Category Archives: Customers

3 Key Stakeholders for Offshore Product Managers

Key StakeholdersSo who are the key stakeholders for an offshore product manager? It largely depends on the maturity of the organization in India and the business it is involved in.

Here’s an indicative list of teams which an offshore PM should stay in contact with (If you are in offshore consumer product management, then some of these teams will not exist):

Frequent Contact Occasional Contact
  • Engineering Team
  • UX Team
  • Creative and Design Team
  • Program Management
  • Reporting Manager and Peers
  • QA Team
  • Analytics Team
  • Service Delivery Team
  • Customer Support Team
  • Account Team
  • Finance Team (Pricing/Costing)
  • Operations Team
  • Product Marketing
  • Field Marketing
  • Business Unit Leadership
  • Sales Leadership
  • Documentation Team

Communication with these stakeholders is a totally different challenge. For eg, a large software analytics firm has their entire documentation team in India, while business unit leadership is entirely in the US. So a PM trying to contact the documentation team for tasks can do so easily, while it is very difficult to get face time with the US-based leadership.

However, the following are the top 3 most important internal customers you must connect with:
1. Indian Leadership Team
If you are looking to continue and grow in the same organization, you must be in the good books of the India Leadership Team. This typically consists of the India R&D center head, a VP of engineering or operations, his reportees and the local HR representative. You need to connect with them, work with them on various initiatives that crop up and try to get opportunities to show your expertise, apart from the work you do in product management.
2. Engineering and Service Delivery Managers
The Engineering Manager in India controls the people who do the actual product development. If the engineering manager is smart and reasonable, convincing him of the PM’s vision is an easy task. And he will take responsibility for ensuring the product release happens on time, with the content planned by the PM. Otherwise, he will raise objections to every PM initiative and openly challenge the PM’s authority and skills.
Service Delivery managers take the finished product and manage customized deployment for clients. If they are unhappy, the PM is likely to spend his entire time simply dealing with customer escalations and demands from account teams.
3. Reporting Manager and Peers
Peer relationships can make a break a PM. If you cannot get along with the other PMs, the reporting manager will have to make extra efforts to track your progress. And no one likes extra work! He is also your champion in the India leadership forum, so you must do everything to stay in his good graces.

If you can keep these 3 key stakeholders happy, then your tenure and growth in the organization is assured. Overtime, as you grow and get a more senior role, the additional stakeholders will also include people within engineering, product management and business unit leadership from the US.

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True Story of a PM in India – 1

PM in Offshore Enterprise Product ManagementCareer Killing Move

This PM I know has the typical profile of tech-savvy product managers, which you find in various offshore R&D centers. He worked in software engineering in India for a few years, went to the USA to study for his masters, and gradually moved to product management there. After several years there, he returned to India as a PM in an offshore R&D center and now he is in a role where:

a) Engineers are very young and inexperienced, yet smart and aggressive

b) PM is seen as an overhead and an engineering support role

c) His PM manager is in the US, however it is the local VP of business operations that runs his life.

d) All end of life and low priority products end up here, in piecemeal fashion

e) With travel budgets cut or non-existent, customer access only happens on very late night calls

f) He has no access to industry analysts anymore

g) No business relevant or strategic activities are run in India, and his role is totally tactical, creating usecases and PRDs

Within 6 months, he found himself effectively cut-off and isolated from the Business Unit product management team in the US. Additionally, he found that there was actually a negative incentive to producing good quality PM output in India, as there was resistance in the company against moving work offshore.

After managing one software release in 2 years, overtime, overbudget and with very low quality, he got fed up and tried to move out. Sadly, the other PM roles available to him were equally bad, and there is no escape back to either engineering or moving to sales or business development, due to lack of relevant experience. So he is actually passing time, with the least amount of interest left in his product or workplace. Additionally, due to family reasons he cannot move back to the US, not that anyone is hiring there.

The only thing left now is to wait in place, and hope that the market downturn does not eliminate his well paying job. In this scenario, expecting top notch product development in India and leading a fantastic team is a hallucination, and will probably never occur in his lifetime. His only hope is that the engineering team pulls up their socks, improve productivity and quality, and justifies its value in India. In this case, he can make a business case to get relatively new products done out of India R&D and probably expand his work to APJ markets and customers.

Now when he sees posts and websites detailing the “strategic nature of product management” and “PM as a CEO” he simply laughs.

Note: This was told to me by an acquaintance in early 2012, who worked for one of the top telco equipment manufacturers, and was finally laid off when his firm could not compete with Apple and Google. He now works as a program manager, creating spreadsheets and tracking resources in an Indian IT services firm at 50% of his last salary, where his clients are his US peers from his previous firm. And he has no intention of returning to an offshore product management role.