To manage a product with success implies profitable product launches, satisfied customers, high customer demand, business growth and a clear product strategy for the future.
The challenges we face when talking about product management are:
What are the steps to take when managing a product?
What is the product management process?
What should be done when taking over a new product?
How should a product be developed further?
To manage a product with success doesn't have a clear recipe. It can easily be a magic formula each product manager finds out and applies to their own solution. What's important is sharing the success stories and innovate the product management domain by network with like-minded people. Remember each product is unique and the approach we take to manage doesn't guarantee the success for all products - in this context we should rather seek the method that best fits a product.
We will start with an example which better prove our theory: we will call it "the yellow Mediterranean house".
We want to launch product EGEEA: a new housing style and we have the following targeted customers:
C1- A family with 2 teenagers needs a house with enough space for all family members.
C2 - A family with 2 small children needs a house with enough space for all family members and a yard to be used as playground.
C3 - A couple passioned by gardening needs a house with a generous yard used to set up a garden with flowers and vegetables.
C4 - A couple needs a house with extra space to set up an office space as both members are mostly working from home.
To cover all the needs of the different types of customers, we can propose a minimum viable product called "EGEEA-house" with the following characteristics: one large living room, the main bedroom with a balcony, two additional smaller rooms, a generous yard and a parking space with a personal touch to make the product stand out - yellow-ish Mediterranean style.
Remember we can propose a version of the product built specifically to satisfy the minimum needs of our customers but at the same time make it stand out from the rest with a special "feature".
So, let's get started and see what the steps to manage a product from A to Z are.
The first step when managing a product involves a good understanding of the domain and a clear vision on what we want to achieve. What happens if we don't have that knowledge and we are required to manage the product? Build up your product knowledge!
Ways we can extend our product knowledge:
Competitive research - Analyze competitors on the market and see what they are doing right and wrong. Adopt the good practice and validate it if it truly works for your product.
Market Research - Know the market and its trends to have better visibility on how your product can be innovated/adapted, given the constant changes happening worldwide.
The product vision can be captured in the following format:
Raise the next question each time you are taking ownership of new products and define a vision:
What do we want to achieve with this product?
Who are the customers who will be using the product?
What problems/needs are we solving with this product?
Who are the stakeholders who have interest/influence over the product?
What makes my product unique and different from the others?
What is the outcome of the product?
Another recommended template where the product vision can be translated very smart is:
FOR < customers >
Who < statement of need or opportunity>
The < product name> is a
That < key benefit, reason to buy>
Unlike < primary competitive alternative>
Our product < statement of primary differentiation>
For our "yellow Mediterranean house" example, we have identified the four main types of customers with a particular set of needs, the product(solution) proposed and the special "feature" which relies on the Mediterranean style.
FOR our customers - families with children and couples
Who need a house
The EGEEA is a building category
That offers a house with a lot of space: one large living room, main bedroom with a balcony, two additional smaller rooms and a generous yard with parking space.
Unlike other local housing brands
Our product offers a unique design: a Mediterranean style which offers a relaxing and enjoyable home experience for everyone.
When you start managing your product, make sure to assign a series of product goals which are mapped to their outcome or purpose. The product goals should follow a series of characteristics like:
Be customer focused. The way the product goal is formulated should always start with "Customer "and reflect the customer experience and journey.
Outline the benefit. The product goals are written from the customer point of view. However, make sure to outline the customer benefit for which the goal itself is being targeted.
State the feature. The product goals bring satisfaction to the customers via the benefits brought on by a specific feature for which it was built.
Here are some examples from our "EGEEA - Mediterranean house":
Customers enjoy a spacious house by having a room for each family member.
Customers enjoy a spacious house by having a room dedicated for work office.
Customers enjoy gardening by having a spacious garden around the house.
Customers enjoy a playground for the children by having a spacious yard around the house.
Customers experience a Mediterranean look and feel by owning a house designed on this style.
Customers enjoy a safe parking space by having a dedicated place in the front of the house.
A product requirement is the specification of a need which must be fulfilled to bridge a gap or solve a problem. Once we have the product vision and the goal, we continue by managing product requirements in a series of steps:
Gather requirements - Bring all the product asks from all the stakeholders in a single place which can be called "single source of truth".
Elicit the requirement - Clarify with the stakeholders all the questions raised on the asks gathered through various elicitation methods like interviews, workshops, surveys, questionnaires, brainstorming, whatever suits best and make sure that, in the end, we have reached clarity and accuracy on all product specifications.
