As a remote work product manager, avoid email

Email is antiquated

Email is an antiquated form of communication. As a remote work product manager, you should avoid using email for collaboration. In fact, there really should be no reason that any organization needs to use email for any type of internal communication, especially if the company is fairly new, and there isn’t any entrenched business operations that cannot simply be changed.

Despite many modern improvements to email, especially with new email clients, conversations are still fairly difficult to navigate and follow. There’s no central place to store work artifacts. You cannot structure data in more expressive formats.

Collaboration is extremely difficult in email, since it’s a linear thread of messages. Typically, people are continually added to a conversation as it expands in scope. If you want to participate in a conversation, you have to be explicitly added. And once you have been added, you cannot easily leave it.

Defend your collaboration spaces

As a product manager, one of your primary responsibilities is to foster collaboration, in order to ultimately ship a great product. In a remote context, there are many challenges, yet also enormous unique opportunities to do so. And so you should be encouraging the best practices to achieve this collaboration, and actively defend against people devolving to activities that dissuade collaboration, whether intentionally or otherwise. In most organizations, your role has significant leverage in influencing these processes and ultimately providing these collaboration spaces. So purposefully use this power. Don’t just go with the flow of what already exists.

In particular, find the best tools to achieve this collaboration. There are many modern applications that provide excellent relevant capabilities, such as issue management systems and wikis. Research the relevant tools and use them. Oftentimes, finding the right tool that frictionlessly solves the collaboration problems will automatically help the team adopt the best practices.

Protect your culture

Collaboration is rooted in your team culture. As a product manager, you are not only influencing the businesses processes, but actually the culture itself. Constantly think about how each new decision is strengthening the culture, or weakening it. In particular, shipping product in a remote work setting necessitates an internet-scale collaboration mindset. If the tools and best practices you incorporate encourage this, you’re probably on the right track.

Use email as a last resort

Sometimes, email is unavoidable. It’s truly the most interoperable standard in the modern digital world for work communications. And as such, when you role requires you to constantly be interfacing with external people, it may be unavoidable. For example, a CEO may frequently be emailing customers, prospects, and partners. As a remote work product manager, make email a last resort. If an external party is able and willing to join a collaboration space you provide, have them do so. Make the extra effort to create that environment, and fall back on email only if necessary.

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