Getting started with Product Management

Words from current Flipkart Associate Product Manager

Hi Reader,

Product Management is one of the evolving career options and is recently gaining popularity as an exciting career choice. Amidst all this, there have been a lot of questions around what exactly is Product Management and how to go about preparing for the role. Here is an attempt to help those who aspire to pursue a career in Product Management and bring clarity to their thought process. The article contains answers to some the most common questions related to Product Management and and links to few interesting and enriching articles. Hope it helps.

What is Product Management?

You will find a lot of online resources which define product management and which describe what a product manager does. However in reality, the role of a PM keeps changing, and that is majorly due to the rapid evolution and development of the industry itself. One resource that can help you towards the understanding PM is this.

The author of the article refers to a Product Manager as someone who lies at the intersection of Business, Tech and UX (as you can see in the below venn). But in the tech world which we live in there is an important aspect which this chart does not cover, our big brother data.

Why is data important?

Because of numbers! Everyone wants to see numbers.

Is your solution working? If not what is going wrong? Are you even going in the right direction? What are the targets on which you can base your decisions? Should you target profits or market share? This is exactly where an important term comes into picture — Metrics.

Think about what was the first thing that Mark Zuckerberg thought about when he built Facebook? Market Capitalization or Monetization? No! What did he think about when he wanted to add Relationship status as a feature? How did he know if he is going in the right direction? A product management answer to all these — define proper metrics and track solutions.

Refer to this awesome blog after you gathering your initial thoughts — Leveraging data to build customer products.

All this aside, you should always remember that a Product Manager is the bridge between the company and the users. You should be able to speak about sales, legal matters, finance, operations, marketing, business, technology, however at the same time be the voice of the users in the company. That’s your job.

Product cycle

As a Product Manager, you are constantly involved in what is commonly termed as a “Product cycle”. Basically the following, first Identify the problem statement, then examine whether the problem is worth solving, get people on board, go about devising a solution, align the stakeholders, reiterate your solution, go about getting it built, launch and then monitor and improve. Once you are slightly settled, back to square one with a different problem on your plate. Speaking about how your role varies across this cycle, you can find the answers here.

Features vs Products

Addressing the most common misconception about this role — Product Managers build features for digital platforms. In an attempt to address this misconception let’s think about a problem which a certain product manager might be solving

“Certain Airline company wants to launch early retrieval of checked-in luggage as a part of their loyalty benefit. What are the things they should consider, help them design their system in order to be able do so.” Will leave the rest of the thought process to you.

Some APM Gyan

Addressing the elephant in the room, what do I need to do to get the job — Isn’t this the question to which most of you are looking an answer for? Probably it is the reason you are even reading this in the first place.

If you apply for the APM role at Flipkart, you will broadly be expected to solve two kinds of cases, Product Thinking and Problem Solving. There is a broad framework you can keep in mind when you are trying to find a solution, irrespective of which phase of the process you are in. It goes as follows — Identify the problem, then define its use cases. Build a business case around it. Then you can go ahead with breaking the problem down, identifying solutions, while at the same time keeping a check on roadblocks, metrics for success and risks of failure. And while you do all this, keep the user’s needs and perspective in mind.

Heavy words? Well let’s take up a problem and try to think. Consciously refraining from stating an explicit framework here, because of an inherent problem frameworks have, i.e. once you know a framework, you try to see every problem through the lens of that framework. (Vishesh gyan — Don’t do that!)

Sample Case

Let’s pick the airline problem above, To ensure early retrieval of checked-in luggage as a loyalty benefit. (next page)

Disclaimer — If you are looking for a solution for the problem you won’t find it here. What you will find instead, is a set of questions that need to be addressed in order to arrive at a good solution.

Sample Case — Early retrieval of checked in luggage as a loyalty benefit

Defining the scope -

Early retrieval -

  1. Is this valued?
  2. If yes, who values it?
  3. How much do they value it?
  4. How much does the airline care about them valuing it?

Loyalty benefit -

  1. Does the airline already have a loyalty program?
  2. If yes, who are these loyal customers?
  3. How does the airline define their loyal customers?
  4. What is the additional value which the customers can get if this is implemented? What is the additional value for the airline?
  5. Does adding this benefit align with the overall philosophy of the loyalty program?

Designing the solution -

  1. How will you go about designing the process in order to achieve this?
  2. In case of multiple potential solutions how will you take a call?
  3. How will things like fragile items, big items, government regulations, safety come into picture?
  4. What will be the key things you won’t compromise on?
  5. How will the customer experience look like?
  6. How will the customer know whether he is getting the benefit or not?
  7. What are the scenarios in which your solution will fail?

Launching -

  1. Who will be the stakeholders involved?
  2. How will you go about exposing the solution to the world?
  3. What is the effect on the other systems, how much of the effect is reasonable?

Monitoring -

  1. How will you monitor the solution in short term, and in long term?
  2. How will you measure the success of your solution?
  3. How will you handle the fallbacks?
  4. How will you increase usage of this?

Common follow up to this — Are you expected to know all this? No! But you are definitely expected to frame the right questions that need to be answered. Only if you arrive at the right questions, will you be able to go looking for answers to them.

Hope this gives you a gist of what product management is, how can you start learning more about it and also what can you expect in the hiring process for APM, Flipkart.

Here are some more resources which shall be of help -

Framework for Product Success

How to prepare use cases

Defining product features and testing.

Metrics — Identification and prioritization.

All this said, what actually matters, is the ability to break a problem down, to have structured thought process, to keep users’ needs in mind and most importantly, to enjoy the process.

In addition to this, do check out this article by Neel Mehta, on cracking the interviews. Although the interview formats are different, you can find some interesting material there.

All the best!

I am Naman Garg, IIT Madras class of 2018, currently working as an Associate Product Manager at Flipkart on user experience, engagement and data aspects of the loyalty program, Flipkart Plus. The article here touches few of the common questions regarding Product Management and Flipkart APM program. Disclaimer — I am a fresh recruit by Flipkart, and all the opinions expressed here are personal, not the representation of the thoughts of the employer.