product management

The Fundamentals of Product Management

This post outlines the fundamentals of the product management discipline. I’m expanding this post as I’m learning, reading, and testing, meaning this should continually evolve. Consider this as a collection of notes, thoughts, and ideas.

The Product Manager role

A good Product Manager needs the following

  • Deep customer knowledge

  • Technology sophistication

  • Business savvy

  • Product passion

  • Key executive credibility

  • Product team respect

The Product Manager needs to understand the users’:

  • Issues

  • Pains

  • Desires

To successfully prioritize what gets built and what it solves.

The Product Manager must also have:

  • Deep knowledge of the customer

  • Deep knowledge of the data

  • Deep knowledge of your business

  • Deep knowledge of the market and industry

What’s important when collaborating with the other team members is that the PM:

  • Expresses the knowledge of the constraints team members are working under (e.g. what tools other teams have at hand)

  • Only brings projects or tasks to the table that she/he feels the team can accomplish

People the PM is cooperating with could be in roles like:

  • Developer

  • Product Marketer

  • Product Designer

  • User Research

  • Data Analyst

  • Test Automation Engineer

The Head of Product role

  • The single most important skill is team development

Group Product Manager:

  • Typically one for each Product Manager team in larger organizations

    • One for marketplace

    • One for demand gen

    • One for supply gen

Product Manager ranks

  • Assistant Product Manager

  • Product Manager

  • Senior Product Manager

  • Group Product Manager

  • Product Manager Lead

  • Head of Product (where people management begins)

  • Director, Product

  • Vice President, Product

  • Chief Product Officer

Often, these ranks can then be positioned in different departments and across specific products within the organization. An example is a “Growth Product Manager” typically working across teams on growth-related projects.

Examples of departments and functions that Product Managers can be in/have:

  1. Growth Product Manager

  2. Technical Product Manager

  3. Platform Product Manager

Growth product manager

Priorities

  • Builds software to meet business goals rather than building software to meet user goals

  • Focused on AARRR metrics rather than meeting user needs

How to think about product teams

Here’s how core product teams differ from fx. growth and marketing teams.

  • Product teams: software teams that solve user problems

  • Growth teams: software teams that solve business problems

  • Marketing teams: non-software teams that solve business problems

The day-to-day work of product management

These are the notes of the day-to-day work of being a product manager.

Product strategy

All product work should start with a product strategy. In general, a product strategy is made up of 3 core components:

  1. Product vision

  2. Strategic framework

  3. Roadmap

Here are great articles on product strategy and product management in general:

Product vision

An inspiring picture of what the future looks like. Something that gets potential team members excited about joining your ship.

This connects with what business impacts the vision will have as well as the principles and values that the product org is operating by.

Strategic framework

  1. The market we’re going after

  2. What success looks like

  3. Big bets we’re doing

"The market we're choosing to play in, how we're choosing the win, the capabilities we need to have in place, the management systems we'll build"

The market we’re going after

  • Includes a definition of the market, info about market size, market growth, and key competitors in the market, both globally and locally

What success looks like

This includes:

  • Overall strategic goals (SMART goals)

  • Outcomes (measurable changes in behavior in the product - think OKRs here)

Big bets we’re doing

This includes:

  • Opportunities we’re chasing

  • Ideas and hypotheses we’re testing

  • Roadmaps and solutions

Roadmap

It’s not a list of commitments. Instead, it’s a way of checking if what we’re doing makes our vision achievable in any way within the given timeframe we’ve set.

The strategic framework can be summarized very nicely in an illustration like this one (source: Jason Doherty, Medium):

product management outcome based strategy Jason Doherty

The two phases of product:

  1. Product discovery

  2. Product delivery

They’re part of a continuous process and run in parallel. Often referred to as the double-diamond model.

Product discovery

  • Opportunities

  • Ideas

  • Solution

Product delivery

  • Pitch

  • Feature

  • Story

Tracking product performance

  • A/B testing

  • Feature testing

Minimum viable product

Should never be real, finished products customers can use. It should always be prototypes used for initial validation.

Solving customer problems vs. optimizing product metrics

Bounce rates are high, CLS scores are poor and load times are too long. But are those more important than problems that customers tell us?

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