How important is a Product Manager’s Role for Great Product Innovations?
Great Product Manager’s Roles, Responsibilities and Characteristics
These are my summary of recent publication by Marty Cagan of Silicon Valley Product Group - Behind Every Great Product
Product Manager Roles and Responsibilities:
1. Evaluate product ideas (which one worth pursuing). The best product ideas often derives from real unfulfilled customer needs.
2. Assess what it needs for the product to succeed. Prevent the company from wasting time an money for pursuing poor opportunity.
3. Define the right product at the right time. Product needs to have the right features for the right market and need to be delivered within the right market time window.
4. Produce the product economically enough to be profitable.
5. Road map to identify what’s next after minimal viable product is released.
6. Leading (not managing), persuade and get the buy ins from the extended product team (e.g., product engineers, testers, marketer, etc.)
7. Evangelize her product internally to the team and externally to customers, sponsors, etc. Ensure that people understand and support her product, especially to the executive management, sales and marketing people.
8. Represent the target customer. Consider the customer for every decision that impacts the customer. Make sure that final resulting product is compelling to the customer.
Characteristic of good product managers
Personal Traits (traits that are very difficult to teach) of a great Product Manager.
1. Product Passion. This is essential ingredients to produce a great product.
2. Customer Empathy. Product Manager does not necessarily have to come from target market but need to respect, empathize and want to the “enlighten” the target market.
3. Innate Intelligence. Must be sharp and able to learn very quickly.
4. Work Ethic. Not afraid of hard work with crazy time schedule.
5. Integrity and Fairness. Be honest, understand varies roles and trust others to do their job.
6. Confidence. Able to inspire others by reflecting her confidence.
7. Communication Skills. Able to make her case to persuade others via writing, speaking or both. Although perfect grammar and pronunciation is not required.
1. Knowledge of Customer. Getting answer from customers via survey, interviews and report by industry analyst is often ineffective. So what can you do to find what product can solve customer problems?
“In most cases, if you ask a customer directly what she wants, she’ll tell you she wants what she already has, only faster, better and cheaper. Further, she has little idea about possible innovations in technology that may enable whole new ways of approaching the problem – she is very likely spending her day doing something other than tracking the newest technology. What you can do is actually watch your customer. You can study how she actually
uses your products or your competitor’s products – what she actually does rather than what she says or thinks she does. This is not meant as a slight to customers. We all do this. The good product manager understands this. You can watch your customer either in her environment (referred to as a field study), or you can bring her in to your facility or a shared usability lab. While it can be expensive to visit your customer in her own environment, there is really no substitute for this, and you should try to do as much of this as possible. You can learn a great deal about your customer’s reality by seeing it first-hand. Further, it does not take all that many visits to see the trends and the issues – they will typically jump right out at you.”
“There is one other very important point regarding knowing your customer. It is very natural and all too easy to think of yourself as more like the target customer than you really are. The reason this is so dangerous is that when we come to think of ourselves as a proxy for our customers, we apply a very different standard to the product. There are many negative consequences of this confusion, but the most common is an unusable product. For example, you may be able to learn and use your product quite easily, yet the actual
target customer, who is not immersed in the world of similar products, may find the product overwhelming, complicated, frustrating, and completely unusable.”
2. Knowledge of Products. Fully understand her product capabilities.
3. Knowledge of Competitors. Learn competitors mistakes and successes to find opportunities to do better.
1. No Excuses. Take responsibility of the success of failure of her product. She sees herself as the CEO of the product.
2. Defining Success. Able to define success in terms success of the product in making customers happy, satisfied and the product’s ability to generate relevant business profit.
“Success is not the shipping of the product – countless bad products have shipped. Success is also not the lack of defects in the shipped product – the product may work perfectly but still not be useful. It is also not having a single live customer – especially if pandering to that one customer over the needs of the many is the price that was paid. The key is to make absolutely clear to your product manager that it is all about having a successful product. It is not about how many hours she works, or how thick her specifications are, or how many meetings she attends. The product must meet its business goals, and that starts with the right product.”
3. Nothing Sacred. Willing to admit mistakes, evolve and make necessary corrections.
“The simple reason so many fast-followers are successful is that they see the mistakes of their predecessors, and as they are less attached to the original vision, they quickly attack the real opportunity.”
Skills are important but can be learned assuming the presence of personal traits discussed above.
1. Applying Technology. Understand how technology works and can be applied to solve relevant problems.
“The key here is to not simply find an application for a given cool technology. There are already far too many technology-based products out there looking for a problem to solve. Rather, you want to start with the pressing problem you’re trying to solve for the customer, and then look opportunistically and creatively at the array of technologies available that might be able to help. There are many ways to develop this skill. Taking classes, reading books and articles, and talking with engineers and architects can all help you learn. Ask the senior engineers on your product team what they would recommend as ways to learn more about the technology possibilities. Brainstorming sessions with the engineering team is
another way to learn how new technologies might be applied.”
2. Focus. Focus on the key problem to be solved, those that the majority of the customers love, and don’t get distracted - able “not to succumb to creeping featurism, or the loud voices of a few key people or customers”. She needs to write down her product vision and its three main objectives - For example, it might be “create the world’s favorite Internet auction-based trading site” as a vision, with the priorities of “1) easy to use; 2) safe; and 3) fun.”
3. Time Management. Able to differentiate urgent vs important.
4. Written Skills. Able to write in clear and concise manner.
5. Presentation Skills. Able to clearly present what is the product all about, why it is important and WHY the targeted audience should care.
