This Q&A with Marty is not one of the best, the questions are not particularly good, but still a few good insights on key themes like strategy, the PM role, agile methods, etc.
- The main thing I get frustrated with at companies, is that they have no strategy – not even a bad strategy, just none.
- They have some objectives, like grow the business or reduce churn rates. And then a roadmap of features. But that’s it.
- This is a difference with good product companies, where the strategy is right at the heart of what teams do.
- Strategy requires doing things that are hard, like making decisions about what not to work on. They have too many priorities. They don’t really understand what it means to focus.
- Thinking and looking at insights is required for good strategy. It takes a lot of work.
- Managers need to sit down one-on-one with product teams to discuss how they are contributing to the strategy.
- Product strategy should tell you what problems need to be solved. This is what you then give to the product teams to tackle. Not just passing down a roadmap.
What is an empowered team?
- Do they get to figure out the best way to solve the problems they are tasked with, or does somebody else figure that out?
- But to do that, they need a true cross-functional team. PM, UX and design, and engineering.
- The biggest thing missing from most teams is a real product manager. They have product owners, but not a product manager.
- A product owner is just a backlog administrator. This is not that helpful to a product team.
- These people can be coached most of the time to be a product manager though.
- The PM is a problem, because there is only one on a team, unlike engineering. And if that PM is not capable, then you have a big problem.
Trust in product teams
- The executives need to trust the team, and in particular the product manager.
- Otherwise they won’t let them figure out the solutions.
- In the team it requires trust between the different roles, because to solve the problems it means everyone working together.
- Character is also important. Don’t hire jerks, otherwise it is hard to collaborate as a team.
- Lots of teams say they use Agile or Kanban, but this doesn’t mean they really are agile in nature, they are still following a roadmap and building features.
- There are a bunch of processes out there that call themselves Agile, but they are not. The most famous one is SAFe – this is just marketing, there is no agile there in shape or form. It’s command and control and waterfall.
- Companies sometimes have these Agile religious people. Anytime you have a religious view on these things it is dangerous.
- Discovery is much faster than delivery. We should do doing 15-30 prototypes or tests a week.
- We like discovery because we can very quickly find out whether something is worth building or not.
- Don’t like using the term MVP much anymore because it confuses people. It’s just another prototype mechanism. Most prototypes, and most MVPs, are going to be thrown away at the end.
- I’m allergic to process. A competent product manager is choosing the right techniques for the job.
- The four risks: value, usability, feasibility, viability, all require different methods.
- Sometimes it’s very easy and it just goes on the backlog. Sometimes it’s very risky and we have to do a lot of prototyping.
The difference between B2C and B2B
- It depends if it’s a good or bad B2B. Most B2B companies are terrible. That’s long established. They do terrible products.
- If it’s a good B2B company, the difference is not big at all. Basically you should build products for business users the you build for consumers.
- Most B2B companies are not well run from a product perspective. They are really sales driven.
- That leads to a whole bunch of bad behaviours.
How to measure progress in the discovery phase?
- Try not to think of discovery as a phase. It’s what design and PM do every day.
- You can look at silly metrics like how many prototypes we did. But none of that matters.
- What matters are the results. Look at the result KPIs.
- Everything else is a vanity KPI.
- You can do 100 prototypes in a week and still have a terrible product.
What does a sales team or CEO say when asked when a feature will be ready?
- It’s normal for customers to ask about features.
- You need to have a conversation with them about what they are really trying to do.
- The real answer is easy: we will solve the problem by a certain date. Not a certain feature.
- This is easier in B2C than it is in B2B.
Recommended book: Lean Analytics – this is one of the best in the series, and good for learning the data analytics part of the job. Also take a course on statistics.
What skills do product managers lack the most?
- Four big things:
- Deep understanding of your users and customers
- Deep understanding of the data and analytics
- Deep understanding of your own business
- Deep understanding of your industry
- A key thing for product people is constant learning. If you don’t like learning then you won’t like this job.