A Use Case becomes the key element when talking about product requirements, as it offers a useful series of details to better understand all the layers involved like:
ID: Unique identifier of the use case.
Name: Short and clear version of a customer/business case, describing the action taken and what is wanted to be achieved by the action.
Description: Overview or summary of the customer/business case and describes the successful outcome which must be achieved.
Actors: Persons which interact with the system (product, solution, application) to achieve the purpose of the use case. They can be primary and secondary based on their role in the use case.
Main Flow: Series of steps in a scenario which is most likely and easy to happen with a successful outcome.
Along with the text details, we can also add some visual input such as use case diagrams where all the actors, use cases and interactions (relationships) are designed.
For better organization, a Requirements Traceability Matrix can be created where we basically map all requirements against their type, associated goal, associated feature and relevant use case.
Requirement ID | Goal| Feature| Requirement Type| Use Case| Requirement Description|.
Validate requirements - The product requirements can be validated in various ways like: based on a checklist, peer-review, walkthrough, formal review, ad-hoc based or scenario based.
The crucial element here is to align and agree with the stakeholders on the requirements, and obtain the written and verbal sign off. The acceptance criteria completes the validation where the stakeholders are told exactly the minimum to be delivered in order to accept and approve the product on its launch day.
After having clear product goals and having started product requirement management, the next step is to break down the bigger picture into smaller items such as features and uses cases. The best way to visualize it all is in an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). A special note must be made here - this step blends and goes hand in hand with the product requirement management process.
MVP - offers a lot of advantages when managing a product such as:
The product requirements are prioritized and only the minim viable requirements are included.
The product can be delivered fast to customers and can be validated in a timely manner to adjust all the necessary changes.
Having the MVP visualized helps the stakeholders better understand all the details involving the product and can accurately give immediate feedback, as well as sign off.
The MVP Use Case contains the following elements to better organize the requirements:
Use Case Name - states the purpose of the use case implying the customer journey/experience
Use Case Input - what we expect for the customer to input in our use case
Use Case Output - what we expect the result to be for our use case
! Don't forget that, after you set up your MVP with all the goals, features and use cases, you must ask for SIGN OFF from stakeholders and validate that your MVP is truly what everyone expects.
To receive a sign off from your stakeholders for the MVP is a confirmation that
The high-level product requirements are clear to everyone.
The stakeholders are aligned on what to expect when the product is launched.
The minimum set of requirements necessary to be delivered in order for the product to be accepted by the customers and stakeholders is known.
Acceptance criteria is a component which comes useful when talking about sign off. Make sure to formulate the acceptance criteria in such a way that they are easy to understand, test, and measure (quantify). Acceptance criteria should capture the minimum requirements expected by stakeholders to be delivered and should have a clear outcome.
In the requirement management process the most challenging phase is change management, which in our context means that requirements can suffer multiple changes during the product life cycle. Why do requirements change?
Missing requirement - some stakeholders can identify missing requirements after further analysis, event after the signed off MVP mentioned above
The requirement isn't solving the actual problem, need - customers and stakeholders sometimes ask for a requirement which isn't what they need, again the reference between what we think we want vs what we need
So, the basic question, what to do when change happens in your product?
We need to re-analyze the entire set of requirements set for the MVP and decide how to handle the change, if the change is truly part of the minimum viable product.
Update requirements if the change has reference to existing needs
Add new requirements if the change has references to new needs never discussed before
After the updates made for the MVP, we assess if the change impacts the launch day or the estimation, and how much time it takes for the product to be built in the end. All stakeholders are informed of the change and they align on all the decisions regarding the product.
There are two ways to measure the success of a product:
The Return for Investment is calculated with the following formula: ROI= Net Income/Cost of Investment or (Net Income- Cost of Investment) *100/Cost of Investment.
If the result is positive, then the ROI reflects + returns because the returns are higher than the costs.
For example, if the net income of a company is 150,000 euro and the cost of investment is 100,000 euro, then the ROI will be 50%. In this case, we have a positive ROI of the company that translates into 50 eurocents winnings for each invested euro.
Each product manager can decide if the work they have done during the management of the product can be labeled a success or a failure, more as a self-reflection or self-evaluation.
As product people, we can state if we have failed or succeeded in our quest to manage and deliver a product, based on our own guideline.
What does it take to manage a product with success: know your product and customers, define a product vision and goals, create a minim viable product by managing accordingly the requirements, get the sign off and be flexible to all changes.
Not the formula that works for you, no problem. Bring in your own game and innovate how we manage product with success.
by Ovidiu Mățan