guest blogger product management

Know the World Your Product Lives in

Guest Post by: Peyvand Mohseni (Mentee, Session 5, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Jordan Bergtraum]

You have a product; you are passionate about it, you believe in it, you want it to succeed and you want your users to benefit from its awesomeness.

enjoyYou better know the world in which your product lives, what it can do today, what it will need to do tomorrow, how much it is in demand and what other products do very similar things.

Why do you need to know this? Because market awareness drives roadmaps that have the highest likelihood of “changing the game”. You’ll learn things that change your roadmaps for the better. You’ll learn things that confirm your roadmap is right. You’ll learn things that have no impact on your roadmap. You will be empowered not only to create a roadmap, but defend it. Defend it with your clients, your sales team, your account team, and your CEO.

To become a “market guru”, my objectives were:

  • Incorporate competitive analysis
  • Learn about our client’s business problems and product requirements
  • Learn about our market and prospects from our sales team

These objectives make for a better product, and a more successful company.

When I started my product management career, I mostly relied on my experience, common sense and intuition when making product decisions. And I wasn’t half bad. I directionbelieved that knowing too much about the marketplace would just lead to copy what I saw, and not be creative. But, the real reasons were:

  • It was more comfortable to trust my gut.
  • I didn’t want to admit my product had shortcomings, and these shortcomings were hurting adoption and customer acquisition.

Once I realized that my gut wasn’t the best decision maker, and that product shortcomings exist in the most successful products (Apple, Microsoft, SAP, Facebook, Salesforce) my world changed. I began to incorporate competitive analysis into my work. I also made a point of involving our sales and marketing team in product discussions, and attending regular calls with our clients. Gradually I became more comfortable with these activities and how to apply my newly-found wisdom .

This article is dedicated to how I go about including these activities in my routine, and some tools and strategies that work for me.

Competitive Analysis

Competitive analysis is fun as long as you are curious and open to learning the good and bad of your product. I suggest that you do not constantly compare your product to the ones you’re researching. That comes later!

I usually check out a competitor’s website, the news about them their trials and implementations, and their clients. I imagine the product, in its entirety and what it does, and I think about all the situations in which is can be used. Then I write down its features and the problems it solves, and compare them to my product’s. And I answer these questions:

  • Are we solving the same problems?
  • If so, are we doing it better or worse? Is there something we can learn from them?
  • If not, do we want to solve them? (This may affect our market segment and future of the product)
  • Do we have the same target customer?
  • What cool features do they have, that are fun and engaging?

I then incorporate this intelligence into my product roadmaps,. For each roadmap item I record the source (i.e. competitive analysis / request from one of our clients / sales / marketing). I also add a priority and a rationale for the priority.

The roadmap remains fluid and over time, I add to the list, modify items, and re-prioritize.

Client Interviews

interviewI make client interviews a regular part of my job, and not a special occasion. Our customer support has regular phone calls with our clients, and I attend these calls once a month.These calls give me a great sense of client satisfaction. We discuss their experience with the system, questions, and feedback on how well the the product meets their business needs.

I also use these calls to get feedback on ideas / needs they may have never considered. I send out an agenda beforehand and invite the key people.

The relevant ideas that come out of these calls get added to the roadmap, along with the findings of competitive analysis. Not everything on the roadmap gets done, that’s the truth of it. Some ideas are just not good for the product, and some are not important enough; they keep being pushed down the list.

When I identify a new idea I compare it to the top 5 items on my roadmap; is it as important as these 5 items? The answer depends on different criteria (see the Priority Matrix section below); often, this new idea is not as valuable as your current top 5; sometimes it’s a top 5 because you need to keep an important client happy, and sometimes, the new idea actually is one of the 5 most valuable things you can add to your product. happy.

Market Feedback

Market feedback comes from sales and/or marketing. Salespeople have direct and constant contact with prospects and clients, and have valuable information not to be ignored. They see the reactions to our product from our prospects; what they get excited about and what doesn’t elicit much interest. They have their finger on the pulse of why prospects choose us and more importantly, why they do not!

Luckily our sales team is pretty good at channelling information to the product team, such as feature request or new “big problems” in the market that will help us sell.

Priority Matrix

I use something I call a “Priority Matrix” – a simple and clean way of analyzing and presenting all the feedback I collect.

The Priority Matrix helps you prioritize the ideas in your roadmap and new ideas that come in. The matrix scores these ideas against your company and product goals. For example, customer acquisition, active users, revenue per user, etc.

Before you can employ the matrix you have to determine what your key company and product goals are, limiting it to the top 4 or 5 items. I recommend discussing this with your CEO and/or head of product to find out the 4-5 things that are most likely to “move the needle” for your company.

matrixOnce you have the key company/product goals, every idea you have should be scored against these goals. Each item can be scored 0 or 1:

  • 0: Doesn’t affect the business objectives
  • 1: Affects the business objectives in a positive way

Once each item is scored you will get a clear understanding of how important each item is for the company. There is a clear difference between an item that gets mostly 0s and the one that gets 1s.

Once you have a working matrix, validate it with your company’s subject matter experts (SMEs) in sales, marketing, customer support, and even your CEO. You can also bounce this off the thought leaders at your customers.

I usually add a field for rationale for each score, and the rationale should preferably be based on research, and data. For example, a study or a experiment will really support your roadmap, but an opinion such as “medication management is the biggest problem in healthcare”, without any hard data, does not really help you truly defend your roadmap.

One of the other benefits of asking SMEs for their thoughts is they feel part of the process and will get “bought in” much quicker.

Table 1: Priority Matrix

Idea Description Business Goal #1 Rationale Business Goal #2 Rationale
Idea #1          
Idea #2        

Instructions to fill out the table

How do the ideas impact the business goals: ei number of clients, number of active users on the platform, and revenue per user?

Rate each feature

  • 0: Doesn’t affect the business objectives or
  • 1: Affects the business objectives in a positive way.

Please include your rationale for your rating (e.g. stats or conversation with customers, studies, research, etc.)

Conclusion

My goal in this article was to show that learning about the world your product lives in is crucial. It’s also common sense and more natural than you may think. With practice and curiosity it becomes an easy habit which will empower you to “Change the Game”.

About Peyvand Mohseni

5p13 - Peyvand - Image of mePeyvand Mohseni is currently the Senior Product Manager at Wanda Inc. leading product management efforts for a portfolio of health technology products in chronic care management, home centered care and oncology collaboration.

 

 

More About The Product Mentor

TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
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  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

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Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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