Product-Management Mastery: It takes (at least) 3

I’ve had the immense privilege of working with highly talented product managers over the years. I’ve also shared paths with others who still had a long and tumultuous path ahead of them as they struggle to master their craft. If I’ve discovered anything, it’s that product management is part art, part craft and part science.

While I’ve argued previously that product managers do nothing and there are as many definitions of the product manager’s role as there are products and companies, we all strive—or, at least, should be striving—to master our craft. The journey itself toward what I’ll call Mastery in Product Management is hugely rewarding, each product manager should have his or her own understanding of what mastery is in their field and how to recognize when they have achieved that level. This is my take on it.

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The trinity of products: Quality, Resources and Time

You’ve heard the old saw: “Fast, good or cheap—pick two.” You can get good-enough quality quickly, but it won’t be cheap. You can get a great price and have it ASAP but the quality will likely be suspect. Or you can have great quality at a great price but expect to wait for it. Developing products is a lot like that. It’s a flurry of constant choices—and compromises—that are about quality, cost and speed. Living within these constraints can be challenging, but living without constraints will almost certainly result in failure. What’s a product manager to do?

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Planning for success: What if your product is a hit?

When it comes to new products and feature introductions, we’ve all seen our share of successes—and flops that hit the floor with a loud and sudden THUD. Some launches were an instant hit while some got almost no traction—and certainly displayed no stickiness. But when success strikes, does all hell have to break loose? Can we prevent the process from collapsing under the heavy load? Perhaps we need to properly plan for success.

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Product Managers: Dare to make products crafted with care

Generally speaking, craftspeople take great care and pride in their work—their passion for what they do shows in the final product. Some craftspeople, however, are still remembered decades, even centuries, later. Here’s just one example. Of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of stringed instruments in the world today, only 1,100, or so, were made by Antonio Stradivari, the great Italian luthier. Almost 300 years ago, he hand-built what are widely acknowledged as the finest violins and cellos (and a few other instruments) on the planet. His are still the standard to which all other luthiers aspire. Despite now living in the age of technology and automation, we must follow in Stradivari’s footsteps. Our #1 priority should be building products that are crafted with care and designed to delight.

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Why you should pay for the software you use

Pirates (more accurately called “thieves”) have lurked around in the background of the high-technology world since commercial software was first made available to personal-computer owners back in the olden days. When people think of digital piracy, however, they most often relate it to software. But piracy can be extended to anything available in a digital format on a local device—including mobile units—where the cost of producing perfect copies is almost zero. Even more, digital piracy may soon be found in the physical-goods world thanks to the growing popularity of 3D printers. The problem is, piracy (more accurately called “theft”) can eventually lead to a product’s development being stopped in its tracks because of a lack of funding for future versions. And that may well be the biggest reason to start paying for what you use.

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What is “customer delight”?

Have you ever tried to use a new product and, instead of going through the documentation, simply followed the steps that seemed logical to you? If it worked, did you think “cool, they thought about that” or “the product understands me” or even “I wish every product I used were this easy”?

Customer delight is about putting a smile on a user’s face when he tries your product. It’s about understanding the users and delivering a great experience that enables them to be more creative, productive, or innovative when it comes to their tasks or the goals they are trying to achieve. It is about customers loving your product and wanting to use it rather than using it only because they have no choice. It’s ultimately about having a product that matters to the customer, one that builds an emotional connection with them.

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