Lessons learned as a first time product manager

Don’t fall in love with a feature

Go for a result. Isolate down the problem that user is experiencing and try exhaust ways to solve this problem. Explore what your users say and try to get to the root of the problem. Search for what is simple. Simple is always faster and cheaper and most likely better. Engineering will want to flex their development muscle and go for the biggest and best features. This is just a trap that keeps you from developing the best tools.

Talk to People

Eat your own dog food. Put your money where your mouth is. Get out of the building. Insert your favorite product manager mantra here. Most likely, you do not live in the users’ world. You do not have the same pain points that they have and your guesses on what their pain points are probably false assumptions. Find ways to get to talk with your users. Be compassionate of your users and learn from them. What is obvious to you is not always obvious to your users.

Also, don’t be surprised when your users opens up the software and does not know what to do. You live with the product day-to-day. You made the workflows so obviously everything in the software is easy for to you.

Know Your Customers

Make sure that you know the personas and document who your users are. Even on the simplest project, there will be a variety of users wanting to do a variety of different things with your software. They will have a variety of interest in the software. On the same token, the customer does not know what they want and probably does not have good clue to what is possible with software. Adding a feature to get a sale is what you want but not always the best idea. Look for aggregate trends in what multiple users want.

Watch out for Bugs

Bugs are embarrassing. Each one of your users will have a threshold in the number of bugs they will support. Bugs are a part of the development but don’t let them overwhelm your release. Do not assume that software is ready just because it passes the engineers’ test. Bugs that you will never imagine will appear after the product releases. Learn to test for all cases and bugs. There are a ton of quirks and intricacies that will come through before the product ever reaches your customers. Document each bug on the steps that you went through to get that bug. Check your bug list often.

KISS — Keep it simple stupid

Don’t over design at the beginning. Simply keep it simple stupid (KISS). Your idea of what is good and what is useful changes after the product reaches your users’ hands. Get a working product out quick try to learn from it as quick as possible. Make improvements iterative and keep the development of the software quick and simple.

Product launch is not the end.

The launch is only the start. Customer requirements, suggestions, and bugs will start to come. Also, there is a pit of despair. You will release the software and hopefully catch your first wind from some great press release and following up with those that signed up to your website. You will be ecstatic and think that the entire world wants your software. A lot of those users are curious and may never come back. Make sure that you have a strategy to keep your initial users using the software. Data is your friend and your enemy. Know how to slice it and review it. Clicking on the website is not enough. Landing on the website does not generate revenue for the product. The user must interact with the website. Your users need to come back and use.