One aphorism about creating great products is “write the datasheet first.” This is kind of a lean startup concept – write the datasheet and see if anyone likes it well enough to call you up and try to buy the product. It’s a type of minimum viable product.
But I also like to take the opposite approach, and imagine “what if?” This actually works whether you are planning to build a product, or looking to buy one.
Assume you’ve released your product and it’s successful. What would people be saying about it? Why would they have bought it? What kind of value would they be getting?
You’re putting yourself in the shoes of someone who thinks, “I found the ultimate solution to my problem in the market! Let me tell you why it’s so great, what it’s doing for me, and what you need to know about it.”
The obvious way to capture these ideas is in the form of Amazon reviews (five star, of course).
Since I think a lot about product management tools, both from the perspective of building them and buying them, here are some tool reviews I made up.
I emphasize they are me imagining “what if?”
So here are some of those great five-star Amazon reviews for the product of my product manager dreams – ProductManagerPro.
By A Solo Product Manager
Using ProductManagerPro, I was able to start making much better product decisions, and then to make sure that my decisions were being properly carried out.
Before I had ProductManagerPro, it’s true that I made those product decisions to the best of my ability, but I was never able to justify my decisions on anything beyond my strong (albeit well-educated) gut feeling. Having ProductManagerPro to back me up on these decisions has given me a lot more credibility within the organization. I now have a lot more confidence I’m doing the right thing. Add to that that I can now track how those decisions are progressing through my product development process, and I’m a very happy camper!
By A Manager Of Dozens
I have a staff of tens of product managers and almost 100 developers. When my organization decided to go with ProductManagerPro I had my doubts – another management tool that, if we spent a lot of time on it, all overhead, my managers might get some useful information, but it wouldn’t help me at all.
Well, those doubts were cleared up in the first few weeks. I found I was finally able to see what really was going on in my organization. ProductManagerPro’s information is at the sweet spot between high level strategy and low-level user story development.
It allows me to see how the work my team is actually doing – whether it’s development or product planning – relates to the high level goals of the department and even the company as a whole. And I can see not only whether we’re on track against those goals, but whether we’re aligned with them over time.
by A Die-Hard Agilist
As a developer, I thought ProductManagerPro was really not for me. I’m all for my product managers having a better tool than Word or Excel. I knew that automating some of what they were doing could help me out. But ProductManagerPro has surpassed my expectations. It hasn’t added overhead to my process (thanks to the integration with our IDEs, I can get my tasks provisioned right within my development environment). And it’s given me a lot more information about what I’m working on and why.
Sometimes people think us developers just want to be told what to do and then be left alone. In reality, I find it very motivating to be able to see why I’m working on a particular little item. That knowledge helps me do a better job, because I understand a lot better how this function will be used, what other capabilities it integrates with, and how it relates to the overall goals of the company and the users using our product.
Because of ProductManagerPro’s great collaboration abilities, I’ve also been able to make suggestions to our product managers for enhancements or improvements to functions I’m working on, which they have agreed to, and which I know have been popular with some customers! And this could not have happened nearly as easily without in the picture.”
by A Newbie
I am a new product manager, having transitioned from an engineering role. I found at ProductManagerPro really helped me make that transition in my organization. They had configured the system so I knew exactly what information I need to provide, in what format, so that I and my colleagues could make good decisions. And so my old colleagues – the developers – could get the most value from the system.
This ability to configure the system to match our business processes made a big difference to how quickly I was able to ramp up. It also gave me – and I think the rest of the team – some ‘secret sauce’ for doing a better job.
by A Numbers Guy and Executive
My company realized a few years ago that now that we’d implemented ERP and CRM, the only real competitive leverage we had left to automate was our product planning and development process itself. This is obviously the hardest thing to automate. But it also gives the most leverage, because a successful new product can really change the landscape for a business.
I started researching solutions for improving our product management process. We have about 100 product managers working with about 250 products and product modules and 1,500 developers. A lot of the solutions were clearly just toys when confronted with the scale of our operation. I contrast, ProductManagerPro addresses the kinds of problems a company like mine faces in the product planning and product management process.
We’re now one year into the implementation of ProductManagerPro and we’re seeing many improvements in various areas, although we’ve still got a long way to go. Just getting our requirements into a central system of record – in a scalable way as ProductManagerPro allows us to do – has been huge.
Our product planning process into an enterprise asset thanks to ProductManagerPro. Before, when requirements were scattered across various “systems” – mostly Word documents and Excel spreadsheets – we could not use them as an asset.
And the visibility that ProductManagerPro has given our executives, from product VPs to C-level execs new powers. We can catch problems while they are still imminent, rather than emergent. The top execs have a lot more confidence that the product teams are aligned with the corporate goals and objectives. That in itself has made the company a much more pleasant place to work!
What techniques do you use for helping create a compelling product vision? Have you tried writing a review of your (future) product from the perspective of your ideal customer?
Also, if you’re a product manager or a development manager, don’t you just wish someone really would give us this ProductManagerPro package?
Your host and author, Nils Davis, is a long-time product manager, consultant, trainer, and coach. He is the author of The Secret Product Manager Handbook, many blog posts, a series of video trainings on product management, and the occasional grilled pizza.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.