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Product Management

Product Management Course for all aspirants transitioning into the most in-demand role as a product manager.



All the strategic concepts that will shape your attitude and mindset.

What is a Digital Product?

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 tool to connect human beings and facilitate progress in their lives. An approach to broad base capability and democratize outcomes. 

 

It is an intermediary between the people who create it and the people who consume it. So, as a product leader, you need to be concerned about human emotions, insecurities as much if not more about the shipping of features.

Why do we Build Digital Products?

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 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 outcomes, as a visionary you look at it as a bundle of benefits, as a technologist you look at it as innovative engineering, as a business investor, you look at it as a bundle of profits so on and so forth.

 

While all these narratives are legit, the question as to which narrative should lead everything else is a valid conflict within product teams.

 

“we start with a customer need and work backward” – said Jeff Bezos of Amazon. for more Product Management Quotes

 

customer’s (decider and user) take precedence over everything else. Ultra successful companies like Amazon call it as customer obsession,


How to achieve Product Success with Customer Obsession?

There are many ways for an organization to flourish.

 

You can be a 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 is a choice that helps you reach market leadership in a healthier way.

 

It defines the attitude, structure, and processes to invent and pioneer on behalf of the customer.

 

Listening, Experimenting, Inventing and Delighting defines the mindset.Leveraging user research and making user feedback available to everyone defines structure

 

Being Prepared to adapt against constantly changing needs, wants and expectations define the process.Culture, Insights, and Foresight are the cornerstones of customer obsession.

 

“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” – Steve Jobs, for more Product Management Quotes


WHO DO WE BUILD DIGITAL PRODUCT?

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. Customer Obsession is the Science and Art of being proactive with your customer. Anticipating their needs and innovating on their behalf. 

 

“Our job is to figure out what customers are going to want before they do.” – Steve Jobs. for more Product Management Quotes

 

It’s about listening to their verbal and nonverbal feedback. grasping their unpredictable behavior, identifying outlier patterns and eradicating friction in their activities.

 

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.


How To Become A Product Management Guru?

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. 

 

This session will review multiple aspects of Product Management including roles, responsibilities, and keys to success. 


How to Transition into Product Management?

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.


Why Product Manager is the master facilitator?

As a master facilitator, product manager brings together ideas from various stakeholders and disciplines. 

 

possess the capability to Bring together customers, partners to pursue a shared objective

 

Works backwards from impact to the product epics, stories and features review technical and marketing content for relevance to the audience.

 

Acquires competitive intelligence leveraging all types of research

 

Gathers, assembles and presents information to support business case 


HOW IS DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PRODUCT MANAGER ?

As a general manager of the product, he is expected to empower team members by 

 

Attends learning and networking events with the single purpose to improve customers lives by grasping their reality, constraints and experiences 

 

Offering continuous customer orientation trainings for design, technology and business functions to propagate and assimilate customer insights.

 

Brings together key members of the team, facilitates in depth conversations, identifies decision alternatives that have most positive impact on stakeholders.

 

Works with marketing and sales teams to improve win ratios by optimizing qualification and conversion metrics based on evolving grasp of customer persona.

 

Keeps a tab on product operational metrics includings financial results on a regular basis to quantify the output and outcomes.


WHAT ARE THE WAYS TO GAIN A NUANCED UNDERSTANDING OF CUSTOMERS?

Influencer, Decider, Buyers and Users are types of customers. Typical questions of product managers are 

 

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? 

 

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.


WHAT EMPOWERS PRODUCT MANAGER TO BE THE VOICE OF CUSTOMER?

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. Identifies and Validates the priority of needs, Categorizes them 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 DOES A PRODUCT MANAGER CONNECT THE ORGANIZATION ?

A Product Manager is the hub of a wheel that holds the internal organization together

 

A People Person. He is obsessed with assembling 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 pollinates ideas from all disciplines of the organization.


WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF A PRODUCT MANAGER?

Today, More than ever software is programming the world. All of the technology required to transform industries through software finally works and can be widely delivered at global scale. said Marc Andreessen of venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz. for more Product Management Quotes

The rate of change we experience today Is the Slowest It Will Ever Be. In such a fast paced environment, identifying factors that will enable success is a predicament for Product Managers.  

The old ways of working that withstood the test of time are crumbling, the hidden cracks are showing up and there is a heightened need to reinvent working culture and adapt to reality. 

Incremental changes won’t yield. Agile, Lean, Scrum, MVP et all are falling short of expectation. Radical change is the need of the hour.  

Where do we change ? What do we change ? How do we change ? How often should that change happen ? are some questions in the minds of product managers.


WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS FOR DIGITAL PRODUCT SUCCESS?

There is growing realization that product building is a team sport. Shared responsibility and accountability is key to nimble decision making and execution.

While a robust architecture, a badly needed feature or optimal coding are important, they are not deciders of product success. We can give many examples of great engineering gone wrong.

Product Success is a black swan that occurs with a perfect blend of customer empathy, engaging design, lean engineering and empowered business. To make it repeatable occurrence product teams need to get the critical ingredients right. 

Thought Leaders in Product Management like Martin Eriksson, Rich Mironov, Marty Cagan encourage 5 principles for sustainable success.

  1. Assemble a Diverse, Cross-functional and Co-located Team.
  2. Create an environment of Psychological Safety, Autonomy and Purpose. 
  3. Encourage and reward them for beginning with customer pains, problems and goals. 
  4. Pick The Process that Balances Discovery, Definition, Development and Delivery
  5. Set in motion a framework to continuously learn from all types of feedback 

“Leadership requires creating conditions that enable employees to do the kinds of experimentation that entrepreneurship requires” said Eric Ries who pioneered The Lean Startup for more Product Management Quotes


WHAT KIND OF TEAMS SHOULD PRODUCT MANAGERS ASSEMBLE?

It does not make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people to tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs

“A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players” – Steve Jobs for more Product Management Quotes

How many Product Managers grasp what it means to hire smart A+ Players?

Irrespective of the functional orientation, Any productive individual need to master hard and soft skills. 

Hard skills are technical relative to the domain. Expertise and Efficiency are Key to Success.

Soft skills are social skills relative to people. Empathy and Self Control are Key to Success.

A smart A+ player is one who exhibits the perfect blend of hard and soft skills in a given context.

He is exceptional at something. He can listen, learn and interpret other things.


WHAT MAKES A GREAT (A+) PRODUCT TALENT?

A responsive Product organization is normally structured to balance organization vision and customer need.Inside out, it is driven by aspiration to find, mind and grind customers.

Outside in, it is driven by the purpose to build a Desirable, Feasible and Viable product. Both approaches feed the continuous Discovery, Definition and Delivery cycles. 

A great product talent is one who evolves his or her skills depending on the phases of product development and stages of product growth.

A great product talent demonstrates a growth mindset and is focused on delivering consistent value to all stakeholders. Strategic yet Tactical.

Exhibits emotional intelligence, aspiration, drive, empathy, active listening, critical thinking , structured thinking, design thinking, intuition, curiosity, problem finding, problem solving, experimentation, creativity, collaboration, communication, decision making and business acumen.

There is no single person or team that possess all these competencies. Hence, the role of product manager is to anticipate and facilitate the availability of such talent.


WHAT ARE THE STRATEGIC IMPERATIVES FOR PRODUCT SUCCESS?

Any product needs to fulfill 3 criteria to be successful.


It has to alleviate customer pain and enhance experience – Be Desirable.

It has to empower stakeholders with the confidence to forge ahead – Be Feasible.

It has to deliver win-win outcomes without draining resources – Be Viable


Balancing such a complex dynamic is only possible with extraordinary talent who are conscious, nimble and adaptive.


Any Product team member is busy with their things. Product Roadmaps, Customer Interviews, Technology Architecture, Prototypes, Coding, Copywriting and Launching are created and propagated. None of it is yielding expected results. Momentum is lost. Acrimony is amplified. Collaboration Breaks Down and Customer is Left in the Lurch.


Product teams fail to execute when there is imbalance in team composition.


Ignore hiring of smart A+ players at your own peril. organizations with weak talent get busted sooner or later. The real challenge is that problem with a dysfunctional team isn’t obvious.


“Everyone’s fault. No one’s fault.” A sense of accountability is the driving force for high performance teams.


WHAT EMPOWERS PRODUCT TEAMS?

Product managers don’t have an option other than to play their best game every time. Finding such contextually relevant co-creators is hard but not impossible.


It all begins with defining organizational purpose, principles, values and drivers. Creating a culture of shared ownership, common language, reciprocative expectations and mutual empowerment enhances trust.


In addition to focus on hiring individual talent, experts recommend assembling a cross functional team of designers, developers, business and relevant domain experts to form the core unit of execution.


Teams can only play their best games when there is autonomy of decisions and actions. Finding people with the right mindset and attitudes improves communication, cohesion and collaboration.


Daniel H. Pink author of Drive stated “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” for more Product Management Quotes


Dear Product Managers, Your job is to make people awesome.


HOW CULTURE LEADS TO PRODUCT SUCCESS?

