While there isn't a secret sauce to build a successful product, there are tried and tested best practices by industry leaders that can save you from the mess. Today's blog is a collection of some of the most significant product management lessons that can help you grow as a great product manager and lead efficiently. Written by David Wang, ADPList mentor and Group Product Manager at Linktree, this masterpiece is guarenteed to make you giggle as you learn.
David is a world-class Product Leader with over 15 years of hands-on experience across AU, China, and US markets. Currently building experiences for more than 23M users worldwide at Linktree, he also built a tutoring startup, Product Academy, and has taught over 4,000 students globally till date.
I love Product Management. It’s one of the few roles where you directly impact people’s lives while making money for a meaningful business.
Product was my first job, and it’s been a job I’ve been doing for the past 15 years. I was fortunate to have worked for brands like Expedia, Vodafone, Airtasker, Qantas across all levels of the function. I’ve had my fair share of laughter and learnings.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt…but taught through memes! - David Wang
The lesson here: “Think in iterations, not product launches”
The stories of hyper-growth on the first day of a launch is not the norm. In reality, most products start with 10 users, then 100 users, then 1000, etc.
Launch is when your chapter one starts. Then the race is on as you trying to find product-market fit. Each iteration is an experiment, and it’s about placing small bets rather than going all in. The more iterations you can do, the higher the chances of product success.
The lesson here: “Agile is Not Product Management”
Countless processes, methodologies and techniques come and go. Nowadays it's Agile; 10 years ago was Six Sigma, and 20 years ago was SSADM.
“Companies are always searching for a silver bullet, and there is always a willing industry, ready and waiting to serve with books, coaching, training, and consulting.” — Marty Cagan writes in Beyond Lean and Agile
Don’t get this wrong, Agile is an important part of the product delivery phase, and you should learn it if you haven’t. But Agile is not product management.
Product Management is the end to end management of a product across its lifecycle. Agile is one of the methods to deliver a product to market.
Fundamentally there are only 3 principles of creating great products — regardless of what labels you put on them:
The lesson here: “Be careful of fancy frameworks”
We are not short on frameworks in the industry. New frameworks are invented every day. From MSCW Prioritisation to the OKR’s, to AARRR Metrics to Jobs To Be Done. These frameworks are great if used correctly.
However, it’s dangerous to follow a framework just because it’s new and popular. All frameworks spawn from another context, and it might not apply to you. Therefore, blindly following a framework can only confuse you and can be a detriment to progress. (I’m looking at you, RICE!)
To use a framework effectively, you need to learn the mindset, process and tools behind each framework before deploying them. Then, pick out what works for you and scrap the rest.
The lesson here: “Your buyer is the name on the credit card”
The buyer is not always obvious, especially in B2B software or double-sided marketplaces. To cut through the noise, think about the name on the credit card paying for your product. That is the buyer.
For example, in the case of Facebook Messenger and Google Search, advertisers are the buyers, and unfortunately, we are the product.
When you’re building products, you need to clarify the buyer’s needs first, then the needs of its users second. Sometimes it’s the same person, and sometimes it’s not.
The lesson here: “Strategy is about saying no to many things.”
It’s about saying no to ideas that don’t meet your Product Strategy. At the same time, it’s okay to take on a new idea if it helps you achieve your product goals faster.
The key to saying no to ideas that don't meet your product strategy is to:
The lesson here: “Manage unplanned work using a process”
Unplanned works like bugs are always daunting. Especially when your CEO raises a production issue at 6 pm and you need to make a decision quickly.
Set up an “unplanned work” process before you need it. The first thing you should do is make sure product tracking is in place. If there is no tracking, there is no data for any quality decision making.
Next, make sure you have self-service access to data for quick analysis. For example, use tools like Fullstory, Mixpanel or Amplitude so you can create your own data dashboards and speed up your decision making.
Once data tracking has been set up, you need to set up a formal process to prioritise bugs and issues. Write down the issue -> prioritising the bug -> decide when to tackle it -> then communicate back.
The lesson here: “Products must solve a problem and achieve business goals”
The dilemma of creating customer delight vs making money shouldn’t be a choice. You need to do both. So the question should be:
“How can we solve a customer problem and meet a business goal?”
The first step is to align your business goals first. Then dive deep with your customers to understand their heartfelt problems. Sometimes, innovation happens when the product solution is different from your company's conventions.
An example is the Shopify Shop App. Shopify wants to be on its customers' home screen, but positioning itself as another shopping app would have been a bad strategy.
They focused on the customer problem of parcel tracking (even if it’s not a Shopify purchase). This feature drove over 2M downloads of their app and has an average 4.8-star rating in the app store.
Then they provided an update where customers can shop directly from the app and promoted Shopify stores. In the end, the Shopify Shop app solved a customer problem (parcel delivery) while achieving a business goal (app downloads).
Product management is not an easy role. The best way to learn is by doing it, failing, and learning from the lessons. So here are the 7 lessons that you can learn from David's experience:
Loved these lessons? You can also follow David's blog for more such actionable insights.
David Wang (ADPList Mentor)
Group PM @ Linktree; Founder @ Product Academy
Mahek Tandon, Content Marketer and Writer at ADPList
Here's your quick visual guide on the best books on product management to hone advanced PM skills at any stage of your career.