The Need for Product Thinking and Successes

“The role of a product manager is to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible.” – Marty Cagan, Partner, Silicon Valley Product Group

In a few simple words, this quote capture the essence of what this article is all about.

At a recent conference with several venture capitalists, product managers and executives from both corporates and upcoming start-ups, one of the VCs in the room asked, “212 Indian start-ups did not survive 2016. Investments plunged by 44.3%. VCs have started reviewing their investments closely and are being stingier when it comes to spreading their money too thin. How will you convince us and other stakeholders about your product and ensure that it succeeds?”

The answer lies within the approach to product management. Think about it! The lack of an efficient approach to product management is the root cause of start-up failure. Through a systematic approach, you can detect early enough what projects are likely to succeed in the long-term, and invest your time and money more wisely – as compared to investing in several short-term experimentative projects. This is the strategy employed by successful product companies, and if you look closely, a pattern tends to emerge in the practices employed by the best product managers, and these are:

  • Inside-Out Thinking Is a Big NO-NO
  • Building Long-term Sustainable Vision, Innovation & Roadmap
  • Evidence Or Insight-Based Decision-Making
  • Let’s deep-dive into these practices:
  • Inside-Out Thinking Is a Big NO-NO

Our existing products are a success -> The executives who built these products have an intuition that the new product is the next big thing -> Therefore, customers will definitely like our new product

This the basis of Inside-out thinking where the wrong reasons are used to decide which products should be invested in and developed. Some of the common inside-out situations are intuition that a product will work, pressure from CEOs, the assumption that customers don’t know what they want, the feeling that the product will definitely sell and so on.

It’s a clear violation of what we call the First Law of Product: Customer decide what products they like, not companies.

The best product managers employ customer-informed decision making and see these situations as warning signs when it comes to making product decisions.

Building Long-term Sustainable Vision, Innovation & Roadmap

A great product roadmap is a Product Managers’ secret weapon. Product road-mapping works best when you start with a long-term vision and strategy, prioritize the product itself over the features, and manage ideas smartly.

Not having a long-term visions and strategy is the fastest route to product management failure. All great roadmaps start with a vision and a strategy to achieve that vision, which keeps the various teams invested in the same shared success of the product.

Next is prioritization. One needs to prioritize the product over features. One that’s done, certain features need to be prioritized over others. It’s not that features aren’t important but that they are often secondary to the reason a customer or user buys a product.

Lastly, being able to say “No” is extremely crucial to developing a successful product. The best product managers are excellent at managing new ideas that come from the various stakeholders involved. There is no shortage of new and innovative ideas, and the best product managers know whether these ideas roll up to their product strategy or not. They consider all ideas, rank them against the product strategy, make a decision to employ them or not, and keep everyone informed about the “why” in their decision-making process.

Evidence or Insight-Based Decision-Making

A key component that successful product managers use to drive the product team forward with insights. This is critical because they help validate that the team is pursuing the right course of action. With real-world user data, customer feedback, and metrics on the product, one already has an excellent source of business intelligence to make the best decisions for the product. When asked why you’ve selected one direction over another for the next iteration of the product, your ability to present a compelling explanation backed by real data will go a long way toward earning everyone’s buy-in.

Key Takeaways

  • Every product organization will save significant money by investing at the right time for the right product initiative
  • End-to-end vision, planning and execution processes will differentiate product companies in the market place
  • A systematic approach to product road mapping and management drastically reduces the risk of product failure
  • Gathering valuable intelligence and insights from various stakeholders, customers and the market will go a long way in defining the success of your product.
  • The harsh reality of 2016 might just be the wake-up call that the start-up world needed, and our prediction is that 2017 is going to be a great year for Indian start-ups!

Guest Post by Mr. R.N. Prasad, Consultant at Manipal Global Academy of Information Technology (MGAIT). 

He comes with over 35 years of Enterprise IT experience. He has served various IT giants like Wipro, Satyam, IBM, INNOSOFT and Infosys in leadership positions. In his last corporate engagement, Mr. Prasad was the AVP, Education and Research at Infosys, and was heading the Business Intelligence and Analytics Practice. His other areas of focus and expertise include IT Product Development Management, and IT Strategy Consulting. Mr. Prasad is a Harvard Certified “Teaching for Understanding” practitioner and a Franklin Covey Gold Certified 4DX Coach.