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Essentials of Product Management
What is a product?
Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort - Franklin D Roosevelt.
Very few things unite us as global citizens. Unhappiness tops the list. We humans believe that the route to contentment, comfort, satiety, warmth, peace and happiness passes through right choices, decisions and experiences.
According to psychologists, Seeking new, making progress, getting recognized are self therapies we seek to overcome inabilities and discontentment.
Are you wondering “Why are we talking psychology ?”
A product is a mechanism to transfer visionary efficiencies to other people and help them overcome constraints impeding progress.
A product is a bundle of distinct experiences a customer would like to ideally have in a specific context as they go about with their lives.
A product is a tool to connect human beings and facilitate progress in their lives. It is an intermediary between the people who create it and the people who consume it.
A product is an antidote to inexplicable misery and medium to spread long lasting happiness in people's lives.
Why do we build Products?
A product represents different things to different groups of individuals.
- As a user, you look at it as a bundle of change,
- As a buyer you look at it as a bundle of value,
- As a decider you look at it as a bundle of outcomes,
- As a visionary you look at it as a bundle of opportunity,
- As a technologist you look at it as innovative engineering,
- As a Designer you look at it as an ideal solution,
- As a marketer you look at it as a bundle of benefits,
- As an investor, you look at it as a bundle of profits,
Each of these stakeholders are looking to fulfill the objectives of their job
- We build products to make each of these stakeholders progress in their Lives
- We build products to broadbase capability and democratize outcomes.
- We build products to maximize benefits and minimize errors.
- We build products to fulfill the expectations of these stakeholders dependents.
- We build products because the alternate is an untenable situation that deteriorates our quality of life.
- We build products because we see a significant group of people are clueless in the face of a debilitating impediment.
- We build products because we are able to anticipate something based on scientific insights and creative instincts.
Who do We Build Products for ?
Our job is to figure out what customers are going to want before they do - Steve Jobs.
World is filled with only 2 kinds of people. Proactives and Reactives. Reactives are those who care because they need to. Proactives are those who care because they want to.
As a customer you are defined by the need. It’s ok to be reactive.
As a creator you are defined by the want. Be Proactive.
We build products to satiate the needs of our customer’s (decider and user).
We don’t build products to satisfy our stakeholders (investors, employees).
What drives a successful product effort?
We start with a customer need and work backwards - Jeff Bezos
Successful products are made by integrated teams with a sole mission to please particular types of people with same needs.
To fulfill their needs in exclusion of everything else. Ultra successful companies like Amazon call it as customer obsession,
Customer Obsession is the Science and Art of being proactive with your customer. Anticipating their needs and innovating on their behalf.
Customer obsession is about tireless listening to their verbal and non verbal feedback.
Customer obsession is about grasping their unpredictable behavior.
Customer obsession is about identifying outlier patterns within populations.
Customer obsession is about anticipating and eradicating friction in their process, tasks, activities.
Why customer obsession is crucial to product success?
Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves - Steve Jobs
There are many ways for an organization to flourish.
You can be very successful company by being product obsessed, competitor obsessed, technology obsessed, business model obsessed and market obsessed. Any of the above methods can help you achieve your business goals.
Customer Obsession empowers you to reach market leadership in a healthier way.
Customer Obsession Prepares you to adapt against constantly changing needs, wants and expectations.
Customer Obsession propagates the attitude, structure and processes to invent and pioneer on behalf of the customer.
All companies claim to be customer obsessed. Reality is different. Aspiration is good. Sustained customer centric action is the only way to a higher share of revenues.
What are the ingredients of customer obsession?
A mindset that is attuned to always deliver deliver disproportionate value to the customer
An attitude that goes beyond the obvious, anticipates expectations and sets customer delight as the pursuit.
A leadership that measures performance based on the strengths of relationships as indicated by customer engagement, customer retention, customer advocacy and customer churn.
A culture of leveraging persistent user research and user feedback to gather insights and develop new ideas for the customer.
A knowledge base that accumulates the minutest of customer details into customer maps so as to grasp the full customer journey.
A process that is instituted to pursue sustained Listening, ruthless Experimentation, rigorous Invention and Continuous Validation.
A team that is comfortable with change, nimble in its structure and is organized to adapt to customer evolution.
An Operation that is capable of collecting full spectrum customer interaction data, armed with the tools to analyze strategic and tactical perspectives and a decision making pipeline that prioritizes these insights across the organization.
