Building software platforms and applications that customers love, and will recommend to their peers, takes extreme focus and hard work. There are many moving parts to product success, including understanding your market and the problems customers in the market face, and building solutions that solve those problems.
Successful product leaders understand the value of both strategy and execution: Strategynecessary for building products that perform well into the future. Execution requires the focus and discipline to do things now for near-term product releases.
How do you succeed in both of these two seemingly dissimilar aspects of product management?
Delivering a solid product that customers love requires an up-front knowledge of the market in which customers and potential customers operate. Understanding the problems they face, and solving those problems with a software solution, is the end goal.
I’ve been asked many times what the best way is to discover a market and understand the needs of customers in that market. My answer is usually some form of “it depends.” Some have potentially millions of customers (e.g. B2C) and other markets have far fewer—generally high-paying—potential customers (e.g. B2B). Attaining access to data differs depending on the makeup of the market.
At a high level, there are two methods you use to acquire market data, regardless of the industry: they are qualitative and quantitative research. Let’s explore how you can use both to get the data you need to deeply understand your market.
The earliest mistakes you make in your career are often the most memorable and where you learn the most. In one of my first product management roles, I was delighted when a C-level executive tasked me to lead an important and urgent project and assemble a team for it.
I called a meeting together with people from the marketing, engineering, and design teams. I gave what I thought was a rousing speech, in which I asked that they drop whatever they were doing and commit themselves to this new project — it was of great importance to the c-suite, so it should be our top priority.
Creating great products and building successful companies takes a tremendous amount of work, insatiable initiative and a penchant for perseverance. It requires thinking differently than others think, and even differently than you have thought in the past.
To make big changes requires a whole new way of thinking, yet few college programs or study courses sow the seeds of innovation and creative thinking. You need to see the world differently, to think differently. To create winning products and companies you need to play bigger.
The goal of every company and product leader is to invent products (or services) that become recognized market leaders. Creating a new product category is icing on the cake, but also rare and extremely difficult.
We all know about companies and products like VMware, Google, and Uber that have not only developed cool products, but also fashioned new life-changing industries. Thinking about it from that perspective might cause us to shrink and say, “I could never do that.” However, there are many lesser-known companies and products that lead their markets; and done right, creating new markets and categories is well within our grasp.
Leadership differs depending on the size of the group you’re leading. For most product managers, the people they lead work on different teams and the individuals they need to influence don’t report to them. Regardless of whether the people you lead (or should be leading) report to you, the need to lead soundly is important.
Understanding more deeply your style of leadership will help you lead more effectively. The work will go better, and you’ll enjoy it more.
It’s difficult (if not impossible) to quantify what it takes to develop a productive and successful product team. Every product is unique, and every company does things differently. From a distance it may seem that there’s no process or methodology to create a high-performing product team.
Developing great products entails teams of people working together. With the proliferation of product roles in recent years it has become more important for product teams to function well together and collaborate effectively with other teams and individuals in the organization. Increased focus on building great teams is desperately needed in today’s fast-evolving technology world, yet for too many companies it’s not a high priority.
What does it take to develop a group of disparate individuals into a high-performing product team?
Think about a product you use regularly. Why do you use it? Why do you love it? What keeps you coming back?
When creating a product or service, you want your users and buyers to answer these questions with positive reactions. You hope they will get the full value of your offering and that they will have a positive experience as they use for their business. You want them to keep coming back for more.
We live in a great time where, in most of the world, you can invent a new product or service and—with the appropriate up-front work—earn money from the value it creates for customers. This is remarkable!
Creating new products and services, however, takes a lot of thinking and hard work—especially in the technology space. Coming up with an initial idea is often the easiest part of the entire process. Forming the plan and doing the work just to get your offering ready to sell is where the big effort rests. How do you take a new product or service to market?
You have created the vision for your products; you’ve built trust among your teams; you’re working hard to motivate team members to do great things; and you’re working to develop your teams with insight and direction. The final step in my 5 Factors methodology is to act decisively. As the product leader you need to get things moving; you own the success of your products.
How will acting decisively change the game for your products?