If you want to be a bad product manager, include only those features customers have identified as necessary on your “must have” list. It’s hard enough to get all of the necessary features into your next release, so you can’t clutter it up with things that may be neat but are really not necessary. If customers haven’t asked for it, then it must not be necessary. Focus on providing those pieces of functionality that really must be included in the next release of your product.
If you want to be a good product manager, include some “inspiring/exciting” features on your “must have” list even if they may not be “necessary.” There are a few reasons to have non-requested and non-“must have” features in your list of top items to add to your next release:
- Just because a customer did not ask for a feature does not mean it may not be a highly valued or used feature. There are many great examples of good additions to products that came from a need that was not articulated but observed by a user researcher, or a “crazy” idea from a brilliant engineer.
- Including just the “must have” features puts you in perpetual firefighting mode. By the time a customer asks for a change to your product, they and many others have likely already grown frustrated. Focusing just on the features that customers ask for is a reactive strategy and gives you no opportunity to get ahead in the market.
- Some of the best features to have in your product are ones that are not “necessary” but can generate an emotional reaction from customers. These exciting, inspiring features are what generate loyalty and goodwill, and can pay dividends as they so often spur that much sought-after “viral marketing.”
In his great article The Top 12 Product Management Mistakes And How To Avoid Them (PDF), Marty Cagan explains that these inspiring features are not “nice to have”:
One of the most neglected aspects of product definition is the emotional element. Put bluntly, it is hard to get excited about a boring product. Yet when products are being specified, inspiring features and ideas are almost always the first to get cut in the near-constant negotiation to develop a product in the desired time frame. It is relatively easy to come up with a product with a solid list of functional and practical features, but not have one that creates the desired enthusiasm or loyalty. Without that enthusiasm and excitement, it is much harder to build a community of loyal customers, which makes it much harder to sell and support the product.
With constrained resources, tight timelines, and a long list of desired features, it is always difficult to put some inspiring features in to a release and leave out some that may be of higher priority. However, those inspiring features may cause so much excitement that users forget about the “must have” features that are missing.
There will always be high priority features that need to be added, but adding inspirational features needs to start somewhere. At first it may just be one feature or dedicating a small portion of the release to these types of enhancements. This small addition of inspiring features will be significant and will hopefully be the first step towards a product that does not just satisfy but truly excites and delights customers.