5 W’s of Good Product Management

Product Management is a high pressure and complex job. Managing well, a vast and complex array of demands from Customers and internal stakeholders — Sales, Engineering, C-Suite is at the heart of being a Product Manager. A Bad Product Manager will get overwhelmed and get disorganized in response to pressure and complexity. A Good Product manager will find a simple framework to handle complexity.

The 5 W’s provide a simple Product Management framework to keep focus and cut through the clutter of complexity. To discern the difference between noise & signal and prioritize only that work which matters.

  1. Who (Users and Value)

Who helps identify clearly the Users and the Value they are seeking from a feature request or a project.

Who are you building a product for? Who are you solving a problem for? Who is the user, the buyer. Who is impacted? How much is the impact.

Often times customer research & segmentation is needed to understand users and the value they seek.

2. Why (Problem Statement. Reason to do a product/feature. Compelling need. Is it worth doing?)

This is the most critical W. Getting this wrong is the cause of most trouble assuming you know the user clearly.

Why are you doing this product or feature or project? What are the compelling user need(s)? Why are you solving this problem for your user — whether it be an enterprise user or end consumer.

Not answering this question clearly will lead to developing the wrong product or feature. Its a Hell-hole that no Product Manager wants to get into.

3. What (Solution Set, Chosen Solution and it’s Scope)

This W helps with setting Scope for Problem and Solution.

What are the actions that a user needs to take in solving their problem(s)? What is the solution for the problem what is the scope of the solution. What is the set of benefits and thus features that the solution will provide.

4. Where (Context)

This W helps with understanding Context.

Where and when do the user problems happen and how frequently. Where and how will the solution be used? Will the user need mobility inbuilt in the solution? How often will the user need the solution and in what context?

5. When (Priority, Urgency & Timelines)

Every problem has a priority for a user to solve and hence it needs a solution in specific timelines. Else users find alternatives or competing solutions and the window of opportunity is shut.

Hence its important to understand by when is this solution needed? Timelines and Urgency help drive the prioritization of product development — assuming all other W’s are well understood.


Summary of 5 W’s for a Product Manager

Who : Are the User(s) and what is their problem and what do they value?

Why: Problem Statements of User. Why is this problem worth solving?

What: Are the possible Solutions to User Problem

Where: Does the set of Problems & Solutions Occur for the User(s)

When: is the solution needed? What is the Priority or Urgency?