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Product Manager Tools
IKEA effect

IKEA effect

Could you be suffering from the IKEA effect

The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias in which we place a disproportionately high value on products that we build regardless of the quality. Does your product really need a replacement strategy or a retirement plan, but you’re just too attached, and remember all the blood sweat and tears that went into it?

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How to measure a PM?

How to measure a PM?

How do you measure product managers?

It’s a regular question - how should I assess a product manager? My view is a simple one - don’t assess what they do, assess what they help the business achieve. There are three things that an effective product manager can help a business achieve:

These are valuable to the business and define the value of product management to the organisation.

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Defining Product Success

Defining Product Success

How do you define product success?

How would you define product success? Revenue? Profit? Volume? The point is this; product success comes in many flavours that do not always directly link to a simple financial metric. A product portfolio can often be thought of as a team, where products perform different roles. Think of HP – printers make ink sales possible. Or google; its search engine is an enabler for its AdWords business. Like a soccer team would not be great if it was made up of 11 strikers, a product portfolio needs balance.

So when looking at what constitutes product success, think about the role your product needs to play in your product team.

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Product Managers major tasks

Product Managers major tasks

What are the major tasks for a Product Manager?

We’ve built this framework that describes what we need to think about throughout the product delivery process. The 5D process defines the point in the delivery cycle (From Direct, where we set product strategy, to Drive, where we use marginal gain to enhance our in-market product), and the blocks beneath describe the major activities. The framework is a useful tool to make sure you’re not missing anything major on your journey to Product Management Excellence!

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Boris the Product Manager

Boris the Product Manager

Boris the Product Manager

Good to see that here in the UK Boris Johnson sees the route out of the Coronavirus lockdown being guided by that classic Product Management tool; a roadmap. So, for our Prime Minister, here’s some helpful roadmap hints:

Roadmaps come in three flavours:

1. The Visionary Roadmap – A broad brush view of where you need to go. It sets the direction of travel. For Boris, I guess this is pretty simple to describe in the form of strategy strands; Lockdown over, business back to normal, people travelling, pubs open, etc

2. The Product Roadmap – It takes the vision and breaks it down into tangible deliveries . It identifies the major landmarks on our journey to our vision. This will need Boris to think a little more - take each strategy strand and work backwards (e.g. start with the target state and work out the steps needed to get there)

3. The Technical Roadmap – It adds detail. It describes how we get to each major landmark identified in the Product Roadmap, the people involved, etc. It tells us how we’ll make our journey to vision. This is how we’ll measure Boris!

All three clearly link together. Start with the Visionary Roadmap. Without it, direction can’t be set.

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Retire a product

Retire a product

How should you retire a product?

Before starting a product retirement we use these six questions to check if retirement is something that should be considered – a set of basic checks to clarify why you’re retiring a product and what it will mean to you, your customers and your competition.

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Naming a product

Naming a product

What’s in a name?

Our name gives all sorts of clues as to who we are, where we came from, our gender, our age, etc. The same’s true with product naming. What we call our product, service or business can have significant impact on its success and position (Think Easyjet and you have a business name that can’t be exclusive and high-end). Then there are local language issues (Think Mitsubishi Pajero in South America), search engine optimisation problems, (call it something so common it will be on page 5 of the search results or so complex and no-one will be able to spell it), etc. Here’s our checklist of things to think about when you name a product

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Competitive Landscape

Competitive Landscape

Here’s a tool to help Product Managers assess their competitive landscape . Based on the fact that customers buy or use products for a set of reasons, it takes value proposition thinking and gives more depth and detail.

Here’s how to use it:

1. Define a set of factors that drive use and adoption of your product or service. For example, what a guest books a hotel room they will consider price, but they’ll also think about location, facilities, rating, etc

2. Prioritise these factors from most to least important from the customer perspective

3. Plot your product in terms of execution – score high if you deliver really well on a factor, low is you execute poorly

4. Plot your competitors on the same graph

You can then think about action – where to invest or where to promote so that you optimise the value you deliver

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Project vs Product

Project vs Product

Project manager and Product manager.

