18 product workflow red flags: how to spot & resolve them
As a product manager, your job is to deliver a product your users love.
It seems simple when put that way, doesn’t it?
But at Hotjar, we know that product management is anything but straightforward, which is why we asked our own product managers about product workflow.
More specifically, product workflow red flags and how to avoid them:
18 product workflow red flags
1. Outdated team models
Problem: outdated team models lead to toxic organizational impact. In a toxic team model, decision-making is driven by things like deadlines and goals rather than how the user feels.
Solution: fill the empathy gap by placing yourself in your users’ shoes to understand what they need.
For example, you can use Session Recordings to gain empathy by seeing users’ behavior on your website.
Benefit: focus the team on the customer first-and-foremost, rather than focusing on self-serving concerns like hitting deadlines or achieving goals.
2. Too much focus on big roadmap items
Problem: if your team is purely focused on big-picture goals, you’ll miss ways to help users right now. Instead, focus on an immediate strategy. For example, if your team can fix something immediately, how will it impact your users?
Solution: adopt a cascading vision (rather than a growth obsession) to give your team the chance to create products that meet your users' needs every step of the way.
Ask yourself, “what can we deliver right now that fits with the spirit and goals of this work?” Better yet, use Incoming Feedback to ask your users what roadblocks they face in the moment.
Benefit: close the customer feedback loop and give your team early validation of ideas.
3. Not measuring the right places
Problem: if you aren’t collecting and measuring data in the right places, you’re missing out on experimentation insight from your users.
Solution: usually, the right places to track measurement are the highest-risk areas where impact counts most. Effective measurement in these areas will help your team avoid burnout.
Benefit: get valuable and relevant insights to make a better product for your users.
4. Poor internal communication
Problem: poor communication leads to a lack of alignment and disjointed teams.
Solution: listen to your teams to see where they need more (or less) communication from you to unblock them. Understanding your team’s needs helps you learn how to add value in the right places at the right time.
Benefit: increase team synergy and improve output delivery.
5. Too much information makes it challenging to know where to start
Problem: information overload makes it difficult for you and your team to identify the best place to start.
Solution: focus on key metrics and areas of usage tracking to track your product as it scales.
Benefit: an effective and focused delivery.
6. Aligning too much with the school of thought that product is only about the problem
Problem: product managers need to focus on their users’ problems, but hyper-focusing on one problem prevents you from seeing the big picture. You could miss other issues your users face and, in turn, miss important solutions.
Solution: distance yourself from the problems, look to validate them, and discover solutions’ feasibility.
Benefit: know exactly where you need to spend your time and effort, reduce expensive solutions, and improve focus.
7. Relying on A/B tests
Problem: A/B tests help you quickly identify what your users like, but they lack context—they tell you what is working but not why it’s working.
Benefit: get a complete picture of the user journey, understand pain points in your UX, and identify solutions you need to implement.
8. Too much focus on 'cool apps' and 'flashy tech'
Problem: if you’re too focused on flashy product features rather than what the user actually needs, you’ll end up designing products that won’t benefit your user (and won't sell).
Solution: learn how to interpret user feedback and ask yourself if you’re spending enough time providing solutions for the right problems. Otherwise, you may just be following the trends without delivering real value for your users.
Benefit: focus on building a product that translates into more business value
9. Too much obsession with the product
Problem: you may find yourself (or people on your team) too emotionally attached to the product. When this happens, the product’s build obstructs what really matters: how your users feel.
Solution: avoid becoming attached to your products by making small changes where there’s no significant cost to dispose of them. Validate your ideas—through prototypes and wireframes—before building them, even during early user tests.
Benefit: become a more well-rounded PM and function more effectively.
10. You feel like you don’t have enough impact in your role
Problem: you might feel like you’re wasting your time in the wrong areas and that overall, your role isn’t directly impacting the product.
Solution: add more structure to your workflow, learn to focus on efficiency, and ultimately, focus on bringing a smile to your users’ faces.
Benefit: focus on the right areas and embrace more effective and targeted delivery.
11. Too much focus on data
Problem: numbers don’t tell a complete story. If you and your team choose to rely on analytics and other data, you’ll miss out on crucial information that numbers might not tell you—like how your users feel.
Solution: speak with your users. A round of customer interviews is an invaluable (and often underused) process. You can also use Hotjar’s Surveys and Incoming Feedback to collect valuable customer insight.
Benefit: create better products by taking a step back from the data, speaking with customers, and using your intuition.
12. Trying to make too many instant improvements
Problem: your team is trying to implement every improvement at the same time.
Solution: adopt a 'cost of delay' analysis within your workflow. A 'cost of delay' analysis assigns a dollar value to any delays, which helps you understand which changes are needed right now and which ones can wait.
Benefit: make a greater impact through logical and informed decisions.
13. Too many ideas
Problem: when you and your team come up with too many ideas, your backlog becomes unmanageable.
Solution: make some of your product discovery about what to discard. Your customers might want features that don’t make sense for the product you’re working on, and it’s your job to understand which ideas you should implement and which ones to reject.
Benefit: improved focus, a more streamlined workflow, and impactful delivery.
14. Stuck in the product research space
Problem: becoming too focused on product research prevents you from implementing changes and moving forward.
Solution: to move forward from product research, read about other topics that are related to your products.
Benefit: a more well-rounded understanding of your product's value to your users will help you make more user-centric decisions.
15. Using historical data to determine current product
Problem: using historical data to determine your product’s current performance leads to overconfidence.
Solution: conduct regular check-ins on features to understand how product usage has changed over time.
Comparing past and present heatmaps helps you see how product usage is changing.
Benefit: pay more attention to users’ pain points and understand which areas need more improvement.
16. Lacking business goals and focus
Problem: if you don’t know where to focus, you may not be aligned with business goals.
Solution: set clear product goals with measurable results that align with business goals.
Benefit: improved prioritization and delivery.
17. Not enough focus time
Problem: when your team doesn’t get enough time to focus, their work can become reactive.
Solution: allow for team collaboration and a structure that lays the groundwork for making informed decisions. Think about how your product interacts with other products.
Benefit: an environment that supports a proactive approach where you can make informed decisions.
18. Preaching (but not practicing) a user-centric approach
Problem: you might say you follow a user-centric approach, but unless you are actively listening to your users, you aren’t.
Solution: genuinely listen to your users. Get user feedback through different methods like online surveys and interviews.
Benefit: a genuine user-centric approach to your product delivers better experiences for your users.
Improve your product workflow
At Hotjar, we continually improve our tools to give you a smarter and deeper analysis of your users.
Hotjar's tools help you avoid these product workflow red flags by giving you a way to collect data, speak directly with your users, and understand what’s happening on your website (and why).
Start collecting user feedback with Hotjar
Sign up for a free Hotjar account and start asking your users what works for them (and doesn't) on your website.
What is product workflow?
Product workflow is how a new (or existing) product moves through the product lifecycle from start to finish. You may be creating a product from scratch or updating features on an existing product.
How can you improve your product workflow?
You can improve your product workflow by familiarizing yourself with common product workflow red flags. Once you know which red flags to look for, you can swiftly identify and resolve them.
What are examples of product workflow red flags?
Some examples of product workflow red flags include a lack of business goals, relying on A/B tests, and using outdated team models. At Hotjar, we asked our Product Managers for their top red flags. You can read the complete list here.