Product management is the process of developing products that provide value both for the users and the business
Product managers gather requirements from (potential) users and the business, justify, plan and execute product ideas.
What Is Easy to Get Wrong
The job of a product manager is about getting users into the habit of receiving value. You should always start with what value is actually being created and how people will discover that value as illustrated by Chamath Palihapitiya:
I don't want you to give me any product plans that revolve around this idea of virality. I don’t want to hear it. What I want to hear about is the three most difficult and hard problems that any consumer product has to deal with. How to get people on the front door? How to get them to an “Aha” moment as quickly as possible? And then how do you deliver core product value as often as possible? After all of that is said and done only then can you propose to me how you are going to get people to get more people. That single decision about not even allowing the conversation to revolve around this last thing in my opinion was the most important thing that we did [in growing Facebook].
It’s the discipline to not optimize for the thing that gives you the shortest and most immediate ROI because that is never the sustainable thing that allows you to build something useful.
This lesson could be summed up as:
- build it in the right flow (i.e. distribution),
- reduce time to setup & a-ha,
- increase value delivery frequency.
Remember, monetization is the output of usage.
Not Being Explicit About What's Being Tested
It's easy to fall into the feature trap - building features instead of solving problems. Writing out which hypothesis you are testing helps to keep the focus.
Jumping Straight Into Building
"If the schedule is long, the design is wrong. If it's tight, it's right." — Elon Musk
The most precious time in a SaaS company is engineer's time. Only build stuff after you've confirmed with users that they'll actually need it. To do that, you need to test it (more on the tools below).
Write down the hypothesis, test it, then build it.
Most things can be tested within a day (quite often together with marketing), at the extreme in a week (for example, using Design Sprints).
Optimizing Something That Shouldn't Exist
"The best part is no part. The best process is no process." — Elon Musk
Just because someone has built something, doesn't mean it makes sense (anymore). Simplifying the product might actually mean better engagement. Compare Whatsapp and Skype, for example.
Not Leaving Time For Polishing
Roadmaps sometimes just list feature after a feature. Leave breathers between building different features. Use them to dive into issues and fix the problems. They also might change your roadmap.
Product strategy is not a list of features. It's based on insights gathered from research and focuses only on which big problems to solve. Ideally, you'd want to solve problems that are both big and frequent.
Types of Product Work
There are four types of product work:
- Feature work - improving current use cases and value prop;
- Market-product fit expansion - adding new use cases (and/or products) that create new value props;
- Growth work - growing the number of users by working on activation, growth loops, and habit loops;
- Scaling work - optimizing the underlying technologies or processes to make other types of work more effective.
When you start out you hardly have a process. As the company matures you need to make processes more formal.
A good starting point is to set up four different processes for the four different research phases: discover, design, develop, and deploy.
It's also worth spending time on how different parts of the organization feed back into the product org.
Tools For Testing And Risk Reduction
- Painted Door - feature appears to be functioning but is actually only there to test expressing interest
- Wizard of Oz - something that appears to be automated is done actually manually behind the scenes
- Provisional test - breaking bigger tests down into smaller ones with their own hypothesis
- Targeted user release - roll out tests only to a portion of users
- Design sprint - originally a five-day process for answering critical business questions (from designing to testing on potential users)
The best test is monitoring actual users. But you can use Jakob Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics to catch the most common errors before letting users see the solution:
- Visibility of system status
- Match between system and the real world
- User control and freedom
- Consistency and standards
- Error prevention
- Recognition rather than recall
- Flexibility and efficiency of use
- Aesthetic and minimalist design
- Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
- Help and documentation
- Start with insights and agree on problems
- Choose tests with high impact but low visibility (un-owned real-estate or flows not experienced every day by executives)
- Show your work
- Work within the cultural boundaries
The Opportunity Solution Tree
The opportunity solution tree is a tool by Teresa Torres for continuously discovering the problem and solution space.
It helps to slow down before building something and to consider more opportunities and ideas that connect to what we actually want to achieve.
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