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What exactly is Product Management — TL;DR + Long form

And why you should care

TL;DR

  1. Building a great product is one of the most, if not the most important thing you have to do.
    If you don’t get this right, your business is doomed ← This is why you should care
  2. A great product is built of 3 parts: serving a need, for the right audience at the right moment (need, audience, timing).
  3. Any product is a result of a process (including your product).
  4. Your process has to try and figure out the 3 parts.
  5. The process of trying to figure out these parts is called Product Management.
  6. While Product Management is not science, they are concepts, methodologies, techniques, tools, and terminology we can use, to practice it in a more deliberate, controlled manner (you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself, and it doesn’t have to be only intuition, and gut feeling).
  7. This doesn’t mean you need a Product Manager role.
  8. Next post will start unpacking the process.
  9. Share your thoughts and comments.

Credits

Quotes of two really smart people that I stole this from. Thanks!

“Figuring out what makes a product good for whom and when is a the activity of product management.” — DHH
“Have a great product. This is the only thing all great companies have in common.” — Sam Altman
“Remember, if you haven’t made a great product, nothing else will save you.” — Sam Altman
“One of the most important tasks for a founder is to make sure the company builds a great product.” — Sam Altman.

Long form…

Read this if: You’re part of making/creating/crafting/conjuring products (this includes services). Doesn’t matter if you’re a Product Manager, developer, designer, unicorn, ninja, or some other mythical beast.

Purpose of this document is to try and define what is Product Management, and it’s main building blocks. Hopefully this will demystify it, and take some of the hand waving out of the process…

I hope to establish that while Product management isn’t science, they are proven concepts, methodologies, techniques, and tools we can use, to practice it in a deliberate, controlled manner (it doesn’t have to be only intuition, and gut feeling).

Why should you care? Why is building a great product important?

If your product isn’t great it’ll catch you at some point, there is no running away from this. If you do not deliver on your promise users will eventually stop buying, you can’t “cheat” forever. People working with/for you will know, they won’t be fulfilled, also they can go and work on a great product elsewhere…

“Have a great product. This is the only thing all great companies have in common.” — Sam Altman
“Remember, if you haven’t made a great product, nothing else will save you.” — Sam Altman
“One of the most important tasks for a founder is to make sure the company builds a great product.” — Sam Altman.

Glad we established that you need a great product, let’s move on. 
(if you don’t think this is established, pls leave a comment with your thoughts).

What’s a product?

Prod·uct
* An article or substance that is manufactured or refined for sale.
* A thing or person that is the result of an action or process.

Basically anything you make, sell or provide. Be it a service, software, physical, or any other type of artifact.

The provider offers it, the consumer (user) uses it. 
The reason consumers use products is in the hope that the product will take them from a current situation (point A), to a better situation (point B). 
This is a contract between provider and consumer. Or the promise of the product.

Building blocks of a good product

Good Product = Solves the right problem for the right ppl at the right time. So if you want a great product you have to figure out 3 things:

  1. The people you’re providing it to.
  2. The problem you’re solving for them.
  3. The timing.

Great, we know we need a great product, and we know the building blocks of a great product. Let’s figure out audience, problem, timing, and we’ll be swimming in champagne for the rest of our lives…

Easy! 
Ya think?

Figuring the audience, problem and timing is a wonderful place known as “Product market fit” (see we have terminology for Product Management stuff, this means we can communicate, think and understand it). Despite being a wonderful place its shores are littered with remnants of products that didn’t make it. 
Even worse is the fact that many of these products weren’t aware they have to reach it, and didn’t understand how they ended up in the graveyard. 
It’s not just giving names to things, but also charting a map where am I, where do I want to go. Building an understanding of the world you’re operating in, and having the language to talk about it.

Product management definition

Product Management is the process of figuring out the right problem (need/job), people and timing.

“Figuring out what makes a product good for whom and when is a the activity of product management.” — DHH

Products are a result of a processes, which means that if you’re building a product, you have a Product Management process, whether you understand it or not…

It might be intuitive, poorly defined, unpredictable, and flat out batshit-crazy, but it’s a process.

Couple of common approaches I’ve encountered by companies going about building their product:

  • If you build it, they will come. Trust me it’ll be amazing from the get go! Let’s just build it.
    Good luck with that… See what’s left of you on the golden shores.
  • We’re “doing agile”. Try something, learn from it, keep trying, until it works. While this isn’t a bad approach it’s usually lip service, after 5 minutes (or talking to the developer/designer) it’ll be pretty obvious they are making up the process as they go. Usually this is some misunderstood, twisted version of an acceptable approach, but it wasn’t truly understood or implemented.
    You might think this is better than nothing, but no. In fact often it’s insanity, as defined by Albert Einstein (“Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results”). 
    If you’re not aware/conscious of your process, what does “learn” mean?How do you know you’re not repeating the same mistakes? Just because you changed the look of something or shipped 2.0?! Sorry, but no.
  • I’m sure you’ve encountered other crazy, insane, random product process, do share, I’ll try to add them here.

A good process is clear, deliberate, repeatable, with defined outcomes and next steps. It’s ever evolving, but it’s based on solid foundations of critical thinking, vision, goals, and plans.

How to go about establishing a good process? I’ll do my best to start unpacking this in the next post.

BTW — Does this mean you need a Product Manager? No!

Don’t confuse the activity of Product Management with the role! Product Manager will help you define the process, stick to it, and improve it, but this should be done also by other team members. 
Don’t leave it only to the Product Manager!

Thanks for reading this far! Truly appreciate it! I hope this helped you understand a bit better what’s Product Management. 
However this isn’t final, I’d like to improve it, and would be glad to hear you thoughts, comments and advice.