Who represents customer inside organization?
Addressing real buyer pain points, is the only way to develop products customers love.
This is possible only when we can infuse customer voice at every step of the product development process.
In fact, companies like amazon go to the extent of having an empty chair reserved for customers in meetings as they seek to imbibe customer consciousness among product leaders.
A Product Manager holds forte as the voice of the customer. Unbiased advocate of the customer needs based on different types of User Research.
Leverages insights from Qualitative, Quantitative and Behavioral methods to grasp customer context. Combines inquiry with observation to unearth the underlying pain.
How do product managers defend customers interest?
Getting to know your users is a never ending task. It is the only activity that lasts the whole cycle of discovery, definition, development and Delivery.
Structuring a mechanism to collect, organize and act on feedback. Ability to distinguish signal from noise is a key skill for Product Managers.
Product Managers rely on insights from design research studies like contextual inquiry, market research like surveys, customer feedback through support centers, customer engagement through web analytics and embedded software usage analytics from the product to inform product management decisions.
Uses these information to Identify and Validate the strategic priority of needs. Categorizes them tactically along unworkable, unavoidable, urgent and underserved buckets so as to figure out the desirability.
Funnel that knowledge to remove status quo and establish a new normal by building a new product or improving an existing product.
How product managers gain a nuanced grasp of customers?
Product Manager are keen to get to detailed analysis of the decision making process.
They break down the customer monolith into its constituent parts. They are sensitive to the idea of Decision Making Unit of customers. They grasp various customer roles of Influencer, Decider, Buyers and Users to gain a better perspective.
Product managers ask a lot of questions wherein they seek to narrow down the common denominator of shared interest with customer DMU’s.
- How long and often should I commit to grasping customer needs?
- What ratio of effort should go into researching the different types?
- What point in the development process should i focus on knowing users?
- what are our core customer segments?
- What pain points each segment have?
- What features would alleviate pain points?
- Is the feature desirable to the customer team?
- What changes do we require in order to accommodate new need groups?
How is the role of a product Manager unique?
A Product Manager is a key role in a company. Some industry leaders also refer to them
as the CEO of the product.
They are accountable for building the right product and delivering the product right. For both effectiveness and efficiency.
In the process they are also responsible for the vision, strategy, roadmap, and feature definition of the product or portfolio.
Depending on the size of the company, stage of its growth, maturity of the product, business model and organizational structure the roles and responsibilities of PM vary dramatically
A Product Manager is the hub of a wheel that holds the internal organization together. A People Person. He is obsessed with assembling the best teams, evangelizing their needs and empowering them with resources to excel in their spheres.
Every organization is structured differently. Functional, program oriented, and Skill driven teams are typical examples. Irrespective of how they are organized, each individual operates with personal and professional goals tied to their context.
Brimming with ideas, suggestions, requests and complaints, they seek to and need to have a say in how products are built.
A product manager gets to interact with legal, sales, marketing, industry analysts, business development, technology, CXO’s, data analysts, user researchers, user experience designers, security experts, customer success, customer support and finance on various disciplines that will impact the product launch.
A product manager compiles, consolidates and cross pollinate ideas from all disciplines of the organization.
As a master facilitator, product manager brings together ideas from various stakeholders and disciplines. possess the capability to
- 1. Bring together customers, partners to pursue a shared objective
- 2.Works backwards from impact to the product epics, stories and features
- 3.review technical and marketing content for relevance to the audience.
- 4. Acquires competitive intelligence leveraging all types of research
- 5. Gathers, assembles and presents information to support business case
As a general manager of the product, he is expected to assemble the right team and empower them with frameworks, models, process, tools and techniques.
- 1. Being thoughtful about the purpose to change.
- 2. Selecting the type of environment (startup, enterprise, remote) you wish to operate
- 3. Being conscious of the unique perspective you bring to the role in a b2b or b2c
- 4. Acquiring the skills needed, tapping into the larger network of experts and mentors.
- 5. Demonstrating curiosity to learn different work needs
- 6. Being articulate about your opinions and sharing best practices.
As a Problem Solver, you are expected to spend time thinking through the problem and then convert them into a problem hypothesis statement that resonates with the wider organization.
- 1. People are driven by instincts, insights, prospects or competitors in the identification of solutions. First case we call visionaries, the second case we call innovators, the third case we call purposeful and the fourth we call imitators.
