How To Be A Good Product Manager

Tips on product management and product marketing for product managers. By Jeff Lash

Deliver customer value, not product features

Posted on May 20, 2008 by Jeff Lash · 26 Comments

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If you want to be a bad product manager, try to deliver as many features as possible. The more features you have, the more likely you are to have the things that any individual customer cares about. Customers expect products to keep getting better, and the way a product keeps getting better is by adding more features. Plus, adding a whole bunch of smaller features will be just as good — if not better — than adding that one big important enhancement. More is always better, right?

If you want to be a good product manager, try to deliver the fewest features which will provide the most value. Customers buy products because of the needs that the product fulfills and the problems the product solves. Features in and of themselves are useless — they exist to fill a need. Customers will find product features valuable only if those features satisfy a need and if the act of filling that need is something which is valuable to the customer.

Unfortunately, product managers often approach this problem the wrong way. They will create a long list of desired features and then get estimates from engineering on how much effort each requires. The most important features may take the most amount of effort, so, in the hopes of getting more features more quickly, a product manager will forgo the most time-consuming — and often the most valuable — enhancements to the product. Instead of a few valuable features, the product gets a larger number of less consequential additions.

Rather than simply counting the number of features or the amount of enhancements, product managers should evaluate the ratio of value to effort and focus on obtaining the most value for the customer with a given amount of effort. Product management is not about delivering the most — it is about delivering the least. As Marty Cagan of Silicon Valley Product group writes in Great Products by Design (which has been quoted here before and will likely be quoted here again):

The job of the product manager is to identify the minimal possible product that meets the objectives and provides the desired user experience — minimizing time to market, user and implementation complexity.

Instead of adding more features, product managers need to make sure they have the right features in their product and consider removing features when appropriate. By creating a product that provides the most value for the least amount of effort, a product manager will produce a product which is easier to sell, support, and maintain, and ultimately deliver more value to the customers and to the organization.

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How To Be A Good Product Manager features tips on product management and product marketing, written by Jeff Lash (@jefflash on Twitter), Vice President and Group Director for theĀ Product Management and Portfolio Marketing research and advisory services at SiriusDecisions.

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