The results of the first ever The Accidental Product Manager “where do you need the most help with product management” survey are now in! First off, let me take just a moment and thank everyone who took the time to (1) read my really long email, and (2) hit the “reply” button and sent me the number of the area of product management that you would most like to have help with. The answers were both exactly what I was expecting and a bit of a surprise at the same time – let me explain.
Before we spend any time reviewing the results of this survey, we should probably take a step back and make sure that we all remember just exactly what everyone was voting on. I created 7 (very high level) stages of the product management process. The question that I asked everyone was which of these stages was the one that they would like to know more about?
Know – all the stuff you are supposed to do before you decide to create a product. ID customers, segments, needs, etc.
Plan – once you’ve decided to create a product (or a next version) this is all of the business planning, sales planning, roadmap creation, etc. that comes next.
Execute – you know what your product looks like, this is where you determine who you’ll be selling it to, how you’ll get their attention, how much it will cost, etc.
Create – this is the heavy lifting: understanding your customers, creating your messaging, coming up with product requirements, creating various forms of content, etc.
Refine – we never do everything right the first time, this has to do with how we learn from what we’ve done in order to get better
Succeed – how do you help your company sell your product and what types of tools and training are you on the hook for?
Next – sometimes called support, this is really all about how you work with your existing customers to prep them to buy your next product or version of the product that they already have
And did you tell me! It took an entire weekend for me to sort through everyone’s responses. I just want to let everyone who took the time to send a response how much I appreciate your participation in this exercise. Now let’s get on to the results!
So who won? The first stage of the product management process, Know, was the winner – however, not by much! The second stage, Plan, came in a very close second. Third place was a bit farther down the line in slot #4 – Create.
What’s even more interesting is what parts of the product management process didn’t win. These were the final three stages: Refine / Succeed / Next. I’ll have more to say about this later on.
What this tells me is that everyone seems to be tuned into the fact that if you want to manage a successful product, you need to do your homework up front. Doing the market research and knowing who your customer is before you start to manufacture and ship products is vital.
What These Results Tell Us
As an experienced product manager, the results of this survey don’t really surprise me all that much – but they do confirm a number of different things. We product managers always seem to like to focus on the “sexy” part of product management: product definition. What we don’t like as much is the grind of actually helping to sell the things once they’ve been created.
This is actually a bit of a mistake on our part I think. If you want to be a successful product manager and move up in your company, you are not going to be recognized for how pretty of a product you can create (unless you work for Apple). Instead, what the company is going to be looking at you to do is to create a product that they can sell a lot of . This is exactly what happens at the tail end of the product management process.
In order for a product to be a success, you can’t do it all alone. The final few stages of the product management process have a lot to do with you working with other people and departments in your company. This isn’t easy to do and yes, you really don’t have a lot of control over what they are going to be doing.
In the end, being a product manager is a tough job. There is a lot of work that we have to do and it’s not always clear what we need to be doing or how we can determine if we’ve done it well.
So why did we go through all of the effort of doing a survey? Simple – you’ve been asking for it. During the 4 years that I’ve been publishing The Accidental Product Manager not a week has gone by that I’ve not received questions from readers about one or more areas of being a product manager. I’ve been there and I’ve done it and I’m more than willing to share what I know.
Ultimately, answering questions one at a time struck me as just not really being all that efficient – I’m sure that there are a lot of you out there that have the same questions. I needed to come up with a way to provide you with a product management system that you could use and to answer your questions about how to become a successful product manager.
I’m just about ready to take the wraps off of an online product manager training course that I’m going to be rolling out here in a few days. This is going to be unlike any other Product Management training you’ve ever seen so keep your eyes open. Great things are coming your way!
What All Of This Means For You
This has been a good learning experience for me. All too often I think that I know everything and it’s good for me to be reminded that I really don’t! The fact that I got so many different responses from so many different people tells me that there is a real need out there for some really good product management information.
It is very clear that the field of product management is still a new field. We’re all very interested in what happens at the beginning. In part, we’re correct – you’ve got to get things off to a good start if you want your product to be a success later on down the line. However, it’s also very clear that we don’t yet fully understand where the money comes from. Money is made once the product has been created. That’s when the really hard product management work starts!
I’ve got your answers – and once again thank you very much for providing them to me. Now I’ve got to get my act together and create the training that you are so very clearly asking for. Give me just a bit of time and I think that I’ll be able to provide you with what you are asking for…