- 2. Real solutions to customers problems happen when a product manager brings together all the traits and apply them in a unique composition to the specific scenario at hand .
- 3. Blended thought process is the source of effective problem definition. This is possible only when product managers can overcome their years of learning and training in structured problem solving.
- 4. Being comfortable solving ill structured problems that have little or no precedence is the hallmark of great product managers.
- 5. For most of the time, a product manager is in a constant state of uncertainty listening to evolving customer needs, stakeholder expectations, competitor moves and generating options.
Irrespective of what you do on a day to day basis, The Heart Of Product Management Is Finding and Solving Problems
What is Day in the life of a product manager like?
Day in the life of a Product Manager entails many things depending on the growth of organization.
You might be managing existing product or portfolio, You might be working to improve revenue via an optimal pricing strategy. You might be tasked to Provide realistic customer acquisition forecast. You might be working with design and business teams to create presentations & data sheets.
Some of the common day to day activities are
- 1. Catch up on Team, Stakeholder and Customer Communication via all channels.
- 2. Setup calls with existing customers to understand their experience and find ways to improve it.
- 3. Orient yourself to learn about market knowledge, insights and thought leadership.
- 4. Evaluate product against market needs and explore new themes for enhancing customer delight.
- 5. Provide inputs to construct an ideal customer profile and persona
- 6. Keep oneself organized to attend to cross functional meetings requests
- 7. Respond to support team requests for validating customer problems or review escalations
- 8. Updating Fellow PM’s about what’s happening in your team and take counsel on improvement
- 9. Preparing for Product Review meetings with stakeholders to discuss performance.
- 10. Keeping tab of Project Management Deliverables via Task Tracking Software
- 11. Testing internal releases of product for edge test cases and user experience flaws.
- 12. Joining Stand up meetings with cross functional stakeholders to grasp asks and mitigate blocks
- 13. Working with usability testing teams to review new prototypes or product features.
- 14. Organizing scrum stand up meetings for agile delivery teams with Product Owners.
- 15. Managing Product Backlogs and Prioritizing features that accelerate customer impact
- 16. Working with legal teams to mitigate any risk of lawsuits with product launch.
- 17. Developing Product Requirements documents detailing the various constraints of feature operation
- 18. Develop or Review Content collaterals to communicate product benefits.
- 19. Reviewing and Enhancing Press Release to support feature launches
- 20. Identify opportunities, Validate necessity, align stakeholders and convince decision makers to invest in the opportunity.
- 21. Inspire, motivate, influence and coach cross functional peers to make decisions in the best interests of the customers.
- 22. Take ownership of a lot of dirty work so that everyone in the team is unblocked to perform his job.
- 23. Use the product like an expert user to grasp the friction and work with engineering to proactively resolve it
- 24. Set expectations and establish workflow with teams for delegation and decision making
- 25. Attends learning and networking events with the single purpose to improve customers lives by grasping their reality, constraints and experiences
- 26. Offers continuous customer orientation trainings for design, technology and business functions to propagate and assimilate customer insights.
- 27. Brings together key members of the team, facilitates in depth conversations, identifies decision alternatives that have most positive impact on stakeholders.
- 28. Works with marketing and sales teams to improve win ratios by optimizing qualification and conversion metrics based on evolving grasp of customer persona.
- 29. Keeps a tab on product operational metrics includings financial results on a regular basis to quantify the output and outcomes
- 30. employ the right analytics tools to access relevant data and enlist the support of data scientists for deeper analytics
- 31. snap screenshots and sketch wireframes for feature ideas that I had talked about with a designer
What are the skills required of a Product Manager?
- 1. Courage
- 2. Curiosity
- 3. Listening
- 4. Communication
- 5. Influence
- 6. Presentation
- 7. Organization
- 8. Data analysis
- 9. Strategic thinking
- 10. Persuasion
- 11. Innovation
- 12. Creativity
- 13. Product insight
- 14. Estimation
- 15. Market Knowledge
- 16. Emotional intelligence
- 17. Empathy
- 18. Active listening
- 19. Critical thinking
- 20. Structured thinking
- 21. Design thinking
- 22. Problem finding
- 23. Problem solving
- 24. Experimentation
- 25. Collaboration
- 26. Decision making
- 27. Business acumen.
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