As the clock turns past midnight, it’s officially a new year — out with 2014 and in with 2015! If you’re anything like me, 2014 was an interesting year, full of both challenges and opportunities, as is every year as a Product Manager. As we’re looking forward into 2015, I thought it was appropriate to provide a list of the top five New Year’s resolutions for Product Managers of all shapes, sizes, and experience levels.
Archives for December 2014
Product Management is often seen as a simple matter of inputs and outputs — we take information from the field, from the market, or from the users, and we create new products and features that meet their needs. If only it were that simple! Customers rarely know what they really want, although they can be very vocal about what they “need”; sales teams are often focused on the last deal they lost or the next deal they’re trying to close, and market intelligence can often be muddied by statements and claims by competitors and thought leaders which can be hard to distinguish marketing spin from product fact.
This is why it’s important for a successful, clever Product Manager to ensure that they have a view not only of the “product” that they’re specifically working on creating requirements, specs, and user stories for, but the “whole product” that the company is selling. If you silo yourself to only viewing the “product” as the particular piece of technology or a specific solution to a specific set of problems, you’ll inevitably be missing the bigger picture of how people use your product, why they use your product, and most importantly where your “product” fails to meet the needs of the users — and where those gaps are being filled in by others, either internal to your company or external groups making money where you should be focusing product.
Roadmaps are a pretty popular topic whenever Product Managers congregate — whether that’s online or at events like ProductCamp. It’s also one of the things that new Product Managers or Product Managers moving into a new role in an organization often struggle with. It doesn’t help matters that different companies, different execs, and even different product managers can often have entirely different opinions about what a roadmap is, what it looks like, and what it’s supposed to be used for.
But the Clever PM has never been one to shy away from a challenge or from a controversial issue — so let’s take a closer look at exactly what product roadmaps are, why they’re important, and what you should probably include (or exclude!) from yours.
There have been numerous situations in my career as a Product Manager where I’ve come into a project or product that’s so established and critical to client success that there’s a strong hesitancy on the part of anyone to dig in and muck with what’s “working”, even if it’s not really “working” in the eyes of the customer or user. This is, sadly, the fate of many B2B applications that have been in place for more than 5 years or so — B2B systems tend to be designed to meet specific goals and specific purposes, then have additional capabilities “bolted on” afterward, with little or no attention paid to how everything works together or what the overall user experience is.
And, what you wind up with in those cases is a runaway bus that needs to have the engine tuned, the wheels changed, the outside painted, and the upholstery redone — all while the bus remains in transit, and while it’s entirely full of passengers.
Each of the main characters in HBO’s adaptation of G.R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones have their own motivations and methods that forward their goals, for good, evil, or something in between. And a careful examination of those characters reveals some common risks that Product Managers (and other roles) face in the business world on a daily basis. Here are five examples of things that any clever Product Manager can learn from watching Game of Thrones:
This is part 3 of a series of articles about leading through influence. The first article focused on the concept of social capital and how we earn the right to ask people to follow us; the second focused on how to use effective facilitation skills to establish yourself as a valuable resource for others to reach decisions; and this article will focus on the importance of trust and respect, and how ultimately everything that we do as Product Managers comes down to these two fundamental interpersonal concepts.
It’s constantly surprising to me that people seem to have such widely different ideas of what the term “MVP” or “Minimally Viable Product” really means. Perhaps it’s a result of the term becoming an industry buzzword, or perhaps it’s because it’s used in some very different contexts, but it always baffles me that people focus on the “minimal” part of the term and completely forget the “viable” and “product” side of things. To me, you don’t have an MVP unless you meet all three criteria:
- You have identified the minimum set of features necessary to engage your users and to solve their valuable problem;
- You have identified a way to ensure that your solution is scalable enough, stable enough, and valuable enough that you can confirm your product hypothesis; and
- You actually have something that you can sell, market, or test.
Whenever I think of what MVP means to me, I think of Dropbox, the cloud-based file-sharing system that pretty much encapsulates everything that an MVP should be.