What Is It Like to Be an Enterprise Product Manager?

In this talk, Anand Lakshminarayan, former PM at Microsoft, elaborates on Enterprise Product Management, the differences between the ‘big’ and ‘small’ companies when it comes to product lifecycle and expectations, and the role of a product manager in addressing the pain points of their customers.

Anand also debunks the myths surrounding the definition of an ‘enterprise’, and what factors make it one.

Meet Anand L.

Anand Lakshminarayan is a graduate of UC Berkeley with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. He began his career working on the Windows Developer Ecosystem and Platform for the Windows SDK for Facebook. He was in charge of the features and roadmap for the Windows SDK for Facebook and worked with stakeholders across the Windows division to create a consolidated open source release process document for teams.

Later, Anand joined as a Product Manager in Checkr, Inc. where he worked cross-functionally across Sales, Marketing, Finance, Customer Success, Legal, and Operations on numerous projects as the company grew from 3,000 to over 10,000 customers.

Enterprise Product Management

Anand begins by illustrating the myths that people may believe when they come across the term “Enterprise”:

“Enterprise” Myths:

  • BIG
  • Recognizable
  • Just “gotta know” reality
  • No obvious definition 

What is an “Enterprise” customer?

It’s important for companies to know that they shouldn’t always focus on ‘big’ enterprises to work with. They should assess that which enterprises have the possibility of becoming ‘big’ with a positive trajectory, for example, Uber.

So, what is Enterprise “Product Management”?

Enterprise Product Management involves working with stakeholders (internal or external) to support their business needs through a defined product, and iterate/innovate on those needs. For example:

  • Amazon (AWS) 
  • Zenefits 
  • Checkr 
  • ZeroCater

Enterprise vs. Customer

Graph enterprise vs consumer

Enterprise Product Lifecycle

Companies shouldn’t implement the enterprise product lifecycle from scratch. They should have a first stage where the base is covered.

Challenges

  • Customers will want everything to be fully end-to-end, tested, and production ready
  • Hard to convince a customer (or buyer) to switch to a half-baked solution without an interesting value proposition
  • Even if the solution is “better” than what is existing, the other factors to consider are switching cost, training, support, etc.

Strategy and Vision

  • Blindly taking in customer requests will lead to a disjointed product 
  • Should have a strategy behind product decisions made
  • Cliche warning: North Star – if you don’t have a North Star, you wouldn’t know where you want to go, and you’ll follow your customer anywhere they lead you to
Businessman on map

Understanding Customer Needs (PAM)

  • Direct, in-person interviews 
  • Observing customer usage of Product 
  • Getting information from Customer facing teams 
  • Never take your best guess and assume!

Big vs Small Companies

BigSmall
– “Buy-in” is the name of the game
– Decisions are mostly top-down
– Release schedule varies
– Think fast, release faster
– Decisions are bottom-up with approval from leadership
– Open to different ideas from anyone


Product Process Before vs Today Small Company

BeforeToday
– Roadmaps are entirely customer-driven 
– Every project is subject to change 
– Deal size is given the highest priority
– Strategic projects are incorporated into roadmap 
– Value of customer is considered but is not absolute
– Time is set aside for discovery vs. implementation

Day to Day as a Product Manager

  • Meetings with stakeholders, customers
  • Time set aside for spec writing
  • Feedback sessions with Engineering
  • Sprint planning & reviews
  • Extra time devoted to quarter / long term planning
Startup meeting

Key Takeaways 

  • Enterprise PM involves a lot of customer interaction 
  • Take feedback and use it to drive enhancements to products and workflows 
  • Use observation to derive real customer need for product innovation 
  • Gifs make presentations better

Anand concludes by highlighting that it’s not always effective to ask your customers point-blank about any pain points they might have regarding using your product, as they might deflect. Sometimes it’s better to observe, rather than ask.

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