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The Next Steps for your Product Success

Personal growth
Product Team
Product

16 January, 2019

Patrick Palmer describes how product managers can stay informed and outlines steps to take in order to determine what’s the next best move to make for your product.

Problem

I stopped investing in one of the products that I did a few years back because the monthly active use (MAU) was more than satisfying. It had reached a point where I didn't know what I could add to the product that would attract even more users, so we pretty much stopped investing, and after a while users began complaining. Our customers were involved in our investment, they saw our trajectory, and for many years each release brought something new and exciting. As soon as the product went stale, our customers found that it felt incomplete and, therefore, MAU dropped. So how do you decide how to inform yourself about your customers' needs and what actions to take next?

Actions taken

Staying informed

  • Don't trust anything unless there is both quantitative and qualitative analysis. If there's just quantitative data you might get the wrong idea about how many people have interest in your product or a specific workflow or feature. With all quantitative data input you want to see the correlation with qualitative feedback, ideally in the form of interviews.
  • Always talk to users and find out what is important to them. There is no great idea further developed inside your room, so I encourage every PM to get out of the building and go see customers. Comprehend the environment within which the product or feature works well in, run ideas by customers and engage with the actual end user, not just the person writing the cheques.

Deciding What's Next

  • Don't be afraid to say no to things that don't help you in the long run. This is especially true if your product isn't public yet. There is an art to saying no and making sure that you don't agree to ideas that won't serve the North Star you envision.
  • Ensure that at the core you have something that tells a story, that you know who your target user is, and that you have a good grasp of what will drive that user to continuously use the product.
  • Understand how much time the user is going to invest in the product. Are they likely to read up on material, or go look at a tutorial? How long can it take for your product, your feature, or your workflow to be understood?
  • As soon as you know what you want to do and who it is for, then get more insight into why you are doing it. Remember that what you are doing is both relevant for your customers and also the business. Those two have to stay connected. To do so, make sure that the numbers that you had in mind originally continually line up with user demand and business outcomes.
  • Lastly, figure out the 'how.' This is when you think about design, talk to designers, engineers, and establish if the product is something that can actually be delivered. Choose a time frame, the quality of the product, and the delivery cost.

Lessons learned

  • There is a broad spectrum of users so know how many segments that you need to cover.
  • The 'who,' the 'what,' and the 'why' always run in parallel. If something moves in one department than determine how it relates to the others and the assumptions that you have made. Congregate these assumptions into one point.
  • Trust your instincts. Data can only take you so far so once you have covered all areas of analysis, follow your gut feeling and make a decision.
  • If something doesn't add up then dig deeper. Don't rely on developed methodologies or on people's advice. And don't go for the most satisfying answer. Look thoroughly, research, and talk to several people before determining the best directional opportunities.
  • Whenever something extraordinary pops up, take it into consideration. Reconsider the area that it effects and govern if there is an alternative item or method that is more appropriate in order to deliver the original idea.
  • At the end of the year, look at what went well and look at what went wrong. Have a yearly retrospective with your crew and keep in mind that what took you here, won't take you there.
  • Don't just look at the final outcome. Creating a product is a process, and sometimes the user is attracted more to the trajectory than they are to your idea of the ultimate product.

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