Every product manager derives his/her action from a systemic thinking and the approaches he/she take makes a significant impact to the product they craft. In Product management, there is no right or wrong approach and these are often context or culture driven. A sustainable success has defined the purity of these approaches in my product management philosophy.
My product Philosophy:
Start with Why: At the core of every decision “start with a why”. The solution becomes fluid and effective when we communicate our “why” clearly. Every function in an organization focuses on one or more parts of the Golden Circle. When the entire organization argues and agrees on a single clear why, they row faster. A clear why designs a clear goal and helps you in identification of right customers and their true problems rather than building a feature factory for everyone. If your organization/product BU can’t zero-in one one single goal, then a lot of homework needs to be done than rework later. Ensure everyone understands that single goal. You can’t have two goal-post on same side in a footbal field. Ask everyone what is the goal of the organization for Year 21/22 and if you hear differences then resolve that before building product..
Aquila non capit muscas: Understand your strength and audience. If your organization is sales driven, there are higher chances that you may stretch your product/products to cover competition. While competitors try to position your non-coverage, don’t fall into the trap of extending coverage. As and when organizations scale, they get into diverse areas and some of the core products’ directions get affected. Understand the difference between stretch and scale. At times its OK to lose certain customers and market. Don’t try to serve all that competition does. Always understand your customers better than your competitors, that’s the way to beat them than covering check boxes in product comparison sheets. Understand your organization and product’s positioning, and sometimes competing on stretch aspects can slow you down or dilute your core competencies.
Compete today, dominate tomorrow: Have a customer journey for a longer horizon so that customers and organizations understand how the world is shaping up and how you are levelling up the experience one at a time. The horizon can depend upon the industry and segment. In B2C the technology adoption cycle is fast whereas for B2B enterprises the adoption and transitions take time. For large enterprises serving B2B customers a 3-5 years of vision is must to incept the journey. If you keep looking at a 1 year or 2 year roadmap then your product will get engrossed in the web and may find it difficult to come out from debt. Ensure that while current customer needs are addressed, you don’t lose telescopic sight. Periodically calibrate your long term journey and keep selling the story to everyone in the organization. If required, sometimes you may have to step back to leap.
Minimize bias: Biases act as catalysts or moderators in managing your products. As humans it is difficult to eliminate bias from our decisions and these decisions influence discovery to delivery exercise. Always question the source of the data, credibility and do due diligence to ensure that you have adequate valid information to minimize biases in your decision making. Our biases can reflect and represent only a subset of customers, never the whole. The less is the bias, the better is the understanding of problems at scale. Further, bias is not only applicable to product managers but to organizations also. Every organization has certain type of biases they value, example could be HIPPO voices.Understand and recognize the type of biases that you encounter in different conversations and offer data pointers to neutralize these opinions.
Co-create with customers: In a rapidly changing ecosystem, it is very difficult to validate the experimentation at scale. Customer council is an effective forum comprising some of your power customers with a risk appetite who can act as an active advisory as well as take part in rapid experimentation to validate the product and customer fit. These rapid experimentation can be designed to have an agile product discovery model to ensure prototypes are fast validated and feedbacks are taken into active development cycle. In addition to rapid experimentation, customer councils are one of the most efficient ways to run a “follow me home“, where PMs can get fast access to observe the users and discover right problems. Whenever you have a specific request from the sales team and there is not enough data to validate the problem, take it to the customer council and see if most of them see this as an immediate need or not. If you start solving problems per customer, your product will have enough complexity debt and will become difficult to use.
Not just feature, but time: Often customers demand features and product teams scale headcount to meet the current demands. Customers don’t just demand features, they demand time. While PMs work tirelessly to prioritize, discard features, they do very less to improve their Time to Deliver or the least but most often done is trade off with another feature or requirement. As a PM we need to collaborate with the delivery team to identify areas of investments to deliver faster and with efficiency, so that there won’t be any trade-off for similar sized requirements after a year or 2 years. Investing in your delivery efficiency helps your customers get required solutions without doing any tradeoff with time. Build infrastructure that can accelerate your time to deliver and time to market, which can be a key competitive advantage for your product as well. Time is always implicit in delightful experiences delivered to customers.
Eliminate dependencies and connect: Simplify your customer journey by eliminating their dependencies on professional services, after sales and other functions as these dependencies slow down customers’ time to market and increase organizational overheads. Try to minimize the duration from Unboxing to Up-and running. Focus on entry and exit points of your customer journey and measure how difficult are these entry and exit points or the complexities of dependencies to connect with interfaces. Self-service offers customers choice and efficiency. Invest time in designing products that can minimize or eliminate additional dependencies so that you customers accomplish their goals faster.
Drive consensus: Consensus helps in eliminating conflict and aligning stakeholders. Try to influence, not convince. People are not paid to meet your goals, they are paid for theirs. People feel involved and encouraged when they see that by meeting your goals they can meet theirs. As a PM you need to translate and map their goals to yours. It is easier when fewer teams are involved but becomes complex with more number of teams and functions involved. When multiple products from different business units interact with your product, then drive a consensus with a single prioritized (aka stack ranked) list to ensure the priorities are well understood among everyone and addresses the dilemma faced by the product team when competing priorities surface.
What can’t be measured can’t be improved: Metrics are the measurement of your success and ensures if you have solved the right problem at the right time or not. Classify your product metrics to 2 major categories. 1) customer centric metrics and 2)business centric metrics. To discover problems and measure how the success of the solution among customers track Customer centric metrics like NPS, CSAT, Time spent per month/engagement etc. To drive the consensus among internal stakeholders, business centric metrics are critical as internal stakeholders goals can be immediately tied to business centric goals like revenue, growth rate etc. Before solving any problem, define the current state of metrics and how you expect the metrics to move after you solve this problem and inspect if your solution met the predefined target in metrics.
Always ask for more: If your engineering team is able to deliver the asks consistently then probably you are not pushing them hard or have not pushed them to realize their best. Always ask for more so that you get what you expect, else you will end up delivering less than needed and the market may perceive you as a late player.