Product managers know communication is critical to their effectiveness. In ProductPlan’s report on Product Managers in 2020, 50% of them identified communication skills as the most important thing they need to do their job.
With distributed teams and remote work more predominant than ever, it’s even more imperative to convey crucial information to team members and other stakeholders effectively. It not only needs to reach them, but they also must understand what they’re looking at.
One of the most popular platforms companies rely on for collaboration is Microsoft Teams. While Microsoft’s suite of Office tools is no stranger to many, Teams is a relative newcomer that debuted in 2017. It features chat, voice calling, video meetings, screen sharing, collaborative document editing, sharing, and automated workflows.
4 Ways to Make the Most of Microsoft Teams to Communicate Product Strategy
When an organization embraces a collaboration platform like Microsoft Teams, it represents an opportunity to efficiently and effectively communicate product strategy. There are many ways to leverage it. However, here are four specific options to spread the word and foster organizational alignment around the vision, goals, and objectives for the product.
A key Microsoft Teams feature that product leaders should extensively leverage is channels. Channels are discussion threads that various teams within the company can use for asynchronous communication and file sharing.
Some channels are private, with membership restricted to particular groups within the organization. On the other hand, public channels are available to any employee. These are the perfect forum for informing colleagues about significant changes and updates.
1. The monthly update message
A periodic update about any changes to the roadmap keeps everyone abreast of important developments. A monthly cadence keeps things from being so frequent they get tuned out, plus it’s easy to remember and anticipate.
The easiest option is pasting a link to the latest version of the product roadmap right into the public channel. With a tool like ProductPlan, everyone can click to see the latest-and-greatest version, even if they don’t have a ProductPlan seat license.
Accompany the link with a brief synopsis of what’s different since the last update and explain why those things changed. It lets folks know what to look for and understand the rationale for any changes.
2. The live roadmap updates channel
While some may feel a monthly update is frequent enough, other stakeholders may want to know about any changes ASAP. It is where a dedicated channel for live roadmap updates can help.
Team members subscribed to this live updates channel will automatically see what’s changed instantaneously. It’s a snap to set up with ProductPlan, which features Microsoft Teams Integration.
Date changes, comments, and mentions made in a linked ProductPlan roadmap will automatically show up in this channel as well. It saves the product team time while keeping everyone who needs to know fully informed. But it’s important to remember some folks may tune out those posts if they’re too frequent.
“My experience is that generally, we get a bunch of ‘rah rah’ when first announcing an integration,” says Sean Canton, Distributed Platform Architect & Engineer at AdMobilize and Chief Product Officer at MATRIX Labs. “Then nobody pays attention if updates are more than once a day.”
3. The monthly “roadmap updates” video
Not everyone is a “reader.” Sometimes, adding a little explanation helps convey key points and shift the emphasis to particular areas. Providing a “guided tour” of the roadmap adds a bit of color commentary to the process. It also hopefully holds viewers’ full attention slightly longer than usual.
Like the monthly update message, the goal is to provide a regular overview and refresh on what’s new or different. Using a screen recorder such as Loom, product teams can record a quick video taking colleagues through the roadmap.
The status of different items can be covered, changes or additions, and the business or technical drivers for those moves. Additionally, the presenter can also add even more context by providing quick demos of already shipped features, items in development or testing, or even prototypes and mockups.
Since fellow employees always want a sneak preview of what’s coming, this additional segment of the video can boost viewership and engagement with the product strategy to further foster alignment. Everyone can get excited about coming and adjusting their own sales, marketing, and support plans accordingly.
“The best is a live demo to get engagement and interaction,” says Andreas Johansson, Chief Product Officer at Billmate AB. “That’s why I do a public demo and then hold a sprint review with selected stakeholders directly after the public demo.”
4. The monthly “Roadmap AMA/Town Hall”
The three suggestions listed above are all one-way streets when it comes to communication. Aside from these broadcast models, Microsoft Teams can also facilitate a more interactive exchange of information.
Instead of simply sending out a monthly update with a link to the roadmap, this can be accompanied by a Q&A session on the same channel. Pick a set window of time and encourage colleagues to ask away.
The product team can answer whatever comes at them, solicit additional feedback, and welcome ideas and suggestions from across the organization. Since typing is a little less intimidating than raising your hand or chiming in during an in-person meeting or live call, it should empower more people to ask questions and offer their input during this virtual all-hands meeting.
And since the channel will retain the full exchange, others can review it at their convenience. Plus, you have an excellent record of any interesting feedback received or tricky questions that require more homework to address adequately.
Keeping colleagues informed while fostering alignment and enthusiasm around the product strategy takes an intentional, dedicated effort. Messaging tools can’t solve everything. However, they can play a vital role in the overall communication plan for the product team.
Not all stakeholders will be power users of collaboration tools, so product leaders should continue relying on other tactics to suit the preferences of different types of stakeholders, particularly executives that might have a different lens. Some may prefer one-on-one meetings or other modes of receiving and processing product roadmap updates and strategy revisions. Learn more about how Microsoft Teams and ProductPlan integrate.
By leveraging the same collaboration platform where another important business is regularly conducted, product strategy and product roadmap updates become part of the fabric of everyday life.
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