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6 min read

9 product management challenges and how to solve them

Learn about common product management challenges and how to prepare for them. Find out how using the right tools helps you do better work.
From Team '23

Tempo Team

Product management is complex work, and there’s no set playbook. Even the product manager (PM) role varies from workplace to workplace. 

Because product development is so company-specific and nuanced – involving cross-functional team collaboration, varying stakeholder priorities, and strict time and budget constraints – it’s no wonder product management challenges inevitably arise. And you might feel like you can’t prepare for these issues because you’ve got unique management requirements. 

But you’re not alone. Even if specifics look different, there are general challenges you’ll face – and that’s great because it means other product managers have found ways to solve them.

9 challenges product managers must overcome 

Product management comes with few consistent guidelines, but you can establish your own rules by learning how to react to typical challenges in the development process. Here are nine issues product managers should be aware of.

1. Building stakeholder trust

Stakeholders and sponsors look to product managers for answers on how and why a product meets consumer and business needs. A PM must build trust with those around to foster confidence in their ability to create the desired new product. 

You can develop mutual trust by demonstrating your reliability to deliver. Gain others’ faith quickly by visually communicating your excellent product strategy. Create user-friendly product roadmaps that even the least technically oriented stakeholders can understand. You can even pivot roadmap views for different audiences to show the most relevant data.

Strong communication about your strategy can also build solid relationships. Answer questions thoroughly to demonstrate your product knowledge. And establish yourself as confident and in control by rejecting petitions for product changes you know aren’t reasonable or don’t meet larger business needs. Stakeholders may be disappointed to hear “No” in the short term, but you’ll ultimately prove your tactful decision-making.

2. Clunky roadmaps

Making user-friendly roadmaps is easier said than done – especially with tools not expressly designed for this purpose, like Excel or PowerPoint. Relying on the wrong resources can cost you time and frustration. Plus, you might silo information by spreading data across documents not everyone can access.

Instead, use a tool like Roadmunk that helps you make visually friendly roadmaps in a central place, in turn promoting easy access for team members and other stakeholders. Virtual road mapping tools let you make quick changes (say, if your timeline shifts), toggle between views, and easily collaborate.

3. Lack of alignment

In a way, PMs are influencers and facilitators more than leaders. They listen to stakeholders, synthesize their needs, and ensure everyone aligns on a product’s goals. PMs must clarify for all project participants the product’s “who,” “what,” and “why” to avoid confusion, as disoriented team members risk developing with the wrong intentions or specifications in mind and creating features that miss the mark. 

You can increase productivity by aligning cross-functional project participants using a centralized tool. Establish a single source of truth (like a shared roadmap) everyone can see and add to. This promotes transparency across all departments, contextualizing the product for the entire organization. 

4. Overly narrow focus

Tunnel vision can destroy a product’s development. PMs must remain flexible to react to issues and feedback in real time – instead of letting hard-formed ideas block progress.

Expand your focus by using critical thinking skills to assess your own work. Consider whether you think about products and processes holistically and how you could support a more comprehensive view. And consider flaws in your previous strategies to find improvement areas.

5. Extraneous product features

A common saying among PMs is, “If you build for everyone, you build for no one.” A good manager knows that teams can’t create a product that meets every consumer’s need, so they must strike a balance – creating a solid product that meets most of their target users’ needs. 

Building too many product features can consume resources (like time and money) on work that doesn’t efficiently address the root consumer need. So PMs should thoroughly assess whether a function is necessary before rushing to development.

6. Distracting biases/preferences

PMs must think like end users to avoid imposing their own preferences on product development. When managers insert themselves too deeply into the process, they risk creating features they’d like – but that aren’t central to consumer or business needs. 

Instead of designing a product for yourself, consult consumers and synthesize what they desire. Users may not express themselves as you would, so it’s essential to follow up and ensure you understand their ideas correctly. 

7. Vague/inaccurate problem definition

Great product managers are like journalists: they pose questions to understand their consumers and press further when they don’t understand the answers. And this thorough investigation reveals the root problem to address. 

Hastily determining the core need without research can lead to the wrong solutions. Before you start dreaming up features or finished products, let the problem sink in. Otherwise, you risk developing a poor product-market fit and wasting resources. 

8. Deadline management

Prioritization is central to product management work. Every product feature provides value for the client (and eventually the end users), and you should prioritize development in line with external stakeholder needs. You must also ensure teams have the bandwidth to execute the work. Otherwise, they’ll fall behind on deadlines the client expects. 

Schedule work considering each task's value, urgency, and required effort – keeping a close eye on your resources. Planning tools like RICE scoring or Eisenhower matrices can help you determine which functions to develop first. Once you’ve prioritized, break features down into deliverables and tasks that you centrally share on a Kanban board, Gantt chart, or agile planner. Sharing this information openly ensures everyone is clear on deadlines. 

9. Communication

Expert PMs must be effective communicators, as they liaise with all parties like team members, target consumers, and executives. Defining the right product goals and timelines relies on comprehensive conversations, and these discussions have varying appropriate tones and dynamics. A consumer may not be able to express end-user needs the same way a software developer does. And the client may not understand a developer’s technical terms. 

So, along with being a great active listener and clear speaker, you must also be a proficient translator. Interpreting people’s needs requires overriding assumptions and ensuring you understand correspondences correctly. This helps you present those ideas in terms that diverse audiences can understand. 

Create better products with Tempo 

Product managers must tell a story, presenting features to a range of audiences with data tailored to listeners’ needs and questions. Tempo Strategic Roadmaps is a standout tool for this, helping you create user-friendly, board-room-ready product roadmaps that facilitate conversations. And since Tempo’s tools are virtual and shareable, project participants can easily refer to maps, timelines, and trackers as a single authority.