I was speaking this week with some new people on my team about some key aspects of the way we as a company – and I in particular with my team – think about product management. I thought I’d share some of those thoughts here.
The way I see my role as a product leader, the main question I am asking is what. What problems do our clients and prospects face? What would they like to accomplish that they can’t find a good solution for currently? What other tools/processes are they using currently to solve their problems or achieve their goals? What problems are painful and pervasive enough that they would pay someone to help them solve these problems or pursue these aspirations? Along with someone from our design and development teams I want to dig into these “what” questions with as many people as I can, asking them in formal ‘voice of the customer’ sessions and listening for insights from informal conversations at conferences and in other settings.
The question I am not focused on is how. How do these clients and prospects want us to solve their problems? Here I trust our design and development experts to craft the right workflows and tools, taking advantage of the right technologies. The clients and prospects I talk with are experts on their own problems and dreams but not usually on the best solutions, and I need to resist the temptation to either be an ‘order taker’ from our clients or to assume I can devise the best solutions on my own.
What I bring to the product development process is expertise on (and curiosity about) the market, the kinds of problems and hopes our potential clients live with in their work lives. If I can stay focused on the “what” questions that help articulate those problems and dreams then I can count on our design and development teams to come up with great solutions as together we iterate around ideas until we find the ones that resonate the most. This can be a tricky process of course because in truth it’s not that simple.