As product managers, some — or maybe even many — of us have been able to escape the Build Trap and evolve past the Feature Factory. Hopefully behind us are the days of chasing purely feature-based roadmaps and instead, we’re working in empowered teams trying to achieve outcomes.
As part of this transition, we have started to use product analytics tools like Pendo to understand user behavior and sentiment from a quantitative perspective. As we’re confirming user problems to solve and evaluating various solutions, we’re conducting user interviews and usability tests, which means we’re amassing all kinds of qualitative information.
Your ideas could be messing up your product roadmap. Yes, you read that right. Wait, aren’t great ideas the fuel of a good product roadmap? Sure, to some extent. But are you suffering from challenges like having a hard time sticking to your roadmap and delivering against it? Half-done or low-quality features? Constantly switching priorities, or too much WIP? Well, it may just be because of your ideas.
There are an increasing number of books out there about various aspects of product management. Here are some of my favorites which will hopefully be useful for both aspiring as well as experienced Product Managers and entrepreneurs:
Marty Cagan’s INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love is a must-read. He covers everything from the structure of the organization, ideation and discovery to scaling the business. In this 2nd edition, he focuses not only on start-ups, but also on growth-stage and large companies.
The Lean Startup is a classic. Eric Ries, in this milestone book, makes the case for the discipline of entrepreneurial management (Vision), dives into the details of the build/measure/learn loop (Steer) and shows how to accelerate learning and scale the business (Accelerate). (Also, check out Eric’s 2nd book “The Startup Way”.)
Hooked: Nir Eyal takes his readers on a fascinating journey into the Hooked model and explains what it takes to use habits to create “sticky” and engaging applications that users come back to again and again. This book will be particularly intriguing to those of us interested in human behavior, psychology, and brain science.
The Lean Product Playbook was one of the first books I read when getting into Product Management. Dan Olsen does a great job of walking his readers step-by-step through the process of determining target customers, identifying underserved needs, defining the value prop, and, building and refining the MVP. Furthermore, he also gets into how to use metrics and analytics to optimize the product.
Running Lean: As the master and creator of the Lean Canvas, Ash Maurya shows how to not just create a product, but a viable and scalable business by documenting a plan, validating the riskiest parts, and testing the plan qualitatively and quantitatively. (Another great read of his is the follow-up book “Scaling Lean”.)
As it turns out, many very successful entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have one habit in common: they read a lot! I hope this list is inspiring you to keep reading and learning about the expanding field of Product Management.
What are some of your favorite product-related books?
Everyone loves a “can do” attitude. “Yes, we can!” has become – even when stripped of any political connotations – the rallying call of an entire generation, empowered, driven, and enthusiastic. For a young startup, this type of optimism is a prerequisite. Pessimists would probably never embark on a dangerous journey into uncharted waters, let alone survive the trials and tribulations that are an integral part of bringing a new product to market. But as startups grow, …
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Product Management is a newer “function” and many companies don’t employ it from the beginning. Instead, it tends to emerge over time as companies start focusing on making their software products better. I’d like to describe a common pattern I’ve seen that shows how organizations often introduce Product and related functions in an Agile environment. Of course, not everyone will follow this pattern: the sequence may change or some may jump straight into later stages, but the main progressions is typically similar.
The starting point often looks like this:
“IT”/Technology is developing and operating software applications. Agile Product Owners (POs) exist, but they are typically part of the technology organization and often have less of a true Product background, but tend to have job titles like Business Analyst, etc.
As the organization doubles down on making the software products actual commercial products and is ready to start emphasizing product as an actual craft and independent function of its own right, Product Management is introduced into the organization:
I have written before about ease of use and the key characteristics of applications that are perceived as user-friendly. In this post, I’d like to dive deeper into what I call the “mental model” that underlies applications. I would define the mental model as the intuitive perception a user has or develops about how an application is organized and how it performs its tasks.
The mental model has two key components:
The information architecture: How do the various elements used within an application relate to each other?
The process flow: Which steps does the user of an application have to perform to accomplish a task and what states do the elements of the application move in between? What business rules apply?
The reason I wrote earlier that the user may already have a mental model in mind when starting to use a new application is that none of us is a blank slate. Based on prior experiences, we already have several very specific mental models we’re using or trying to apply when confronted with an unknown application. Let’s look at a few examples of existing mental models we already have: