Every business is peddling some form of goods or services and product managers are under constant pressure to ensure the success of the final offering. Product managers are tasked with overseeing the entire lifecycle of a product, from the development phase to when it becomes available to the public. There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to creating and selling a product and we have some advice for managers that want to up their game.
Designer with an idea image from Shutterstock
Michael Bromley has over 15 years experience in IT, marketing, product development and business operations across a range of industries. He has consulted in product development, delivery and lifecycle management for the likes of AOL, Telstra and NBNCo.
Speaking at Seek.com.au's Leading The Product conference, he has a few pieces of advice for product managers who want to work towards creating the best products they possibly could.
Put the customers first. No, really
Every company under the sun will say that they always put the customers first. But how many of them actually do it? Bromley said he has worked with a lot of organisations that promise to keep their customers in mind when it comes to product development but end up just doing the same thing they've always done without much reflection on what their consumers really want.
So don't just pay lip service to "putting customer first". You need to actually do it.
Think about the problem before the solution
Providing a solution to customer problems should be at the heart of product management but often companies are dive head first into the development phase and forget to look closer at what the problem they're trying to solve really is.
Bromley said this is often the case with technology organisations as they have a lot of intelligent people who are very capable of solving a multitude of issues.
"The issue with putting the solution first is that you might not be solving the right problem,” Bromley said. “You need to understand the problem thoroughly first, which is really a design-led approach."
Don't let data alone dictate your product development path
It's easy to fall into the trap of relying on data points to lead the direction of how a product is developed because data lets you learn from the past in terms of what works and what doesn't. While Bromley agrees that data is important, getting real insight from real people is equally as important.
He encourages product teams to go out and test their creations with users, customers or staff early on in the development cycle. This can be done using low fidelity, high level prototypes, sketches or drawings.
"It's really cheap, simple and fast to put a picture in front of someone and say 'what do you think?'" Bromley said. "Let people give you feedback and perspective that you didn't have before."
Ties deliverables to strategic intent
Bromley is surprised at the number of product managers that he has worked with who had no idea what their corporate objectives were. Developing a product without understanding and mapping it to what your organisation wants to achieve as a whole will lead to failure down the track.
Do less more often
Not to be mistaken as "do more by doing less". For Bromley, it means making smaller bets more often when it comes to investing in creating a product. He has observed that organisations are inclined to make big bets once or twice a year usually with large dollar sums attached to them. This is extremely risky.
"Tiny bets all the time seems more natural to me. If you mess it up, you can fix it. If you really mess it up, you can throw it away. It doesn't cost that much time, effort or money," he said. "More importantly, if the world changes - as it does quite often - the big bets tie up people, funding and mind space for a long period of time. By the time you have delivered [the product], the world has already shifted."
Spandas Lui travelled to Melbourne for the Leading The Product conference as a guest of Seek.com.au.