When someone first asked me a few years ago about my product philosophy, it sounded a bit pompous. I think up and deliver products that deliver value to consumers and businesses, and felt there wasn’t much more to it than that.
Over the years, however, I’ve given it more thought and tried to unpick some of the common themes in the ways in which I develop and manage products. I’d be lying if I said that I wake up every single day, thinking about my product philosophy. So what does having a product philosophy give me:
A reference framework for making tough tradeoff decisions
A go-to-guide for the battles I should / should not pick
A vision for how I measure my success as a product manager
A flexible, evolving approach to product management and innovation
I’m fully aware that my product philosophy sounds pretty obvious and straightforward. And it is. And it should be. Here’s why:
Because when I talk about building “the right product”, I’m talking about doing the right thing by the customer
And when I talk about building it “right”, I’m talking about adding value iteratively and continuously
Yes, it’s that simple (to me anyway).
1. It’s about the customer. Period. – Being customer centric doesn’t mean that I automatically do whatever the customer says. Instead, I use customer problems, data and feedback to shape products and services, constantly validating my assumptions and hypotheses with (target) customers. I won’t just build a product, thinking that customers will flock to it automatically!
2. Business value = Customer value – I don’t distinguish between business value and customer value. Solving customer problems or needs delivers business value.
3. Deliver value / get feedback early and often – Lengthy ‘big-bang’ type projects are dead. Instead I will always try to break things down in small iterations, releasing and getting tangible customer feedback early and often.
4. Don’t be afraid to make tough decisions – Product management is like your Christmas wish list; you can’t have it all! Not in one go anyway. I’m not afraid to say “no” and make tough trade off decisions. To do so, I’ll look at available options and assess metrics such as cost of delay and return on investment.
5. Stay curious and keep doubting myself – The day I stop asking “why” is the day I stop being an effective product manager. I accept that doubting my beliefs or assumptions isn’t a bad thing, provided I translate this doubt into constant exploration and learning. I don’t want to be a ‘product janitor’ who just executes a bunch of predetermined features.
6. Solve problems, achieve outcomes – I want to keep looking for problems to solve, and treat solutions as a secondary aspect. I define tangible outcomes to achieve for my customers and my business.
7. Don’t forget about risks – I challenge myself and others to continuously look at potential risks involved in a product, throughout its entire lifecycle. Whether the risk is related to the customer, technology, regulation or financial considerations, I won’t shy away from trying to identify and mitigate risks as early and often as possible.