Our names are almost the same, so what’s the difference in these roles?
A project manager focuses on the project - making sure we deliver on time, on budget, on quality, etc.
A product manager focuses on the product - making sure the features and functions map to market needs.
We need each other to work well

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Business case buildiing

Business case buildiing

Building the business case is like doing a maths exam

“Build a business case”. A request many product managers hear when looking for funding for a new product or enhancement. But what do we mean by business case? Many take it to be some financials – a set of numbers to validate that by spending X we’ll gain Y (and hopefully Y is bigger than X!). But the financials are really just the business case summary. The rest of the document tells the full story – why we should build, what our market looks like, etc. It builds the narrative that makes the numbers believable. Think of it like that maths exam you did at school, 1 point for the answer and 9 points for the method that got you there.

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Disinter-mediation - change

Disinter-mediation - change

Disinter-mediation is driving change

There’s a theme amongst many of our customers at the moment – when they look forward 5 years they see a radically different market as technology reduces the need for intermediaries between producers and consumers. This can be seen in many sectors; banking (p2p), legal (e-conveyancing) , finance (robotic accounting). Known generally as disinter-mediation, this trend generates risk and opportunity for Product Managers. But how should we react? The key is to understand who your customers are today and who they will be tomorrow – disinter-mediation does not necessarily remove the market need, but it can change the economic buyer. If your product is aimed at an intermediary its worth thinking about how disinter-mediation will impact your offer and how you need to change to appeal to those adjacent in the value chain.

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Pain points vs Delivering value

Pain points vs Delivering value

Sometimes the point of difference you have over a competitor has nothing to do with the product and all to do with an adjacent pain point you can address. Simple example, two companies supply house bricks to the construction industry. Their bricks are identical in every way. Which would the house builder choose? Conventional logic says “the cheapest” and both businesses would engage in a price war. But step away from the product and think about the bigger picture. House builders can have a real pain point around cash-flow – address that and you unlock a point of difference. Charging more per brick, but having payment terms that mean the house builder doesn’t pay until the property is sold is a potentially disruptive strategy

Even for Product Managers, it’s not always about the product.

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Health Check

Health Check

PM health check

How do you review the maturity of a PM function? We use a 360 review:

• People
Without the right team in place it’s impossible to excel. We review the team through capability (Do they have the potential to be a great PM?), skills (Do they have the right PM experience?) and scale (Is there enough of them?)

• Processes
We review the full process, reporting, RACI, etc, viewing the process in terms of fit to your business (Risk vs reward vs scale vs speed vs certainty vs evidence vs innovation)

• Tools.
Without standardisation, product managers use such a wide variety of tools that it becomes increasingly difficult for a management team to make reasoned decisions – they cannot do an ‘apples to apples’ comparison. We review the complete process suite for robustness, ease of use, visibility and adherence.

• Environment
A great PM team, with the right processes, tools and templates can still fail to thrive because of the environment - stakeholders, supporting processes and management not aligning with product. We review stakeholder teams leadership engagement and adjacent processes to asses alignment.

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Features

Features

Managing feature parity

Three customers I’m working with at the moment all have the same core issue; they’re going through a platform rewrite and are struggling with feature parity – thinking that the new product should offer EVERYTHING that the old product offered and more on day one. The start point is often bad customer- communication “Of course the new platform will deliver everything that the old one did” followed by blind panic at the realisation that feature parity will take years. Here are our tips for dealing with this:

• Find your new platform USP and make that the narrative – perhaps better security, speed, data. Something the old platform doesn’t do has to be the focus

• Make the list and prioritise – there’s nearly always an 80/20 rule, so list every feature and find the 20% that customers really use to help define the MVP. Hard research required

• Find you initial sector – Don’t attempt a big bang release – find that sector who see most benefit around your new USP and who match your MVP

• Build from there – It took years to build your current platform. It will take time to build the new one

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Customer Research - making sense

Customer Research - making sense

Making sense of customer research

So you’re conducting some customer research in the b2b world, trying to figure out if that new product idea is something your customers will buy and use. But how can you tell? You present your slide deck and they seem positive – but does that mean they will buy? This is a typical product management issue – trying to interpret customer reaction and turn it in to a revenue forecast. Here’s a simple tip. When you present your new idea hold three pieces of information back:

1. The price

2. The delivery date

3. Some integration details

Customers with real interest will ask questions like “When can I have it?”, “How much is it?” or “Will it work with our back office processes?”. Customers who don’t ask are probably not interested.

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