The main job of a Product Manager is to find and build the best solutions to her customer’s problems. As trivial as it sounds, we keep witnessing the rise and failure of thousands of products. That leads us to a simple yet powerful question: how does a Product Manager ‘manages’ to build a product that Customers really wants?
You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology — Steve Jobs
In the past couple of years we’ve seen a rising trend in our industry: In terms of products and services, everything starts with the Customer Experience. Nowadays, people don’t just buy a product or service, they buy an experience, something that makes them feel great or successful.
As a Product Manager, the first step you have to do is to understand the problem you want to solve. Once you decided what problem you want to solve, you’ll have to learn from it. One way to do it, is by interviewing your customers, asking them how they currently work around it, and learn the ways they interact with the problem; but don’t stop there; if possible, experience the problem yourself, think about it as if you were an undercover cop, you have to personally live the problem. That way, you’ll start thinking on possible solutions. And no, I am not talking about technology here, before you start thinking about whether using Node, Rails or PHP, you need to reimagine the set of processes that will let the user be successful on her desired outcome (goals).
Let me teach by an example: When I built Cloudadmin, I spent many weeks at warehouses and retail stores, doing and learning how they used to work and identifying the pain-points and bottlenecks of doing so. That way, I managed to find out ways to improve the processes by reducing the steps required to perform a given task. I call this method: process refactoring.
The MVP is widely misunderstood, it doesn’t mean you’ll create a crappy product that do a mediocre job, it means, though, you’ll create a small portion of the product that actually works and solves a couple of issues, specially core issues, the ones that’ll let your customer to get interested in your solution (and hopefully pay for it).
Let me put it this way: When you find a problem you decide to solve, you have to have the whole vision in mind (What do you want your product to be in 5 years?). However, the smart move to do, is to split the vision in different phases (The Product Roadmap) and, for the first phase (The MVP), you have to solve the core problem, the one that’ll let you get some customers (Traction), learn from them (Iterate) and, eventually, build your way up on top of that (Scale).