Product management is the process of guiding a product as it is developed from inception to its shipment, including all updates and additional versions from continuous development. Product managers oversee all aspects of product development, working closely with various teams to ensure the product is delivered on time and that stakeholder expectations are met. Beyond simply overseeing product development, product managers are also heavily involved in product strategy, analysis, testing and marketing.
What are the basic product management principles?
- Observing users, designing with intent, embracing uncertainty, empowering team members and dedication to quality are basic principles for product managers.
Whether working within Agile or another product management workflow, there are several basic principles that PMs should follow to ensure their team can deliver quality products on time that will perform well on the market.
- Observing users: The user is the most important stakeholder in the product management lifecycle. In order for a product to succeed, it must fulfill the user’s needs and offer a value proposition that allows it to outperform other options on the market. This includes gathering and analyzing user data but also observing the lifestyle and routines of potential customers to ensure the product aligns with their goals and objectives.
- Designing with intent: Once the target user becomes clear through observation and data analysis, it is imperative that their needs remain the focus throughout the design process. Ensuring that all stakeholders understand the user’s needs, problems and why they need solving is key to designing successful products.
- Embracing uncertainty: As a product begins to be designed and iterated, new discoveries may arise that impact how the product will be perceived by users, such as competing products reaching the market, opportunities for optimization and the reduction or replacement of one need in place of another. Even after a product has reached the market, user needs may change so it is crucial for product managers and teams to adapt quickly and be ready to adopt new features to succeed.
- Empowering team members: Product managers can’t reach their goals without the help of their team members. Ensuring the people who are the most hands-on when iterating products have the resources, understanding, support and capabilities they need to do their best work means they will be able to put more care and effort into the creation of products. This not only includes providing them with cutting-edge tools but also allowing them a voice for decision-making, ensuring they have enough time to work on the product, prioritizing their work-life balance, providing proper training and being understanding of setbacks.
- Dedication to quality: If a product meets a user’s needs, but doesn’t offer the quality that users expect from market-leading products, it will receive less adoption and have a negative impact on the public perception of a brand. This will also lead to negative impacts on future products, even if those products contain none of the same issues. In software products, quality issues may include long load times, badly designed interfaces or compatibility issues with other software or operating systems. To combat this, extensive testing should be conducted prior to and after the product’s release and new iterations should continue to be worked on through the maturity phase.
- Focus on competitors: As a product hits the market, competitors will inevitably rise up attempting to capture market share. To combat this, product managers should remain proactive in determining new ways to improve the product and increase value proposition in future iterations.
What is the product management lifecycle?
- Introduction, growth, maturity and decline make up the four stages of a product’s lifecycle.
Product management is a strategic discipline that requires careful planning to facilitate successful product launches and maintain product viability. In most cases, product strategy will be planned over the course of four phases: introduction, growth, maturity and decline, all representing a different stage of a product’s existence.
- Introduction: The introduction phase is when products begin to be ideated and brought to stakeholders to determine the product’s viability, target audience and use cases. Decisions regarding resource allocation and budgeting will be made during this stage. The creation of the Most Viable Product (MVP) will also occur during this stage, and eventually, the product will be brought to market.
- Growth: The growth phase occurs once the product has proven to be viable on the market and profit margins start to increase. This is usually when companies begin allocating marketing resources towards gaining more users for the product. Product managers and their teams will begin to identify audiences beyond early adopters while deciding on new features that should be included within future iterations of the product based on audience feedback. Growth hacking and data mining techniques will prove to be valuable during this stage.
- Maturity: During the maturity phase, customer growth will begin to taper off and profits may decrease as competitors capture market share with similar products. Product managers, along with marketing and sales teams, will begin turning their focus towards reducing churn by responding to existing customer needs. Potential tactics used may be lowering the product’s cost, adding new features with a proven high ROI and reducing resource use, all intended to keep customers satisfied and increase the longevity of the maturity phase.
- Decline: As the product’s need and value proposition inevitably begins to dwindle, products will reach the decline phase. Depending on the market, product managers can either choose to build upon the initial product offering by pivoting their product’s assets towards new use cases or determine new ways to offset churn by resurrecting former customers through marketing, sales or development tactics. Eventually, every product will need to be sunsetted so the company can turn its attention toward new innovation. To reduce pain points while sunsetting, product managers and their companies must be prepared to offboard existing customers, usually by providing refunds on their membership if it stretches beyond the product’s final live date, exporting or transferring data and providing customer service to ensure customers can fulfill their remaining needs without the product.