing, clear documentation of APIs/ features and how to gather data.

If you zoom out most of the time the frequent questions our stakeholders want to know, is “what”, “when”, and “how” so in every project I focus from early days to have all that documented so you free up your time for a more proactive and productive approach.

So in every project, from the early days, I try to focus and have all that documented so you free up your time for a more proactive and productive approach.

In your response earlier you mentioned “A critical part of my day as PM is definitely around data gathering and interpretation in order to understand not only the current behavior of my product but also opportunities for the next features.” What data are you considering and how do you access it? How does it inform opportunities?

It really depends on your product of course but also the set of tools you have available. Today there are plenty of solutions out there such as Tableau and Google Analytics that can very easily give you the quantitative insights on how your product is behaving and I’m personally a big fan of querying my own data on MySQL/Hadoop.

From the qualitative aspect, a more focus survey type of tool can also give you good insights. Having a clear visibility of your product funnel and customer behavior are the key insights you need not only to know what to do next but what to stop doing.

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As a PM what tools do you use to manage your tasks?

If we’re talking about sharing tasks with the Engineering team my favorite one is Trello. However, for more business types of stakeholders, I like using the classic Google Spreadsheets.

What are your must-dos when preparing for a product launch?

When it comes to preparation for the launch of a product or a new feature depending on the audience size there are some key things to keep in mind:

  • You have a clear communication plan for your first line of support. They are the ones that will hear the customers first.
  • You have clear monitors in place to understand if all goes as expected.
  • You have a resilience plan, meaning if things fail you know exactly how to revert the changes or you have an alternative solution for customers that don’t disrupt tragically their experience.

Can you speak to specific instances where you have tension between what your intuition tells you versus what the data gives back.

This is actually very common! In the end, if you take a step back, in fact, your role isn’t really to prove that what you thought was right using data, and that failure most likely is not what will be costly to the company.

In my opinion what is important is that you focus on formulating a hypothesis that can be proven right or wrong with data in a shorter amount of time, to reduce any risk whether your intuition was right or wrong.

Do you have any final advice for aspiring Product Managers?

For aspiring Product Managers, don’t think that if you can’t code you can’t be Product Manager, this role is more than that. Don’t underestimate the power of being capable to listen to the users and try to solve their problems. Focus more on the problem instead of how the solution should work like.. and keep trying over and over again.

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