3 Reasons Why Functional Analysis is an Important Skill for Product Managers

When I think of functional analysis, I think of my mathematics class in school. Functions in mathematics rely on input values and produce a different output value.

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As a product manager, I feel my role relies on functional analysis — even though its not talked about much. This blog is about functional analysis and why it is an important skill that product manager need to have.

1. Functional analysis allows product managers to break-free from thinking about problems and solutions the same way as they always do.

Product managers tend to get too close to the product, which prevents us from seeing problems and solutions from different lenses. But , users use our solutions because of the functionality of the product. We deliver something functional based on interactions with a number of smaller pieces (features) in our products.

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A good product manager thinks of the overall functionality of the product and what it intends to do for the user, rather than focusing on components that build the product. This is easier said than done, especially if you are managing multiple products or are a product manager for a large, complex product that has many features.

An example of how I applied functional analysis is how I solved the problem of match errors for our customer registration process. Our customer’s challenge was that they were not able to find their accounts and sign-up. So we re-did our registration process but only after looking at the overall functionality rather than focusing on the components (APIs and UI components) used to build it.

We no longer saw the problem of matching errors, instead we saw it as problem of customer not having the opportunity to lookup their account.

We resolved this by allowing customer to lookup their account using their address and adding further check to verify their account.

2. Functions are universal

Think of websites. What is the purpose of a website — to provide information about a product, service, event, movement etc. You can have different types of websites, but the function of the website will remain the same — provide information.

But how did websites come to be what they are today? Go back to marketing material, brochures, advertisements etc. They were all printed to provide information about something. That function was applied to websites at the advent of internet.

Similarly think of machines. They allowed us to do things faster, better, cheaper. What does software do? The same.

So as a product manager, when you are stuck with a new problem, think of the problem from a functional perspective. Be bold to borrow ideas from something unrelated and apply to your solution.

3. Functional analysis helps you identify problems that you could not have seen using other approaches

In a previous role I worked for a hospitality tech company that built reservation solutions for hotels. This system was quite complex, in that it allowed hotels to update availability, rates and inventory to sell hotel rooms on different sales channels through integrations built by our company. It was a feature heavy product with many different ways to create, update and manage the different variables.

A problem we were facing was growth. We were a relatively smaller player and felt that our product was really good, better than competitors. But, we were not getting new customers. After doing some research we found that we could easily go after smaller hotel properties as the sales cycle was shorter. But our product did not meet their needs. They needed a simpler product with better UI and easy to implement website and third-party sales channels.

We set out originally to build this new product. But with a little bit of functional analysis we realized that the new target market we were going after did not need a new product, they just needed a feature-light product. So that’s exactly what we did — we stripped our current product and gave it a UI lift. This also allowed us to apply creative pricing tactics by offering very inexpensive solution with extra charges for on-demand features.

Functional analysis allowed us to look at the problem differently and allowed us to approach it in a creative way. We had a new product in a matter of months rather than rebuilding a new software which would have taken a lot of time and money.

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

So, as we have seen, through functional analysis we are inputting different values to get different results/products. Good product managers understand this and are able to apply functional analysis and come up with creative solutions.

Have you tried applying functional analysis when working on your product ideas? What was the result? Interested in learning more about it? Reach out to me here.

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Fareed Huda

Fareed Huda

A product management professional building digital experiences that connect customers with brands.

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