Being a Product Manager for enterprise give me a constant headache everyday
or it just a chronic migraine, I’m not sure…
I was a Product Manager for consumer before, so I filled my head with a lot of user things, like, from, when they wake up in the morning? what is the first things they do in the morning? to, what kind of pain points in their life that I can solved with my apps. User always be my end game, solving their pain points and deliver value. Then life comes and gives me different challenge, to be a Product Manager for B2B2C [Business to Business to Consumer] or in short we call it “Enterprise”.
Long way to 2 years after my first assignment as PM for enterprise, I start to found out that Enterprise PM and Consumer PM are totally different beast to tame, both have their own unique challenge and unique skill-set needed. So here I’m right now, writing this to you from the past, to help you overcome this challenge and hopefully you don’t have headache like me :)
We’re in the era of raising Enterprise start-up, from Zoom who already IPO and have $146M valuation to Notion who already reach $10M valuation in just 3 years. These success stories of Enterprise startup also impacting on how Venture Capital and Angel Investor change their investment strategy. YCombinator, one of the biggest seed accelerators in US, since 2010 start to invest more to Enterprise Startup than Consumer Startups, and this trend was also followed by worldwide trend. 2019 marks as the year that Enterprise seeds worldwide investment already surpassed Consumer seed worldwide investment.
This kind of trend also increase the demand for Product Manager in Enterprise tech startup. What makes it different between Enterprise Product Manager and Consumer Product Manager is the user, the customization vs scale-ability challenge and the product variety.
Enterprise product manager may need different skill-set and face different challenges compare to Consumer product manager. Let’s talk about the challenge first, 1st challenge that different with consumer PM is about the user. Every business user has their own end user. It means the problem and pain points are vary for each user, and its multiply by two, so if you have 3 business user, you have 6 issue to be solve. meanwhile Consumer PM have only 1 user [end user]
To solve this one, PM need to be more empathy, for both business and end users. We need to offer solution, not selling products. We need to listen their issue, always spend time to hear their problem. And every time we are crafting solution for them, we need to put in mind that the problem we solve are not just end user solution, but also business solution.
Business and End User might have different objective, the root cause is in business model in B2B2C products. B2B business model usually rely on subscription model [platfrom pay based on time range, 1 year or 2 year], or tiering model [based on number of user who used, 1 mio user pay xx dollar, 2 mio user pay yy dollar]. But B2B2C model usually rely on fee-based income based on user activities. Such as DANA, as payment method for business platform, we’re not charging the platform based on time range [subscription] or tiering but based on user fee based income. User always asking for the best user experience, but business might have different focus, such as business efficiency, better cash-flow etc.
Example, in Ecommerce, one business partner has objective to reduce human intervention in their operational, and the end user want the best promotion experience [more promo frequency, more variation campaign, deeper discount]. Before, every time business partner want create specific join campaign, the operational team need to define campaign mechanism, send email to Fintech partner to create campaign, send the money to the bank, test in sandbox, learn the result of the campaign, reconcile at the end of promo campaign and get back the left over deposit money. This long process makes the experience for user are bad because there will be time between 1 campaign to another, because the company need to finish all the process in previous campaign first before.
So the solution for this one is to build campaign automation capability, business can have their own dashboard to setup campaign [set rules, pick user], dashboard to see campaign performance and net settlement logic [so the business can get net money, without deposit]. This will lead to business knows the best promo mechanism to user, and user get more frequent and better promo campaign mechanism
The 2nd challenge is to manage between customization and scale-ability. Customization and scalability are two sided of coin, you cannot get all together in one shot. Too many customization, engineer will burn out and the business moves slowly. Too focus and scale-ability, we cannot sell the product because it does not solve the pain point. PM will be facing a lot of disagreement between internal and external needs, they will always in the middle of the storm in daily basis. To solve this, PM need to have 3 skill
The 1st is vision, when they solve 1 user problem [business and user], they need to be able to have vision what kind of other problems in the future they will be able to solve using this product, so they already put that vision into foundations. So once the opportunity coming, new business come or existing business expanding and need to solve that problem, the adjustment will not be massive. Remember, building product is like building stairs. Its build one of top on each other. Product Manager need to avoid creating new stairs to adapt with user needs and want. PM need to have longer time frame [1–3 years ahead].
