in Product Management

My Thoughts on Being a Good Product Manager

Product Managers are special. I know. Lets do the right thing and be good product managers that build right products for our customers.

Its Not Just About The Next Big Thing

Product management is not just about defining the next big product to be built. It is also about managing existing products, whether they are the products that are already in the market or products that are nearing its end.

Managing products that are nearing its end is way more complex than managing new products. You as a product manager will have to make the tough decisions on axing customer requests or prioritizing what gets fixed or even convincing the entire team for a fix.

Unlike in startups, in large established companies, it is quite natural that you will have to manage existing or old products along with the next big thing. I think this will be a great opportunity for you to show your product management skills on how effectively you are able to assess, prioritize features for different product portfolios.

A good product manager is always listening and on the hunt for new products or what value(s) to add into the product. Always keep a backlog.

Know Your Product, Know Your Users, and Customers

This is product management 101 — Know your product, Know your users, and customers.

As the product manager, you are the face of the product. There is a reason why you are the product manager for the product – there is an audience craving for it. Go find them, meet them (online or in-person or whatever works best for you), discuss why is this product so important for them.

It is key you differentiate users and customers. An easy way to distinguish between the two is that — Users are those who may use your product but customers are the ones who ultimately pay for your product. In other words, do your homework.

Ask for Data

You might get a lot of requests for new features from some special customers or even peers or even from the engineering team. Do not accept any such thing. At least, initially.

Ask for data. If there is no data, ask for customer references and scenarios that might help you prioritize these requests. You don’t want to be blamed later when that feature fails and asked how & why a decision was made to build this this feature.

User Experience is Key

There is nothing important than pleasing your customers and let them do what they want to do effectively with your product. If your product cannot help your customers in what they want to do, then most probably they are not going to use it. Key to this is building the right user experience in your product.

Get help from your user experience team, involve them early in the product cycle, conduct usability studies and refine your product along the way.

Pick Your Battles

As the product manager, you will have to convince your team (designers, engineering, marketing) and bring them on-board on your product journey. Sometimes, you will need to pick the right battles to get things done.

Meaning, you may need to fight for your product or a feature that you are convinced that meets the bar and should be available for customers in the next update.

Key thing here is that you are fighting for your product and not with people. Your goal is to bring the team along with you.

Make Friends, Not Enemies

Product managers don’t build products. Product managers work with other teams — engineering, design, user experience etc., to build the right product. So, make sure you make a lot of friends along the way.

Be Patient. You are not alone. Learn to Listen. — You will be a great Product Manager.

Dogfood!

— Make sure you use your product more than anybody else when your team is building it.

— Match it with your product specification document or product requirements document or whatever you have.

— Break the system. Find bugs. Find scenarios that fail and see how your product reacts. And make sure you file the bugs and get them fixed along the way!

— Evangelize the product internally. Ask your peers to use the product and get their feedback.

— Get early adopters that are eager to test alpha, beta releases of your product. Make sure you have a medium for them to send feedback.

Product Released! — Now What? — Work is Not Done Yet

Yep. Just because you released your first version of your product, doesn’t mean it is the end. The journey has just started.

This is the perfect time to feel proud of what you accomplished, meet customers, see how they like the product. And, evangelize your product.

It is also the perfect time to start analyzing the data that you are collecting from your valuable customers.

Always Remember the Big Picture

— What is your product?

— What does it do today?

— Why does it do what does it do today?

— What are our customers saying about the product?

— How are our customers using the product?

— What value can we add to the product?

— Where is our product going with its current usage?

— Should we pivot to (y) from (x)?

— Build. Measure. Learn.

So, lets be good product managers and build products that our customers love!

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