Product Managers – Don’t focus on product DELIVERY but focus on product DISCOVERY…

It’s always THE question for PMs, what to build so that they can move the needle? This question keeps me awake at night, and makes me think, “am I building THE right thing or not? How can I deliver the value?” Discovery is the key to the success of the PM role. As Albert Einstine said, “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.” As a PM I would like to spend 60% of my time discovering what to build and 20% helping the engineering and 20% enabling sales and marketing to sale it.

There are 3 key facets of Product Management

  1. Discovery – Explore what to build
  2. Delivery – Work with engineering uncover how to build
  3. Enablement – Help Sales and Marketing team to sale the product
Discover what to build…

Though discovery is one of the most important areas for PMs, in reality, unconsciously PMs spend more time on delivery and less time on discovery and it eventually impacts companies. As a human being, tangible things are always important in the world and we forget about intangible things. Software industry is not an exception to this philosophy. We don’t focus on the importance of intangible things. In this case delivery of the software or product becomes tangible vs discovery is intangible. Consider an example of the Amazon; Amazon launched Amazon Fire Phone in 2014 and soon realize they are nowhere to compete with iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. It was announced in 2014 and then discontinued the following year. It ran on Android and looked competitive. However, In reality, it was a critical and commercial failure. In this case, Amazon did not test do they really need this new product? They launch this product to compete with Apple and expected they will capture a certain market share. Amazon could have easily avoided this failure if they could have validated the problem. However, there was no problem in this space; they fall in love with the competitor’s solution and focus on delivery to launch the product in the market.  

As a PM one of the things, I would like to focus on how can I learn before I ship the product so that I can understand customer issues upfront and be more confident. No one wants to spend years or months to build the product and eventually realize no one wants to use it. As a PM, I would like to focus on small batch sizes when I think about any feature so that I can avoid waste in terms of cost and time. Successful product teams always overemphasize on the discovery because they do understand the benefits of it in the long run. Thus, the goal for any discovery process is to learn fast and understand; are we meeting customers wants, are we driving the right outcome for own business as well as customer’s business and are we solving the problems in the right order or not?

To become successful PM I want to build a mindset of “Continuous Discovery.”  There is a term widely and openly used in Silicon Vally, “Fail Fast”. However, I want to change that term to “Learn Fast” by following the “Continuous Discovery” process. Because I don’t want to understand what will not work after I ship the product; I want to understand it even before I build it. In the end, as Marty Cagan has highlighted in the INSPIRED book, “It doesn’t matter how good your engineering team is if they are not given something worthwhile to build.

Image Reference: https://www.chargebee.com/blog/product-discovery/


Also published on Medium.