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Product dive: managing stakeholders, priorities and outcomes

We caught up with Ed Stephens to chat all things product management and what it’s like working as a product manager at Griffin.

Portrait of Ed Stephens
Ed StephensTuesday 7 February 2023

Great products are the lifeblood of any company and a collaborative, honest and iterative product development process is key to building great user experiences. If not managed properly, this process can lead to delays in product releases, stakeholder misalignment and ultimately, unhappy customers.

In this blog, Ed lets us in on how to measure the success of a product and the factors to consider when deciding priorities, and collecting and managing stakeholder feedback.

Q: What does a typical day working as a product manager at Griffin involve?
My typical day is a 65:35 split between planning upcoming product development work, maintaining alignment on roadmap priorities and then supporting the work around the features currently being built. At Griffin, we use Shape Up, a product development process that has two distinct phases. Shaping [scoping and sizing] and bets [building and releasing]. We manage both these phases through our daily product standups, ad-hoc meetings and co-design sessions.

As a remote first organisation with team members across different time zones, the product team and stakeholders need to be enabled to track the work being done and contribute in an asynchronous manner. As a result, a lot of time is focused on documenting and maintaining our shared product workspace.

Q: In the face of multiple products and features and tight deadlines, how do you manage prioritisation?
Product management is the bridge between your organisation’s strategy and implementation. Overtime, it also involves enabling one to inform the other. Prioritisation sits at the heart of this.

Right now, Griffin is seeking authorisation to become a bank with the PRA and the FCA and building out the core banking system that ensures we are compliant with all the regulations. Once this has been done, we will start layering on products and feature sets that support our customers and align with our commercial objectives.

Our strategic roadmap is built on these two big priorities. After this, we also consider tertiary factors, such as the effort and sequencing that supports the engineering team, risks and other pre-requisites such as policies, operations or agreements.

Q: We’d imagine that great stakeholder management is key to the success of any product. How do you ensure all parties are on the same page and what’s your one advice on managing stakeholders? Stakeholders are normally viewed through a lens of seniority, but stakeholders should really be anyone affected by the creation of a product or feature. Stakeholder management is all about collaborating with the right set of people at the right time, and managing their input in a way that the product team can move fast in development windows.

Even though we are constantly evaluating and iterating how we bring the right people along in the development process, we know that one thing holds true‍—‌the need for a consistent, predictable and regular cadence of communication. This helps people engage and manage their contributions to the work being done.

One piece of advice to add to this is to always consider how you can collect and synthesise feedback from people with differing personalities and communication styles. A major challenge with group stakeholder sessions is that they can end up being led by dominant personalities.

So, if you're holding a meeting to get feedback on how a feature is coming together, consider;

  1. The different ways you can present the progress‍—‌product demo, burn down chart, task kanban
  2. The format for collecting feedback‍—‌simple is best here:
    • Things that look good
    • Things to challenge
    • Things to add
    • Open questions
  3. The channels and timeframes for feedback‍—‌in-session, post-session, shared board, private channel.

Q: From deciding which products to prioritise to managing the release process, customer data is vital. What’s your hack for collecting, managing and analysing data on customers?
Customer data can be a serious minefield. Too little, and you're flying blind with a high volume of assumptions. Too much, and significance gets harder to spot. So, the first hack for collecting and managing customer data is to take the time to think about the objectives of the product you're building and the decisions you anticipate will need to be made. The type of data and metrics you collect should aid you in making these decisions.

While product managers should be the primary owner of customer data and analytics, it is important this is a collaborative process. This ensures that everyone involved with customers becomes invested in enriching data and feedback over time, enabling more areas of the organisation to make customer informed decisions.

If you're at a very early stage of product development and you don't have rich data or tools to support your customer data pool, then nothing serves you better than customer or sales conversations. This is your shorthand to gain rich feedback on your product and pipeline of features.

Q: Take us through the process of managing one of the most significant projects you’ve worked on at Griffin
That would be working with our early adopter clients, like Comma. This was the first time we put the team, the processes, and the features we built to the test. Our platform was being used by a customer for the first time, and that meant a spike in testing and coordination across teams to ensure the product could meet Comma’s needs. We also had to make sure all the backend processes (driven by additional tools and operations teams) were in sync.

Three things were fundamental to onboarding our first customer. The first was a thorough testing plan to ensure our product and operations were in sync. The second was scenario-based planning to ensure that beyond product and tech, we had a number of real world examples mapped out and that our service-level agreements (SLAs) were going to be met. The third was a consistent meeting cadence with the customer to track progress and manage risks. Our first set of customers provided an invaluable feedback loop to help us improve our offering.

Q: How do you measure the success of a product?
Success measures always need to go back to your vision and strategy‍—‌like customer data, it’s never an out-of-the-box exercise.

As a product manager, success should have you answering questions like:

  • Are we achieving the vision of this product?
  • Is our strategy on track?
  • Are we solving a problem for our customers?

These questions are likely to take you beyond your product and into wider business objectives.  It’s also important to agree on your success metrics and align on the evaluation criteria with stakeholders. This is so that you’re all working towards the same results and you are able to assess performance together.

Q: Let’s talk about tools and resources. As a product manager, what are some of your favourite tools and resources?
Podcasts are an amazing resource for product managers as they provide a way to hear stories and real life examples of people navigating challenges and achieving success with product strategies. I’ve tried a few but seem to always come back to these three when they have new episodes:

For qualitative research I’m a big fan of Lookback for customer research. It’s really easy to set up and use and so far has the best remote substitute for conducting testing in-person. The observation room means your product team and stakeholders can watch research sessions live, and contribute to research observations and insights.

We also recently added Intercom to our product and developer docs site. Getting a consistent stream of in-product feedback has been a big step for us as we can begin to actively manage any pain points our customers have with our products.

Ed Stephens chats to other Grifflings at the offsite

Ed is our Compliance and Onboarding Product Manager. Before joining Griffin in May 2022, he was in Sydney, helping some of the largest retail banks and insurers in the southern hemisphere launch and scale new products and offerings.