Managing Stakeholder Expectations with Intercom Product Leader

Product People, you know Launch! is one of the best places to make career connections and create community. But did you know it’s also where we hold bi-weekly AMAs with currently practicing Product Leaders?

Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting Shilpi Agrawal, Product Leader at Intercom as she answered questions on managing stakeholder expectations and breaking into Product. To ask your live questions in future AMA sessions, join Launch! The Product Community.

Meet Shilpi

Shilpi Agrawal, Product Leader at Intercom

Shilpi Agrawal is a Product Leader currently building great products at Intercom.

Throughout her half of a decade in the Product Management world, she has also worked at great startups including VMock and ShareChat. She also spent time as an Associate Consultant at Zinnov, where she was the first intern to be offered a full-time role with the company.

What would be your suggestion for folks trying to move from Consulting to PM role, especially when PM roles need past PM experience?

Requirement of prior PM experience for a PM role varies depending on the company and level of open PM role. Many companies and leaders recognise that diversity in past experience makes for a great PM candidate. People from backgrounds in business, entrepreneurship, analytics, sales, support, consulting etc are always encouraged to shift to product if they are passionate about it.

People having a background in management consulting can become amazing Product Leaders as they are often critical thinkers and problem solvers. They may make for amazing Product strategists, designers and communicators. My suggestion for them is to present their positive skillset like being able to align product with business and hone their complementary skills like execution and product thinking further! :slight_smile:

Do you think someone with experience bringing products to market in another role could be successful as a Product Manager? I have been in the product design and development field (apparel and accessories / hard goods, not digital products) for 20 years in an e-com environment.

person seated with a disposable coffee cup in front on them and a phone and credit card in hand. they are looking down at the phone screen

Absolutely!!! 100% In fact, I would go one step beyond and say that having you in their Product Team would be a pleasure for any Product Team especially e-commerce or logistics-first companies. I have no doubts about it.

Since you have extensive knowledge in e-commerce products, you already understand the consumer psychology and pain points. You already know how to navigate/mitigate the difficulty and help people buy. It’s very important for Product folks to understand consumer psychology and pain points to be able to build great products. Early PMs do a lot of research to build the context you have already built over years! I do not think having experience building products digitally is a must have. Principally, online or offline – both types of products are aimed at making lives simpler by solving for most important consumer pain points.

Incompetent Product Marketing, GTM strategy or sales is one of the major reasons many products fail. Distribution is key to many industries. Your experience taking offline products to market can help a Product Team tremendously to launch very successful products. Key areas that you have so much experience in can help you in your Product Management journey ahead. You have skills to make most impactful products and get them well adopted.

How do you socialize Product Roadmaps to stakeholders? Is there a specific way that you like to do it that has worked well for you?

Aligning multiple stakeholders to Product Roadmaps can be difficult, especially for big companies. My advice is to over-communicate. Share early, share often. Be transparent. Provide a forum for everyone to contribute. Communicate risks and dependencies as early as possible. Get feedback and work on them to ensure everyone is part of the roadmapping process – from the execs to your team ICs.

To learn more on this topic, read Product Management Skills: Stakeholder Management

What methods do you use to ensure that you are on the right path for Product Development? How much testing and validation is enough before you’re comfortable shipping a new version of a product or a new product all together?

I often quote, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” It is a legitimate struggle for PMs to prioritise correct Product Requirements.

I’d advice that you do you – as much as necessary for you to convince yourself and your team that you’re building the best and most impactful products that you can. Bring in the customer feedback from different sources, data, your own intuition. Be very close to the problem statement and define it. Be very close to the customers themselves and ask for their help whenever needed to prioritize correct problem.

Launch a smaller slice of your solution tackling the core problem and let customer feedback guide you and help you validate requirements (is that being adopted? are the customers asking for something more?) to ensure you’re on the correct path. Customer feedback is the oxygen for product.

What advice do you have for managing stakeholder expectations? Especially when they want to launch a product even if the data shows no one wants it.

I hear you! I do not think it is a healthy team or company environment if people launching a product (PMs, Engineers, Designers etc) do not believe in the product or the work they do but company leaders push them to do it, being aware of it.

I’d say the only thing anyone (not just PM) in such a team can do is voice their opinion and back it with substance and evidence. Hope that everyone gets to build things they believe are impactful :slight_smile: but I understand we don’t live in an ideal world unfortunately and reality sometimes is bad :frowning:

Regarding managing expectations – I think clear, transparent, early communication which is documented is great way to manage expectations.

Any final advice?

My advice is generic – you often know the right answer. Be bold and courageous and stand up for yourselves. You’ll shine in whatever you do. :sparkles:

A book I can’t recommend enough for research – The Mom Test.

If any of you amazing people want to join an amazing mission – have a look at Intercom’s careers page. We’re growing! Intercom is hiring a Senior Product Manager. 

If you wish to get in touch with me, you can send me a DM on Twitter or shoot me an email at [email protected]. I would love to hear if this was useful or not. Reiterating that feedback is the oxygen for growth and I’d love to hear from you lovely people :blush:

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