22
Jul 15

You Might Be Surprised Which Product Management Activity Is Most Important

podcast-image-origFundamentally, there are three top-level activities in product management:

  1. Find and validate market problems
  2. Create a solution to one of those problems
  3. Take the solution to market

Like any model, this is somewhat simplified. Each of these main activities covers a lot of ground! But it’s pretty good for doing some high-level thinking – about where we should be spending our time, and about the tools we use to be more effective.

Because we are product managers and technologists, we love to focus on #2 – creating the solution. But #3 – going to market – is more important than the product. And #1 – finding and validating market problems – is by far the most important. If you’re in doubt about this, consider Kickstarter. Many successful Kickstarter campaigns only have #1 and #3 – they’re raising money for #2, right? If a Kickstarter campaign doesn’t do a good job of #1, then they don’t make any money. And a Kickstarter campaign is by definition a go-to-market effort.

Or consider the long list of failed products in the world. There are multiple reasons for failure, but the most common is “it’s a solution in search of a problem.” The product – no matter its quality or polish – doesn’t solve a market problem, so no one buys it.

I’ve talked a lot in other posts and podcasts about how we don’t have good tools for either #1 or #3. I’m tempted to go on about that here as well. But my real point in this post was to introduce this framework for thinking about product management, and to set the stage for helping us do all these activities better. As I wrote a few weeks ago, if we become more effective at doing product management, everyone benefits. We have a lot of leverage on revenues, profits, and happiness.

So we’ll drill down into “finding and validating market problems” and “taking solutions to market” in the next few weeks. How can we be more effective at these activities, and as a result become more effective product managers?

Let me know if you have specific questions, or thoughts – or disagreements – about this basic framework.


19
Jun 15

What’s the Business Value of PM? Podcast Episode 7

In this podcast I go into a bit more detail about a topic I covered a few weeks ago in The Astonishing Financial Benefits of Improving PM Effectiveness, namely, the “business value” of product management. (By the way, I was happy to see this concept mentioned in Janna Bastow’s post on ProdPad this week – How Much is a Product Manager Worth? Setting Product Management KPIs.)

There’s a very big number involved – $41,000 per day. Or $10 million per year. In the podcast I talk about the implications of that number. If you can improve your performance against this number, the results go almost straight to the bottom line. (Tweet This)

And I set out some guidance on how to use the number to assess your product management organization and analyze your performance. I describe an action plan to hit that giant number, some of the key steps of which are:

  1. Find big market problems by doing constant discovery.
  2. Dozens or hundreds of conversations yield a handful of insights.
  3. You need a “market problem” pipeline – just like the sales pipeline.

(By the way, you’re not going to have time to write a lot of user stories.)

Once you’ve found and validated important market problems to solve, and selected the best one or few to focus on, then you need to guide the creation of excellent solutions to those problems. And you need to prepare sales and marketing to go out and find and close the people who have those problems.

Summary

  • Product managers have a number.
  • You can use the number for assessment, analysis, and guidance.
  • Becoming more effective goes straight to the bottom line.
  • Being more effective is mostly about the problem, not the solution.
  • Better problem leads to more revenue.

A PM’s stock in trade is important market problems that people will pay to solve. If that’s not what we’re working on, we’re probably not going to hit that big number.

And to whet your appetite for some upcoming topics, here’s a chart I created recently. Not all market problems are the same. The ones you come up with on your own are worth, generally, a lot less than the ones you discover. But discovering real big market problems requires a lot of listening for very “weak signals” – that will be a topic for an upcoming podcast.

problem-vs-valueIf you like this podcast, please subscribe via iTunes (search for “responsibility authority” to find the listing) or your favorite subscription method via this feed. And please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on iTunes. The feedback is very helpful for me.


08
Jun 15

Take The Product Management Maturity Quiz

I’ve created this short quiz for you to test your product management maturity. If you read the questions carefully the “right” answers will be clear – but you should try to answer honestly, based on how your product management function currently works.

There are five questions, and you’ll get a score and an assessment at the end. After you’ve finished leave me a comment with your thoughts on the quiz and the scoring.

This quiz helps you assess the maturity level of your product management process.