The 2nd is prioritizing, technology is unlimited, we can solve everything. But resources are always limited, that’s why PM need to be able to prioritize. Doesn’t matter how big you company is, either is Amazon or Google, you still need prioritization. Greed is human 7 sins, you will always have things you want more than things you can be done. Pareto rules can be used for this, but not always. Pareto rules means 20% of your customer are deliver 80% of your income, and 80% of your customer are deliver 20% of your income. We only allowed customization for business who contribute 80% to our north star product metrics. The other 20% need to use our standard solution, but this is not the final conclusion, if we see there’s potential that this business will bring massive contribution in the future, or support other business aspects [example, one business we forecast not bring a lot of impact in our MAU north star metrics, but it will give us good branding, than customization is allowed to some level of degree].
The other effective way is by building group of customizations so the impact will be bigger. Lets say merchant 1 is asking for feature A, but merchant 1 is not part of pareto 80 so this is cannot be accepted. But if the demand of feature A also persist in merchant 2,3,4 and potentially 10 merchant in the future, that together will lead to pareto 80, the customization can be done.
The 3rd is storytelling, the most underrated skill that PM needs. PM need to be able to explain to their engineer and other stakeholders why this business partner need customization and cannot use our standard solution, how much impact they will give to our business metrics, or any other impact they possibly gives in the future. Story telling is hard since not everyone have the same level of understanding, explaining why one merchant maybe have good business impact to engineer team might be difficult. Also the same to business team, explaining to them even of this merchant are pareto, but the customization cannot be done because the technical complexity is very hard and its not worth it also difficult. But this is PM job, to be the bridge of knowledge between stakeholders.
PM also need to be able to explain to non-pareto business partner why we cannot absorb their requirement for customization, we can explain to them to implement standard solution first and see the impact later, maybe if the impact is big we can consider for customization in the future. In B2B2C, PM also the front face of the company. PM need to be able to selling as well, not in the commercial way [pricing], but on how our product can be solved our business partner problems.
The 3rd challenge is the variety of the product, the outcome of the product have more variety compare to PM for B2C. Even tho the user of B2B2C are business and user, but user for business itself are not one, but coming from different group of users, such as: product manager, finance, growth, engineer and QA. Every different group may require different products, product manager may need solution for their different platform [web H5, mobile H5, API, SDK] finance may need the consistent and easy to access settlement file, growth team may need performance dashboard, engineer may need good API docs and QA need stable sandbox environment. To handle this complexity, PM may need 2 skills:
The 1st is broad product knowledge, a good basic understanding on how technical products work can help him to find the most proper solution. He needs to keep update on latest tech and tools that can make his life easier. Along the way, he may need to learn on different knowledge to understand how other division works. Example, to understand how to deliver a good settlement and money transfer feature, a products need to have a basic understanding of accounting. So he knows why the settlement format should be + for transaction, and — when refund. Another example is to deliver a good simple business dashboard, product need to understand how growth team works, so he can understand what metrics to put in dashboard, what kind of graph he need to use for each data and what metrics need to be emphasize.
The 2nd is structured thinking, in B2B2C products, the products itself its not finish when the product is delivered and used by the user, but until the money are delivered and user complain are solved. Means you need to think as a user, not just end user, but also business user [growth, finance, engineer, QA]. This required a broad knowledge how other division works, PM need to be agile and understand all of it.
it’s been 2 years hell of ride and the works was amazing, a lot of different challenge keep me being sane and insane repeatedly. And just found out several weeks ago that my constant headache caused by lack of exercise and obesity, not works…