The article touches responsibilities of Product Managers and their role in a product development process. The info here is a bit outdated by now, at least, and has different responses. So if you want to know what’s the real difference between bad and good — go for it.
However, I wouldn’t focus that much on the responsibilities.
I would like to talk about the mindset.
People around keep saying that if you are a product manager, you should never be an idea guy. And it’s true.
You do not need to come up with new ideas and new features. However, you are always welcome to do that. But you have to know the difference between “coming up with a new feature” and “coming up with a new solution.”
And the gap here is huge.
As a product manager, you should never come up with a new feature. Never. Under no circumstances.
If you decide to add a feature just of the pure joy if adding this feature it will never be successful.
For example, you have a geo app, which people use when they need to get somewhere or navigate when they are traveling. You know that it’s a useful thing. People use it, and they love.
And now you are thinking: “How about we create a memory journal? For example, when people travel to a location, they can take a picture of this location and put it in a special journal to have it as a memory of the place they visited.”
Does this sound like something good?
It might. You can even ask a few people about the feature, and they’ll get excited and tell you that they have always been dreaming of something like this.
That will be your “interview” and justification for a feature.
And, I know that in a big corporation or an established company it will be tough to prom this feature without any justification. But in small companies and especially startups it can be done easily.
And it’s bad. And it leads to spending precious time and money. Eventually, you have a feature that nobody uses because it just doesn’t fit here.
But how so, you can ask. People told me they would have liked it.
And that’s a sad truth about people. They are not always sure what they want. Especially if you suggest “a feature” instead of “experience.”
What’s the difference?
A feature is a simple, physically implemented tool for making people’s life easier. It can be an option, a new menu and it can be an addition to an existing functioning system. It has no value on its own unless people use it. It’s also useless when customers and people do not need the feature.
Features exist outside of the realm if you wish.
Or if you like games: features are portals in different dimensions. Well-crafted, good feature will transport you to the right place when you use it. Broken portals will throw you god knows where and, eventually, you will be scared to use them. They are unpredictable!
Your features and products are portals to the right experience.
Experience is a unique thing. That’s why it’s so difficult to craft!
The problem is that you cannot create an experience for someone. Nor for yourself. It is the inner, most intimate part of human existence. Although you can share your experience (as you think), it’s never the same as you had it. People have a similar experience. But rarely have the same feeling about it.
As a product manager, you do not create a product. You create an experience. The experience that will eventually resemble with how a person sees the world when it uses the product you are curating.
So, you may ask: “Features and experience are two different things?”
Well, yes and no.
Features are what creates the right experience.
You use features to craft the world around the user. Not all the way around.
You don’t build a feature and say: now you have to feel this. It doesn’t work that way. And even if you manage, eventually, talk people into feeling something, it will take so much time, resources and energy, that you will not want to do this again. Propaganda works well. But it works for the sake of bad.
If you want to work for the sake of good, then the experience is your first and best friend.
You may think that it’s too complicated because people’s experience is something you can never guess. And you don’t have to. There are just a few strings in human’s nature you have to use to your advantage when you create the right experience.
It’s like drawing.
You do not have to draw a photo-realistic horse to convince people that it is a horse.
What you have to do is to know what most people associate with a horse. What main features of the horse create the right experience for people? Mane? Ride? Horseshoe?
And usually, you do not have to do anything else. Everyone knows that you are saying.
The same works for products.
Although you will have plenty of interviews, where people will tell different things and discuss different aspects of their experience that they already have, you need to listen very carefully. For the clues, which will give you the idea, how to make your feature work for as many people as possible because:
- They need it.
- They will be happy to use it
- They feel it’s the right thing to use
- It creates the right feeling
Features are your weapons and tools.
And you are a knight in the shining armor.
Choose your tools wisely because they are the way to your triumph or failure.
Have you ever worked only on “features”, which eventually flop as something nobody would use? How did you manage to deal with it, and what would you suggest other product managers?
Let’s share some wisdom and help each other out!
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