Tag Archives: product manager

Evolving Through Aggregation – Product Thinking

I am quoting here from the great Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon

H. SIMON explains through his famous Hora and Tempus Parable how complexity may have evolved:
“Let me introduce the topic of evolution with a parable. There once were two watchmakers, named Hora and Tempus, who manufactured very fine watches. Both of them were highly regarded, and the phones in their workshops rang frequently – new customers were constantly calling them. However, Hora prospered, while Tempus became poorer and poorer and finally lost his shop. What was the reason?
“The watches the men made consisted of about 1.000 parts each. Tempus had so constructed his that if he had one partly assembled and had to put it down – to answer the phone say – it immediately fell to pieces and had to be reassembled from the elements. The better the customers liked his watches, the more they phoned him, the more difficult it became for him to find enough uninterrupted time to finish a watch.
“The watches that Hora made were no less complex than those of Tempus. But he had designed them so that he could put together subassemblies of about ten elements each. Ten of these subassemblies, again, could be put together into a larger subassembly; and a system of ten of the latter subassemblies constituted the whole watch. Hence, when Hora had to put down a partly assembled watch in order to answer the phone, he lost only a small part of his work, and he assembled his watches in only a fraction of the manhours it took Tempus.

I find this has lot of value for product managers to read and glean through. Pick facts through an unrelated systemic explanation as above.

There are couple of questions which I did like product managers to take as a riddle and read through for answers or thoughts :

  • How TO construct strategy as sub-assembly designs to pave a roadmap of evolution of design via aggreations of loosely coupled blocks?
  • How NOT TO consider the sub-assemblies merely as lego blocks bit instead find sub-assembly patterns as more concrete lego bricks made up of blocks ?
  • How TO find balance between increasing complexity and evolution of design to minimize disruption?

These principles would apply to any kind of ecolutionary iniative one would take up and can define impacts that are both technical as well non-technical.

Strategy & Traits Of A Product Manager

Product Managers are increasingly gaining ground in an era where shipping software to shipping the right software for customers is becoming important. With new approach of customer driven development , it will become increasingly imperative that the product managers have a strategic bend to make the cut.

The role is a complex jack-of-all-trades persona that requires mastery of a diverse range of skills from programming, engineering, and user experience design to legal, PR, and marketing. Product managers serve as the communication hub between the engineers and designers and everyone else in the organization. It’s a strategic, decision-making role that touches on just about everything at a technology company.

Some of the following traits can help products managers to be the brain behind the approach in product , platform or the ultimate solution:

  • Be a future visionary and product evangelist

Anticipating the what is coming by talking and analyzing stories around you is an important aspect of being a strategic thinker as a product manager. One needs to look inward as well outward , separate the philosophy from tools to create a meta layer of information that will allow to frame the vision. Socializing and presenting what is being build and encouraging people to play with the tooling allows you to create a community driven approach for bettering the product vision.

  • Master technical know-how

Developing a T-shape profile is very important aspect of product management , know enough to visualize , postulate and present various options.Understanding of technical concepts is very important to create a relationship with the technology team and then be able to communicate what the technology team might say , or refer to as challenges.

  • Master the art and science of syncing across multiple platforms

Product managers need the experience and know-how to manage one product and features across all platforms. There’s whole art and science of keeping your product aligned and synced across diverse platforms. One needs to organize the development of the product to match the way users consume it split up across different experiences.

  • A knack for communication

Communication is very important to keep stakeholders updated across the across multiple views. In modern day distributed set-up it becomes imperative to use multitude of tool-kits (slack , zoom ) to support effective communication and publish short-term road-maps with quick iterative execution. They should ideally be excellent presenters, skillful diplomats, and good listeners

  • Know their way around metrics

It goes without saying that all product managers must know their way around metrics. They should understand what’s behind a meaningful metric. Product Managers should be well versed in analytics and methods of extracting the proper data.

Be The Thinker In System

In the modern world knowing only one thing does not suffice and it holds true across the board. The area in product management seems to become the biggest testimony to this aspect. If you want to be a strategic contributor as a product manager then in that case it becomes important that one should first become the thinker in system. I recommend everybody taking this path to definitely add to your reading list the following book : Think In Systems  by Donella H. Meadows

Coming back to the main point , what I did like to reflect here is that today, you can’t host your product on one platform. Usually, your product lives on multiple platforms or even more the platform itself is an net-sum product suite —your website, partner API , connecting systems etc.  Product managers need the experience and know-how to manage one product and features across all platforms. There’s whole art and science of keeping your product aligned and synced across diverse platforms.

One needs to be build understanding by observing and mapping the System, for example using the well-known method of User Journey Mapping.  They’re valuable as a way to describe your understanding of a system, and are best applied in collaboration with your critical stakeholders. The value of mapping and modelling the systems you’re trying to influence is that it helps you to spot the trends and patterns within that system.

Focus on following aspects:

Flow

What information is shown to who, how is that information shown, and who can manipulate information.

Rules

What governs the systems and how it operates. The bounded and unbounded context. The macro effects on the system.

Mindset

Changing behavior is not a joke but encouraging a new approach or adoption is an important point that needs to be kept in mind of a product manager to be a strategic thinker.

How do you organize the development of the product to match the way users consume it split up across different experiences? 

Playing Position Of A Product Manager

We are faced with decisions and trade-offs on a daily basis.  Moreover, we are challenged to ensure that product features, target markets, and technologies align with overall business and strategic objectives.  Projects are advanced based not only on technical merits but also sales, revenue, and profit forecasts.

Product management is one of the most strategic yet least understood business functions in many organizations. The roles and expectations of product management vary considerably from one organization to another. Even within the same company, product management is often carried out in different ways.

This lack of agreement on what product management is may also cause role confusion and miscommunication inside the organization, leading to sub-optimal performance. Foremost role of product management is to help bring process and business savvy to the creation and delivery of products. 

Play out some scenarios and you will see what is happening around you:

  • Traditional consumer companies have always considered product management to be a marketing role, which is why it seems to make sense to put product management there. And it does make sense–if marketing is defining and delivering products. Alas, many technology companies consider the term “marketing” to be synonymous with “marketing communications.” So if the Marketing department is only about delivering products but not defining them, product managers should be elsewhere.
  • For technology companies, particularly those with enterprise or B2B products, the product management job is very technical. This is why we see many product managers reporting to Development or Engineering. However, we’ve seen a shift away from this in recent years. The problem appears to be technical product managers spend so much time writing requirements, they don’t have time to visit the market to better understand the problems their products are designed to solve. They spend so much time building products that they’re not equipped to help deliver them to the market.
  • Very few product managers find themselves in a Sales (or Sales & Marketing) department. It seems clear product managers in Sales will spend all of their time supporting sales people with demos and presentations. The product managers become the sales engineers.

In effect, subordinating product management relegates it to a support role for the primary goal of the department & product managers end up being project managers and Development gofers.

My passing thought would be that it would never matter where product management reports. What matters is how product management is made more accountable and that would mean trying to answer , what does “success” look like for a product manager?