Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Learning to be a product manager

I’m back in the USA for a few days attending some seminars on product management. They very good and highly recommended - check out the website links, http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/ and http://www.productmarketing.com/productmarketing/.

As I have said before his blog I have been trying to get to grips with product management and what is it product managers do for while so the seminars most useful. About half material in the seminar is like an MBA refresher course – specifically my marketing modules. The other half is really what do product managers do? And how do they do it?

So to save you the suspense I'll summarise the answer... product managers identify what customers needs and get it delivered.

But there are one or two twists...

First is, it is not what one customers says it is what a set of customers say - that is what the market says not what an individual customer want.

Second twist: it isn't the features the customers ask for that we should build but a solution to their problem. So we have to look beyond the mere feature request to a deeper level to the problem that they are encountering and then we need to build the solution.

So if a customer asks for the colour to be changed you have to ask: why? If the answer is simply that this customer doesn't like the colour then probably it is insignificant.

But if you find that many customers are asking for the change and when you look into it you find it is because you're product appeals the colour blind users then there is a legitimate reason to change the colour - there is a problem to solve.

But to properly solve the problem you have to make sure you change the colour in such a way that colour blind users can use the software. There is no point changing from one colour to another if it doesn't improve situation.

Picking up another theme of this blog, nothing I have heard here contradicts what I've written about Lean Thinking. In fact I think to ideas are completely complimentary.

  • Lean thinking says: reduce waste - specifically don't do work that you don't need too, and when you do solve the problem solve it completely, no half measures.
  • Product management says: only do the work that directly benefits the customer, work that we have qualified and will help the customer. And when you do it solve the problem completely there's no point in only solving half the customers problem.

So seems to me that both sides are saying the same thing don't do work that nobody wants. That may seem pretty obvious but it seems pretty difficult to actually do.