Five Articles To Make You A Better Product Manager

There has been so much written about Product Management recently that NomNom Insights and DataStories did a study of Product Management Content on Medium. We’ve been doing our best to keep up and have found a bunch of helpful ideas, experience and insights. Today, we share a few pieces that align with how we think and communicate important concepts better than we could have ourselves.

  • The 280 Group recently conducted a survey of over 850 Product Managers and Product Management team leaders about the biggest challenges faced in their Product Management organizations. You may be surprised to find how much room for improvement product teams think they have and how much that improvement can add to the bottom line. To download the survey report, you’ll need to give the 280 Group your email address, but it’s well worth it.
  • Julie Zhou, Product Design VP at Facebook has some great thoughts on the battle of “Metrics vs. Experience. Like Spiderman, Julie knows that the power of data comes with great responsibility. Read it to find out why “framing things as ‘metrics versus experience’ is entirely the wrong way to start the conversation.”

If these links put you in the product management reading groove, you might enjoy our 4 day course on Jobs-to-be-Done, which you can find on the bottom right of this page.

6 Steps for Product Managers to Handle the Pokemon Go Augmented Reality Craze

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Executive Summary:

With Pokemon Go’s explosive growth, product teams around the world are asking, “What are we going to do with Augmented Reality?” Jobs-to-be-Done provides a customer-centric framework for deciding if and how to invest resources in this new technology and ensure your efforts will create customer value.

  1. Don’t rush to build; be swift but purposeful. Flocking to new technology without a clear strategy can be counter-productive and increase your risk of failure.
  2. Define your customer’s job-to-be-done.
  3. Identify the unmet needs in the job-to-be-done.
  4. Answer these questions, “Can augmented reality help our customers meet these needs faster or more accurately? If so, how?”
  5. Measure if the new ideas will meet customer needs faster or more accurately than the existing solutions.
  6. Determine if you can integrate the ideas from Step 4 into your existing product or if you need to build something new.

If you’ve gone online in the past week, even for just a moment, you’ve no doubt heard about Pokemon Go, the Augmented Reality game that has men, women and children taking to the streets, parks and museums in a fevered effort to catch ’em all. The game’s success has sent Nintendo’s stock soaring and Product Managers across the country are being asked: What’s our AR strategy?

As recently as last year, Augmented Reality was firmly ensconced in the Trough of Disillusionment on the Gartner Hype Cycle. However, Pokemon Go’s success coupled with reports of it driving real in-store traffic and revenue, shows the technology is realizing its commercial potential. The distant, sci-fi promise of AR is here, now.

If you’re a Product Manager, you may have colleagues running rampant with “shiny new toy syndrome,” asking when you’ll have an AR solution ready to launch. Someone may have even written a press release already. The temptation to build first and ask questions later is strong, but it doesn’t feel right to you. Prioritizing your existing road map was agonizing and re-allocating resources to the dream of AR will take away from key projects already underway. But, you don’t want to appear staid, lacking in agility and dynamism, and, above all, you’re a team player. Shouting down your better angels, you say, “OK, let’s do a brainstorming session.”

Famous last words.

The company’s best minds are assembled. The room is full of energy. BD talks about partnerships. The UX team argues the finer points of distinguishing reality from augmentation. Someone’s telling a story about their neighbor’s nephew’s crazy antics hunting down Pokemons. Ideas flow like water from a firehose–plenty of volume, but little precision. Two hours later you’ve got four walls filled with sticky notes, divergent ideas, and a vague direction set by the HIPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion).

Back at your desk, trying to piece the ideas into a project plan, you wonder how you could’ve done things differently.

Here’s an idea: turn your generic brainstorming session into a Jobs-to-be-Done idea generation session. It focuses your team on the most important issue: how to address the unmet needs in our customer’s job-to-be-done. This approach ensures that what you do with Augmented Reality, if anything at all, will be of real value to your users and not just a transparent, rudderless attempt to ride the wave of a suddenly popular technology.

In the JTBD idea generation session you’ll focus on those unmet needs and continually ask, “would an AR solution help our customers accomplish their jobs-to-be-done faster or more accurately?”

