What is Product Management?
If you’ve spent a little time looking for a definition of Product Management, you’ll find that there are more definitions than you could have imagined. At the core of all the definitions out here, Product Management is about creating something that is valuable to people. “Value” is at the center of the discipline of Product Management. Here’s my simplest definition of Product Management.
Product Management is the discipline of delivering value.
The key question that Product Management seeks to answer is “How do you discover, build, and ship something that is valuable to people?”
Let’s take a moment and break this question down.
Let’s start with what it means for something to be valuable and let’s not overcomplicate it. Something valuable is something that solves a problem. Value is expressed in either time, effort, or money. The more that time, effort, or money is exchanged for something, the more valuable something is.
Discovering what is valuable is the process of figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and making sure there are enough people who need that problem solved. Don’t build a product that does a bunch of things but not solves the actual problems. And don’t build a product that solves a problem but not have anyone who needs that problem solved. In either case, you’ll end up with a product that isn’t very valuable.
The person that locks themselves in a basement to dream up and build a product makes a good story for a movie but isn’t a good story for someone wanting to build something actually valuable. Product Management is about methodically switching between shipping something and validating it with customers until a production-ready product is completed. It’s not about coming up with a master plan, building it for an extended period of time, and then seeing if people will find value in it.
One of the greatest product tragedies is building something that actually solves problems for a large number of people, but people don’t know about it. Getting products to customers is one of the biggest challenges in bringing something to market. Product Managers are instrumental in figuring out how to communicate the value the product will deliver and then figuring out ways for people to discover the product. The best products have these attributes built in.
There are three groups of people to consider around a product. The customer, the business, and yourself. Each of these group must find value in the product that is built. Each group expresses the value in different ways, but the needs of each of these groups of people must be met. For the customer, a problem must be solved. For the business, money must be made. For yourself, the purpose must be clear. If any of these people are underserved, the product will suffer and ultimately fail to deliver value.
“If it doesn’t add value, it’s waste.” — Henry Ford
The core of Product Management revolves around adding value to people. Every idea, methodology, concept, mental model in Product Management can be reduced down to being a discipline of delivering value.
What other core principles help define Product Management?