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With COVID-19 spreading exponentially by the day, there’s plenty of evidence that the situation is wreaking havoc with both business supply chains and business demand. Whatever the situation as I write this, it’s likely to change again within days.
With a surge of workers engaged from their home locations, new dynamics are being created, our business forecasts and our day-to-day work environments are likely to be quite a departure from the norm of just weeks ago. In one such example, a TSIA Field Services poll captured in a March 17th webinar revealed that almost half of the participating companies have already or are considering renegotiating the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with their providers. According to our data, as of March 26th, 42% of self-reporting members are offering grace periods on renewals of their technology and services. Disruption reigns. (**Update** As of Mar 31st, that number had almost doubled to 78%!)
Product management functions as a proxy for the overall business – covering strategy, offer and pricing design, UX and product definition, and product operations – and is naturally at the very epicenter of impact within the organization. Our collective job is to steer the business ship with a set of steady hands in both calm and choppy waters of the marketplace, watching for trends with our compasses and weather forecasts, combining that with our collective skills and experience to safely navigate with optimal speed the path towards our targets.
When we now find our business boat in a hurricane, we are immediately faced with a potentially infinite number of uncertainties through which we must navigate with our crew, some immediate and others less so. Is our business boat taking on water? Should we still head towards the previously planned financial target destination? Shall we navigate the previously identified path or change course? Is there a new and better destination in the face of the storm? How much agility in what we offer, how we price, and where we seek opportunities must we demonstrate in the face of the business uncertainties?
These are just a few of the potentially dizzying number of questions that may be in front of us. In the thick of a crisis of this magnitude it’s hard to step back and ponder the macro-level longer term implications for ourselves and our business, however this is exactly what our business will be relying on product management to do. After all, what other role in the company has this remit?
The role of the product manager is to focus the team even, and especially, in time of crisis. The ultimate goal is to emerge from this disruptive period stronger than before. Case in point, according to investment banking firm, Suntrust Research, the 14% of companies that experienced growth during and since the great recession (2008), did three things well during the crisis:
This brings us to the question of how best we should spend our time NOW across the range of urgent and important, while serving our employees, our customers, and community, and providing effective leadership to our cross-functional teams and peers to emerge a stronger business overall. Practicing leadership during a crisis, and this unique COVID-19 pandemic crisis, reveals a lot about our ability to thrive in our roles.
Let’s leverage the well-known Eisenhower Matrix to provide a framework for how we might spend time to be the best rudder for the business during this time.
While generally to be avoided at all costs, it’s important to acknowledge this is an unprecedented time. Some balance and slack are also called for intermittently. Breath. The future will undoubtedly be brighter!
We understand that our member companies, the technology industry, and the world at large have been impacted by COVID-19. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to get through these challenging times. TSIA is committed to providing visibility as quickly as possible into the changing industry trends and practices that come as a result of COVID-19. Visit our Rapid Research Response Initiative resource page for more information.
If you have any questions related to how COVID-19 is impacting your organization, we’re here to help.
Post Date: April 1, 2020
Laura Fay is the vice president and managing director of products and offers research and advisory for TSIA. She also serves as TSIA’s vice president of XaaS product management research. Laura is a technology industry veteran with over 30 years' experience driving business growth in the enterprise technology industry via leadership roles in product management, general management, product development, and customer success.
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The Technology & Services Industry Association (TSIA) is dedicated to helping technology and services organizations large and small grow and advance in the technology industry. Find out how you can achieve success, too. Call us at 800-876-6511 or we can call you.