“Product Management is not about the product but about the people” said Martin Eriksson of “Mind the Product” for more Product Management Quotes


There is a growing realization that the strength of products are founded on the capability of people and the culture binding them.

As per Harvard Business Review, cultural norms is the tacit social order of an organization that defines what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected within a group. Culture is the result of teams giving up on fixed mindset and embracing a growth mindset.


It all begins with aligning different teams to a shared vision of the future. Establishing a learning process to Improve everyday. Accepting accountability in pursuit of common goals. Being comfortable challenging each others assumptions.


Healthy interactions among team is fostered when a team member appreciates his peers. Overcoming inhibitions and feeling confident in front of his/her team fosters collaboration. Demonstrating Transparency, Commonality, Credibility, Reliability and respect during interactions with enhances trust.


Unshacke the critical, creative, and curious perspectives of team members in pursuit of excellence.


In fast paced environments like product development, continuous change is necessary to be responsive. We need people who feel safe enough to nudge for that change.


Product Culture will need to evolve with the the growth of your company. We need to balance respect for our culture, with an openness to change it as needed. As a product manager, you need to maintain a team that is open to adapt.


HOW DO PRODUCT LEADERS FOSTER A COLLABORATIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT?

Move away from output to outcomes said Lea Hickman of Silicon Valley Product group (SVPG). for more Product Management Quotes


Biggest cause of headache and heartache in teams is Friction within team, among teams and stakeholders.


Friction is a normal outcome of us being together. Motive boils down to the need for reinforcing our individual identity and sustaining our tribal identity.


It’s like in a Marriage, where occasional tiff’s lead to stronger bonding. Not all friction is bad. A healthy dose of it is essential to bring out the best in individuals and teams.


WorkPlace Performance Studies have found that deficiencies in Leadership, Communication, Alignment, Engagement, Accountability, Competence and Decision Making as causes of friction and resulting low productivity.


Depending on team size and interconnections, friction is multiplied and amplified. Layers of bureaucracy have never been found to deliver high performance.


Control reduced friction in factory floors where knowledge disparity is rampant. Leaders in Digital Products succeed by empowering knowledge workers with information parity so as to innovate on behalf of the customers.


Innovative teams are purposeful, aligned, autonomous and collaborative.


WHY IS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE CRITICAL TO TEAM SUCCESS?

Successful products are built by people who are bound together by purpose and are intrinsically motivated to collaborate.

In other words, people who grasp the need to continuously improve their competencies through persistent effort.

A lifelong learner inspired by success of others. Carol Dweck calls it “Growth Mindset” .

Industry leaders like Jamie Talbot of medium.com are looking for people who recognize the existence of multiple perspectives, demonstrate sensitivity to other People and exhibit an ability to Imagine thinking and feeling of others.

Great Teams are shaped by emotionally Intelligent and competent contributors.

Where can we find such people?

How do we structure hiring to identify them?

How do we nurture them for performance?

are some very important questions product managers should be focused on in every stage of team development. 


WHY IS EMPATHY SUCH AN IMPORTANT SKILL?

Product teams can make anything they wish. In a constantly changing environment, the challenge is to make something people Love.


Good products are built based on grasping the needs. Truly Great products are built based on grasping the feelings.


Empathy is the ability to hear, see, think, feel, say, do and experience like others. Customer and Colleague alike.


Why is empathy so important ?


“For every Action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Like cosmos and physical things human behavior is reactionary. For every behavior you exhibit towards others, they exhibit a response. Positive or Negative.


Higher density of positive behavior means that relationships are healthy and primed for mutual benefit. A load of negative behavior is one of top reason for product failures.


Holding the internal team accountable for empathetic behavior is essential for delighting the customers.


Why should digital products espouse empathy?

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget ‘how you made them feel.” for more Product Management Quotes


A market is defined by a set of potential customers who have a set of needs. Needs are fulfilled by products or services with attractive value propositions. Market environments are lopsided. It’s either tilted in favor of the seller or the buyer.


Need groups due to their shared interest reference each other when making a buying decisions. They constantly evaluate their experience and put undue pressure on vendors to make something that suits them.


Precisely why, all innovative products must overcome odds and years of obscurity before they can be demand positive. Crossing the chasm and emerging as a mass market favorite requires customer loyalty.


World of subscription driven intangible products like software is even more daunting as the product needs to keep up with customer evolution and continuously delight them.


If we want users to like our software we should design it to behave like a likeable person: respectful, generous and helpful.


In other words, the software built anticipating the changing needs of the customers and need groups will stand out.


Given the plethora of choices, a sensitive, personal and humane touch will differentiate your promise. A product can only match such ideals with conscious empathy of the teams involved.