6. Business Skills. Understand and communicate the language that business people understand.
“They need to be able to converse equally well with engineers about technology as with executives and marketers about cost structures, margins, market share, positioning and brand. This is one reason why so many product managers are recruited out of business school.”
Lastly, the author summarized that:
“Behind every great product there is a person with great empathy for the customer, insight into what is possible, and the ability to see what is essential and what is incidental. This person has a deep understanding of the customer as well as her own teams’ capabilities. She operates from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence. She thinks in terms of delivering superior value to the marketplace, and she defines good products that can be executed with a strong effort.
This person may have the title of product manager, or may happen to be anyone on the product team from an engineer to a company founder – the key is that this role must exist and the responsibilities carried out by someone with the skills and talents the tasks demand.”
To find a great Product Manager, the personal “hard-to-learn” skills are fundamental. The rest of the skills can be trained. MBA graduate is neither required nor it is a must-have. Someone who is currently wearing a different hat within your company could be a great Product Manager. Notice people within the company who often ask how can she/he be more involved in the product.
The good product manager is constantly obsessed with the current and future state of her product. These are some of the questions that the good product manager is constantly asking herself:
• Is my product compelling to our target customer?
• Have we made this product as easy to use as humanly possible?
• Will this product succeed against the competition? Not today’s competition, but the competition that will be in the market when we ship?
• Do I know customers that will really buy this product? Not the product I wish we were going to build, but what we’re really going to build?
• Is my product truly differentiated? Can I explain the differentiation to a company executive in two minutes? To a smart customer in one minute? To an industry analyst in 30 seconds?
• Will the product actually work?
• Is the product a whole product? How will customers actually think about and buy the product? Is it consistent with how we plan to sell it?
• Are the product’s strengths consistent with what’s important to our customers?
Are we positioning these strengths as aggressively as possible?
• Is the product worth money? How much money? Why? Can customers get it cheaper elsewhere?
• Do I understand what the rest of the product team thinks is good about the
product? Is it consistent with my own view?
I hope my summary can help you become a great Product Manager of spot one as it is obviously a crucial element of great product innovations.
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5 great gifts that unlock limitless freedom from danger, animosity and oppression for everyone
1. Gift of loving-kindness and compassion to every living beings - practice abstention from taking life.
2. Gift of patience to get the right means of livelihood - practice abstention from taking what is not given.
3. Gift of self-control to immoral sexual behavior - practice abstention from sexual misconduct.
4. Gift of truthfulness; justness, sincerity, loyalty and gratitude - practice abstention from false speech.
5. Gift of watchfulness in food, drink, eating habit - practice abstention from partaking of intoxicants.
Furthermore, when practiced virtuously - the abstentions from taking life, what is not given, sexual misconduct, false speech and taking intoxicants, the practitioner earns a share in limitless freedom from danger, animosity and oppression. Thus, he/she will accumulate the followings:
-A good reputation among the wise and virtuous
-Freedom from remorse
-Peaceful death without fear or confusion
References and further readings:
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Live Life with No Regret
Evaluating at the top 5 regrets of the dying, I think there is more reason to live a fulfilling life by focusing on doing something meaningful. I am confidence that I share the feeling with many others about the importance of having a fulfilling life.
The top number 1 regret has something to do with people holding on to fear to fulfill their dream in life. Many have decided to lower the priority or even forego the opportunity to do something meaningful in their life including taking care of their health before it is too late. Thus, they ended up doing something they don’t like, work in something they don’t believe in, too sick to do anything fun and regret it later in life.
Why not just start focusing on doing something more meaningful in life. Start fighting hungers, make education more accessible to everyone, reduce unnecessary blindness or just as simple as be nicer to everyone you see from now on.
Easier said than done right?
Maybe. Some people are in the better position than others financially, they have more leisure than others to do what they want to do in life. Some appear to have more options than others to choose what they like to do. However, I found that there is no direct correlation. People in better financial position and those with more options to choose for in life don’t always have a more fulfilling life than their counterparts.
We all have a choice to change, at the very least we can start by changing the perspective or the mindset of WHY we do what we do now and find something meaningful in it. Thus, even if we don’t change what we do now, we can make it more fulfilling by realizing that what we do now matter to others. I found that when we deeply observe what it is that each of us do in life, we start to realize that there is something meaningful that we provide to ourselves and/or others. This could be the good start to more fulfilling life. Then, through these observations and willingness to improve, we are becoming more aware of what we do now and more reactive to the opportunities that life presented to us to make life more meaningful. From there, now is up to each of us whether to let go the fear and start maximizing our true potentials in life.
Solving this number 1 regret shall naturally solve number 2 and may even solve the other 3 as well.
Here are the top 5 regrets people have on their deathbed as written by Bronnie Ware based on statements made by her patients in Palliative Care.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
More details here
I would like to hear your wisdom on this. Please comment or email your comment to andis at esolutech dot com.
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If you let me so, here is how:
1. Please email me your holiday wishes (please email only those good wishes you are comfortable sharing with me. I don’t know whether you have been good or bad :)). Limit up to 2 wishes per person please.
2. I promise to personally read each and every wish I receive before December 25, 2011 and
3. I will deeply pray and make a wishful thought that your wishes will come true in the best possible way.
NOTE: Results are not guaranteed but my best wishes are!
May all of you be happy and merry!
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