I work with several early stage companies that are spending all of their time and energy focused on building great products that address real customerpain. To me, this is the most exciting time in a startup’s development. Starting from a blank page and creating something that will hopefully be in the hands of many satisfied users is both an imposing and thrilling challenge. My product management experience has given me several key insights (I think!) into what contributes to the success of a product manager. I’ll share a couple of those thoughts below and hopefully publish additional ideas over time.
I don’t think that you can be truly successful as a product manager if you haven’t experienced the customer or user’s pain firsthand. Being close to the customer can provide unique insight into product requirements, and even more importantly, can shed light on what is not required in the product at all. Often times, customers and users will say that they want X or Y feature, but that is only what they think they want. What they need is a specific problem to be solved. Having lived with that problem can provide a product manager with the insight required to identify a true solution. All customer and user feedback is not created equal and knowing which feedback to incorporate into product plans is a necessary skill for any product manager.
A successful product manager also knows that he or she is not an engineer. Trust the engineers to do what they do and involve them early and often in product thinking. If the product manager and the management team have hired strong developers, technical leads, etc., they will not only figure out how to build the product correctly but they will help make the end product markedly better. Many product managers don’t have the confidence in themselves or in engineering to avoid micro-managing and over-documenting. But I’ve found that allowing the engineering team members to own what they are expert in leads to greater confidence in the product manager, more collaborative teams and more efficient product development. It also just makes being a product manager a lot easier!
(Thanks to Hiten Shah from KISSmetrics for inspiring this post.)