One Product Path, Multiple User Viewpoints
It sounds obvious that good product management should be centered around user needs. Obvious possibly but how often are products designed around the needs of the development organization or even a sponsor organization? The key word in that phrase is “organization” as opposed to individual. It will be individuals that actually use the product, not organizations. Ultimate success rests with these people, how they use the product and how they react on a functional and emotional basis.
Product managers working with a strong user orientation have a distinct advantage with four key dimensions of product development.
proper market fit for the features and functions delivered
testing and validation will be more effective with a properly engage audience
the health of the product (do users actually enjoy the interaction)
identifying trends, not just a single point in time specification
The “four points” points above become the foundation upon which the Product Manager can enhance the product roadmap. When a foundation (typically prototype or other meaningful messaging/imaging) is in place then users can engage effectively and give their feedback on specific items for development.
Teaming for Thorough and Continuous Communication
You can (and should) formally engage users for specific design and development proposals that drive investment decisions but this “once in a while” engagement is best when it is within a context of a permanent, ongoing communications relationship. Here are a few ideas of how to build and nurture such a communication community.
Nurture users from day one through dialogue. When users engage in conversations about your product, it becomes the moment when people "fall in love with it".
Whenever a user reports an issue or new feature it clearly shows a level of engagement with your product. Maintain the conversation, learn more about it and communicate in every step of the way with your user so they can “feel the listening”. This is a wonderful way to understand what is not properly working on your product and also how users are finding interesting and creative ways to do their work
Talk to your customers, at “events” or any/all other avenues. It may take a few iterations to establish comfort and trust (“I’m not being just sold something”) but make that effort. Once people understand that you are genuine they will give you great insights on what is working or not on your product.
Be active in the user community, post or listen what others are talking or suggesting.
Investment Decisions and Stakeholder Involvement
From the user engagement you can generate a clear product vision and be comfortable that this vision will enjoy strong user (commercial) support. Finally this is the right time to involve stakeholders (“organizations”) in decisions that involve resource allocation and most efficient use of available funding. There are many different ways of segmenting this, but these three activities are typical.
prioritization of features
plan what to build next
review status of development
When product management is done with thorough user interaction and consultation the product enjoys much stronger customer adoption and satisfaction. The sponsoring organizations get the most effective use of their funds to achieve that strong satisfaction and so everybody should be happy.
Cesar is a geospatial professional working in product management and product strategy. He is a Senior Product Manager at Presagis, a Montreal based company providing an integrated and comprehensive suite of commercial-off-the-shelf software for the development of modeling, simulation, and embedded display graphics applications.