As a newcomer, starting out in product management can be daunting. Oftentimes you may find yourself staring at what feels like a wall and wondering where to begin. With the challenges ahead, this article is meant to give you some perspective and actionable concepts on how to make your successful foray into this famed area of business.
Product Management is Integral to Business
Our civilization produces products of all shapes and sizes. This is true of the pyramids of Egypt, and of the iPhone or Android smartphone that you carry in your pocket. How those products went from a cave drawing or napkin doodle to an actual product is where the magic truly lies.
Essential Questions You Need to Ask
Sure, anyone can create a product. But the real measure of a successful product comes by answering a few key questions. Does it work well? Was it designed properly? Does it solve a real-world problem? Did it get traction in the market? To answer these questions takes many steps, extensive research, and sometimes a little bit of luck.
For example, the Apple Newton PDA might have been an amazing idea for its time, but no one wanted to lug an electronic brick around to keep notes when a pad of paper and pen did just fine. Decades later, the iPhone does it all and more because it was the “right” time and the right execution of this revolutionary product back in June of 2007.
Does the market want it or need it?
This is the point where you ask the tough question. Are you making a product the market wants? This scenario is usually the safest as you can and should look for market data to make sure your target market is looking for that amazing solution you want to launch.
The riskier option is going for broke on a new product or product line that will define a new market segment. For example, Tesla makes its Model S, 3, X, and Y battery-powered vehicles an everyday topic of conversation that many people crave, which, helps grow their market share. That can happen when you’ve stumbled across a rare product that the market needs, even if they didn’t believe they did.
How many people will use it? Who are they?
So, assuming you’ve done your homework and you’ve identified the size of your total addressable market (TAM), now you need to determine who they are and what attracts their attention. That usually comes down to defining customers and their “use cases.”
Is your product targeted to businesses or consumers? Are those target customers generational or categorized by the types of businesses they own? How will they use your product and how will it make their lives better? You need to make sure this product is not a magnificent solution in search of a non-existent problem. The world is full of great gadgets that never took off because just being “cool” usually isn’t enough to grow or maintain a good customer base.
What is your product?
More easily stated, are you planning to create a piece of hardware (phone, laptop, widget, etc.) or software (smartphone app, PC software)? Perhaps it is both where a hardware product has a companion software app to manage it. Will it be a one-time price or a service like Uber? These days, many organizations are thinking more about the value of the “as a service” model so they can generate some nice recurring revenue.
How will you manage it?
How will you manage the project that creates your product? For a software product, you might want to consider Agile project management. If it’s a traditional hardware product, then you should be okay with Waterfall project management. Sometimes a hybrid of the two makes good sense, as well.
There are a ton of other questions, recommendations, and nuances to successful product management available via books or audiobooks. A great option to seriously consider would be “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. Though it has an entrepreneurial feel to it, it does a great job introducing the key idea of the minimum viable product (MVP).
But don’t stop there. Look at the collective knowledge of the internet or check out product management groups on social networks such as LinkedIn. Armed with the right information, you’ll have no doubt in your potential for success. Ultimately, the next step is yours.