Product Management : Lessons to be learnt

Product Management, is a tough job. And eventually becomes tough when you are venturing in to an unknown domain. However if though carefully, and learned carefully, this can be the most beautiful, soul searching experience for anybody:

Underlined are the few learnings from “Software Product Failures”…and you need not be an MBA to learn this.

Here we go:

  • Creating a new market is difficult and risky.
  • Changing people’s working habits is hard.
  • Social factors can make or break a product. The end-users didn’t see anything in it for them.
  • If the end-users don’t like a product, they will find a way not to use it, even if their bosses appear to be enthusiastic about it.
  • Talk is cheap. Lots of people telling you how great your product is doesn’t mean much. You only really find out if your product is commercially viable when you start asking people to buy it.
Consider this:
DRAMA (Design RAtionale MAnagement) was a commercialization of a University prototype for recording the decision-making process during the design of complex and long-lived artefacts, for example nuclear reactors and chemical plants. By recording it in a structured database this information would still be available long after the original engineers had forgotten it, retired or been run over by buses.. There are lots of social factors that work against engineers wanting to record their design rationale, including:

  • The person taking the time to record the rationale probably isn’t the person getting the benefit from it.
  • Extra work for people who are already under a lot of time pressure.
  • It might make it easier for others to question decisions and hold companies and engineers accountable for mistakes.
  • Engineers may see giving away this knowledge as undermining their job security.
So NEVER ever disengage the social aspect of a product development.
Try this and you will never run out of steam:
  • Force yourself to get out and talk to people. Ask their advice. Almost everyone will help if you ask them for feedback.
  • Force yourself to cold call a few businesses in your target market.
  • Create a plan of how to market your product.
  • Try and use your product as much as possible as you build it.
  • Get out of your comfort zone from day one
  • Do not have the mind set that the day you release version 1.0 is the finish line, it’s the starting line, so hurry up and get there.
By far the most significant problem is:
  • lack of market research
  • lack of marketing

With the benefitof 20/20 hindsight it seems blindingly obvious that we should:

  • spend a few days researching if a product is commercially viable before we spend months or years creating it
  • put considerable effort into letting people know about the products we create.

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