Thursday 29 August 2013

3 Responsibilities of Product Management

Adam Nash (prior VP of Product Management at LinkedIn) describes what it takes to be a great product leader. He boils down a product manager's job description to three key responsibilities.

Responsibility #1: Product Strategy

Adam describes product strategy this way: "it’s the product manager’s job to articulate two simple things":

1. What game are we playing?
    • What is the vision of the product?
    • What value does it provide customers?
    • What is the differentiated advantage over competitors?
2. How do we keep score?

Clearly answering these questions synchronizes teams across the organization and helps them understand how to win effectively in the market. 

Responsibility #2: Prioritization

Different processes exist to handle the prioritization of features and tasks: Waterfall, RUP, Agile, Kanban.. etc. But without a solid product strategy, prioritization becomes very difficult to do effectively. Adam describes a framework for product planning which he calls the Three Feature Buckets:
  1. Customer RequestsThese are features that your customers are actively requesting. 
  2. Metrics MoversThese are features that will move your target business & product metrics significantly.
  3. Customer DelightThese are features that customers haven’t necessarily asked for, but literally delight them when they see them.
Features may fit into more than one bucket but rarely fit in all three. The benefit of classifying each feature this way is so that a team can be intellectually honest with themselves about why they should implement a particular feature.

Responsibility #3: Execution

Execution is all about shipping the product and getting it in front of users so that they can derive value from it. Sometimes this means ASAP and sometimes it requires timing the market effectively. Teams have many different approaches on how they execute ranging from light weight idea, test and deploy methodologies to full-blown specifications, sign-off, development, QA and release cycles. Adam describes the 4 parts of execution that are critical to its success:
  1. Product specification: The necessary level of detail to ensure clarity about what the team is building.
  2. Edge case decisions: Very often, unexpected and complicated edge cases come up. Typically, the product manager is on the line to quickly triage those decisions for potentially ramifications to other parts of the product.
  3. Project management: There are always expectations for time/benefit trade-offs with any feature. A lot of these calls end up being forced during a production cycle, and the product manager has to be a couple steps ahead of potential issues to ensure that the final product strikes the right balance of time to market and success in the market.
  4. Analytics: In the end, the team largely depends on the product manager to have run the numbers, and have the detail on what pieces of the feature are critical to hitting the goals for the feature. They also expect the product manager to have a deep understanding of the performance of existing features (and competitor features), if any.

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