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Aug 26 2012 - 09:44 PM
Work a Project Manager Can Do While a Project is Being Coded
I found this interesting piece which highlights things a non technical founder could do while the product is being developed. From my experience, much of it could be directly applied to project managers who are handling the product development.
  1. Assist in product design. Make mockups, talk to potential customers, test design hypotheses, test the product, help tweak UI/UX design, help manage the development pipeline; if you get into it, you will realize there is a lot of meaningful contribution you can make in product development even if you can't code. It is even better if you are technically knowledgeable (e.g. I'm an ex-developer) so you can contribute more to technical design even if your coding skills are lackluster.
  2. Prepare so you can hit the ground running on the commercial front. Figure out a sales and marketing strategy, map market segments with easy early sales, build up leads, set up a sales process, set up your CRM and work method, establish industry contacts, find beta users, warm up early adopters, set up online advertising, performance tracking, online profiles, a blog, press contacts, etc.
  3. Investor relations. Even if you're not fundraising, start building your relationships, make sure that current and future investors can keep an eye on your progress, talk about it with people, get feedback.
  4. Refine your vision. Use the time to refine your product strategy, company strategy, positioning, pitch. If your idea is good, there will be depth to explore, mature and define. Product development is a good time to engage in this mental (and social) exercise; you will get more ideas during development and you will have to weed out what matters too, so the two processes interact well with each other. Involve your co-founder in after-work conversation on this topic, make sure you co-evolve your vision about what you do.
  5. Copywriting. A product has a lot of copywriting to do. On the website, on marketing collateral, even emails, pitches, deciding how you describe it verbally to people, etc. You can't outsource that. You can, and should, find excellent people to refine your copy, to correct and polish your ideas and your communication, but you have to be the main contributor in the process of articulating your product vision in the words that will represent your company.
  6. Storytelling. Similar to the above, you will need to develop your story, several stories in fact about what you do, what it means to customers, what it means to the industry, stories that communicate your value, that capture the imagination of customers, that prompt the press to write about you. This is not an easy exercise, it takes time, trial-and-error, continuous refinement.
  7. Research. Checking up on competitors, checking up on how similar companies tackle business problem (e.g. how do they sell, what UI features they have, what do their marketing emails look like), constantly sourcing new ideas that can be useful to what you do. This also involves collecting data about important decisions such as competitor performance, keywords to target, events where customers go, pricing comparisons, international markets, the list is endless. You should keep bringing useful ideas that can be adapted and you should be able to back decision making with usefully processed intelligence from the market.
  8. Nurture good spirit, keep everyone intellectually stimulated. Your technical co-founder may spend long stretches of time focused on some particular technical detail or problem. This focus is good from a development standpoint but takes his mind off the big picture for a while. You need to engage him and let him participate in the intellectual conversation about what it is we're building as a whole - not burden him with the work of execution on "everything else" but enriching his big picture with knowledge and contemplation about it. There is a joyful and highly motivating emotion that comes from the sense that your vision is coming all together, customer development is progressing, investors are interested, numbers can be achieved, feedback is positive, market is missing what you're building, etc. Development focus can make you forget all the other bits outside the software itself and the non-technical co-founder's job is to make sure that this does not lead to intellectual isolation of his CTO.
  9. Cover infrastructural and operational needs. Moving to an office, buying equipment, project management, integrating support software, creating customer care procedures, setting up cloud services, hiring people, managing finances, ordering food, and on and on.. there's an endless supply of operational necessities to sort out, both in the process of building the product and in anticipation of running/supporting your service after launch. Manage them well, get them out of the way, be your technical co-founders secretary, office manager, project manager, COO, everything.
  10. Sort out the administrative part of the company. Incorporation, shareholders agreement, filing with tax authorities, setting up an accounting system, bookkeeping, banking, payments, trademarks, license agreements, and so on. There's a ton of tedious work to do and your technical co-founder should not be wasting a minute with these.
|By: Pranav Garg|2020 Reads