Product and partnership managers are a nascent breed of individuals who act as a bridge between external partners and their companies. While product managers are responsible for hand holding a product from conception to maturity, product and partnership managers go a step further by exposing the product to valuable collaborations.
I am bringing Tide Ayeni to Centre Stage because he understands the fundamentals of building partnerships into existing products. In his role as product and partnership manager at Indicina, he is responsible for driving growth through setting up successful partnerships and working with them to launch consumer credit products.
What is your favourite part of a product life cycle?
For people who don’t know, the life cycle of a product is broken into four parts: introduction (birth), growth, maturity, and decline (or death). My favourite part has to be the growth of a product. I’m obsessed with numbers — as should every product and partnership manager.
Now don’t get me wrong, the maturity part is great because you can kind of kick back and watch your product make money. But the growth stage keeps you on your toes.
Say more, please
Our tech ecosystem is designed to promote collaboration and partnership. Can you grow your product successfully without partnering with a bigger company, yes. Is that method sustainable? No. Why? Because you will end up putting you and your product into a box. If you want your product to go farther than its birthplace, you need to get creative with your partnerships. Some partners can help you figure out marketing strategies and campaigns; other collaborators can help you aggressively penetrate a new market.
In your years of experience working as a product partnership manager, have you ever experienced the death of a product?
Oh my goodness, yes! During my time at Interswitch, we had a product that was designed to work for a specific market. I mean we put everything we had into that product but over time, we realized that it wasn’t a good fit for that market. When the product was in its ideation stage, it was built for prospective retail clients. But when we went back to the drawing board, we discovered that it would work better for government agencies and hospitals. Imagine that?
How did you handle the product’s demise?
My team made an executive decision to bring the product to end of life and move into maintenance mode; which means we didn’t make any code improvements or fix existing bugs. We also sent out an email to all the users letting them know our decision.
Can you tell us why partnerships matter in product development?
Because you can’t do everything yourself. If I want to build multiple features into one product, I have two options: I can either pressure my developers to figure out how to hack the infrastructure; or I can find a partner that has already done the work and just connect my product to their rails. Collaboration is a shorter route to making things happen for your product.
How can you tell when a product is on its way to becoming powerful?
Firstly, you have to consider timing. A powerful product will enter the market at the right time. If the timing isn’t right, your product will not scale and adoption rates will be low.
Secondly, a powerful product is backed by a powerful team. I cannot stress enough that a good team plays an important role in a product’s life cycle– particularly where growth and maturity are concerned.
Lastly, when your market accepts and adopts your product, it is well on its way to becoming powerful.
How do you develop yourself in your role? What are you reading, watching, or listening to?
I do a lot of courses. I try my best to use that to fill whatever gaps I feel like I might have in my day to day. I’m a big fan of product management and business analytics courses because they directly influence the work I do at Indicina. Prodpad is a great resource for aspiring product partnership managers — they have a great blog and also offer online courses.
What kind of skills are required for your role?
Patience. Product partnership managers have to be extremely patient people. You are dealing with different personalities, clients, departments, and stakeholders. You are constantly coordinating moving parts so you cannot afford to lose your head.
Then you need to know how to articulate your thoughts and translate technical requirements into plain language. You need to be able to make your future partners understand the problem you are trying to solve with your product. Eloquence sells products.
Finally you need an ownership mentality. When you successfully own a product you motivate people to step out of their comfort zones. And you know what’s true? Real magic happens outside your comfort zone.
What are some of the challenges product partnership managers face on the job?
The pricing is never right; that is something that you need to understand. Your prospective partners will negotiate pricing and terms and you have to be prepared to handle that conversation.
You might also run into challenges where value is concerned. You must ensure that you and your partner are aligned in your definition of value. This way you are forging a mutually beneficial relationship that could last for a long time.
Okay, let’s talk about leadership. How do you motivate your team?
I listen to understand and I lead a place from understanding. That means understanding our goals, KPIs, mission, and strategies. We are working together to achieve a common goal so if we are all on the same page, we can really make magic happen.
I also try my best to communicate effectively with my team and direct line managers. I leave room to receive feedback from my peers and team members. You can’t just talk at people or dump information on them – you have to be open to hearing their opinions.
Transparency is absolutely essential as well. When I have all the information I need then I am motivated to work hard and punch above my weight.
What do you think about the future of technology? What are you excited about?
I’m really excited to see more African founders playing around with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning models. AI and machine learning will help African countries digitize their databases and information centres. When you have access to verified consumer information and data, you can offer crucial financial services like credit, debt financing, mortgages, etc.
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