Why Product Teams should focus on Customer needs ?

People don’t buy from you because they understand what you do. People buy from you because you understand what they do.

What’s in it for me is the subconscious drive propelling individuals within groups, organizations and nations.

Competing priorities of life, human psychology and market led culture all reinforce the need to maximize self gain. Decision to purchase a product is no exception.

Based on multiple research, it is found that we humans have 10+ intrinsic desires.

Thinking, Association, Acceptance, Competence, Influence, Autonomy, Relationship, Stability, Purpose and Status are things associated with career and work.

As a customer, heightened need for gain and improvements is a reaction to insecurities about perceived deficiencies in status quo.

A buyer goes through a journey of discovery with a clear purpose. Transition from dissatisfaction to satisfaction. Transform Painful Experiences to Gainful Outcomes.


What drives customer behavior ?

Students of psychology and human behavior use several words to explain the intangibles. Emotions, Feelings, Drive, Motive, instincts, decisions, Needs, Wants, Desires, Impulses, Jobs etc.

Abstractions with no clear cut and universally agreed definition. They help explain the causation of our behavior.

Notwithstanding the levels and depths of their layers, the world of business uses a few terms to explain the journey of a human from skeptic to customer.

Applying these terms to distinguish groups helps businesses focus on high potential options.

People with needs are said to have immediate propensity for action. Business Scientists further categorize needs to unworkable, unavoidable, urgent and underserved in order to give a criterion for investors to weigh the business case tradeoffs.

Customers are only worried about their need that must be fulfilled.


What causes shift in customer loyalty ?

“Humans are allergic to change … ” – Grace Hopper for more Product Management Quotes

Have you ever wondered how facebook out competed myspace, google vanquished yahoo, instagram outsmarted flickr, salesforce over sap etc ?

There are more examples of winners and the vanquished in both the b2c and b2b markets.

incumbents while leading the way have to work day and night to fend off competition from existing and new entrants.

How is it possible that the things we rave about today becomes obsolete tomorrow ?

What does the consumer see different that they ditch the current solution for the new ?

In hindsight, we can be philosophical about innovation, disruption or dig deeper to find out the causes. In order to fathom how facebook outsmarted myspace, one needs to grasp how myspace outcompeted it’s predecessors.

Some users wanted their own page to express, some wanted to overcome their social inhibition to find pals, some wanted to hook up, some wanted a friendster alternative, some to find lost friends, some to advertise… you get the idea ?

Change happens only when the new solutions can delight the customers with a 10x better solution. (kano model)


How can Product Teams ensure customer loyalty ?

Customers are married to their own goals. They choose best options within their constraints.

Sometimes vanity matters while in other occasions value matters. Everything is relative to their journey in life and the compulsions of their existence.


Customer Loyalty is a function of how well we understand their head and heart. As long as there is no better alternative, they stick to their existing relationship.


Happy Customers is a mirage. Satisfying them requires being ahead of their expectations and anticipating their needs.


Mike Jones, the former head of MySpace stated, “.. the world had been trained by MySpace that social networking was interesting, but the actual product had been perfected by Facebook”


Availability of an improved choice accelerates change. Moving droves of users away from their existing choice.


From chat rooms to social networks to messenger to …, the need for interaction, engagement, appreciation, association remains unchanged while the tools fulfilling those needs evolve with environmental impetus.


“People hire a product or service to get the job done” says Clayton Christensen. Jobs to be done is a framework to explain human choices and change behavior.


Journey to give up on old ways in favor of the New way.


What is the thinking behind customer purchase decisions ?

Everything we consume is hired. Take a sample case of ordering food online. you need to be hungry, it is breakfast, lunch or dinner time, there is no food at home, have other work to complete and need help.


We don’t order every meal online. Sometimes we cook, go out to dine, take food at office. As per BJ Fogg, the behavioral psychologist a unique combination of trigger, abilities and motivation lead to a particular behavior.


We have different choices under different circumstances yet consistent in our behavior. quite easy for us to fire with the same panacea we hire.


What explains our behavior of protracted choices ?


Bob Moesta a leading consultant explain this using the forces model. he hypothesized an internal struggle justifying favorable and unfavorable arguments for consumption.


There are Push (internal and external) and Pull (expectation, outcome) forces accelerating the “why’s” to consume.


There are also habits (internal and external) and concerns (self doubt and trust deficit ) that are stifling consumption and explaining “why not” ?.


Hiring and Firing are deliberate choices. Manifestation of conscious, unconscious pain avoidance and gain seeking.


Last updated Dec. 1, 2018

Founder + Product Discovery Trainer

Digital Product leadership

mcoach

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