Let’s walk through the process as if you’re a Product Manager in the field of medical imaging.

First, define your customer’s job-to-be-done through research and customer interviews. For our example, let’s say the JTBD is “Diagnose skin cancer.”

Next, interview your customers to determine the needs within the job and then survey them to identify which needs are unmet (important and unsatisfied). For the job of “Diagnose skin cancer” unmet needs may include:

  • Reduce the time it takes to detect a change in a patient’s skin condition e.g. a mole has grown in size or changed in color or texture.
  • Reduce the likelihood of missing a change on the patient’s skin.

NB: If you have already defined your customer’s JTBD and researched the needs, you don’t need to do it again just because there is new tech available. You can jump straight to idea generation, using the research you already have. Incidentally, thrv can help you execute these steps quickly.

Now, assemble the company’s great minds for an idea generation session. But, don’t guide the session with “How do we add Augmented Reality to our product?” Instead, ask “How can augmented reality help our customer reduce the time it takes to identify a change in a patient’s skin condition?”

After collecting ideas on how augmented reality can serve this unmet need, judge the ideas based on how well they meet the need. In other words, which solution will identify skin changes fastest? Think through the process of using the new AR solution and consider if it’s actually faster than the existing solutions your customers use. If the AR solution is faster, it will create value and drive growth. If it’s not, don’t bother investing it.

Finally, if your idea does meet the needs in the job faster or more accurately, determine if you can integrate it into your existing product or if you need to make a new one.

Explosive growth is exciting. When it happens with a new technology or platform, it’s natural for someone to catch a case of GMOOT (Give Me One Of Those). It’s easy to start with the ideation process, usually in the form of an unfocused brainstorming session. Instead start with asking the right questions–what’s our customers’ job-to-be-done and how can the technology can help them get it done better?

11 Ways to Think Different about Product Management Using Jobs-to-be-Done

This is the introduction to a series about how Jobs-to-be-Done can change your product development mindset. Part 1 explains the first five rows of the chart using the example of an educational publisher. Part 2 discusses Idea Generation, Pricing, and Market Sizing. Part 3 covers Road Mapping, Aligning the Team, and Scoping an MVP.

Jobs-to-be-Done is often presented from a theoretical point-of-view. To help you apply it to your everyday life in product development, we’ve created a Jobs-to-be-Done Cheat Sheet.

The Cheat Sheet illustrates the practical difference between a traditional approach to product management, and the JTBD approach from thrv. If you’ve ever found the theory to be a little overwhelming, this breakdown may help.

To ground the concepts, we imagine how Microsoft could have used JTBD to think differently when competing with the iPod. If you were a PM at Microsoft then and focused on the customer’s unmet needs in the job of curating music, would you have proposed the Zune?

Think of the Cheat Sheet as a first step towards setting yourself apart from all other product managers and companies who don’t know about Jobs-to-be-Done. Save the image and refer to it when you’re about to do something the same way you always have.

To dig deeper into the Zune vs iPod, sign up for our free email course: How Microsoft Could Have Beaten the iPod Using Jobs-to-be-Done.

To apply JTBD to your market, check out our training, software, and services or contact us.

thrv Jobs-to-be-Done Cheat Sheet

Why thrv, or How I Set Out to Improve Product Launches and Product Teams’ Lives

It’s one of the toughest moments for any company. You’ve spent time and money, pushed a great team to their limits, and now you are ready to launch a product into the world. You should be proud, elated even, but your stomach is in knots. Why?

Because, despite all your efforts, you’re not sure if it’s going to be a success. You’ve seen this movie before. A big investment in all the best ideas from all the most talented people results in a lackluster response from your customers. The stakes are high so you tightened up your sprints and got more ruthless with your prioritization. Maybe this time will be different?

I’ve been there and know the feeling well. Excitement, fear, hope and trepidation all swirling around inside your heart, head and stomach. I’ve optimized design and engineering processes until my team is a well-oiled machine, but it had no effect growth. It’s an experience I kept coming back to when thinking about the next challenge to take on in my career. The more thought I gave to it, the more it became clear: I was passionate about the product launch, or more specifically, helping organizations launch products with more confidence, less risk, and in ways that not only brought business success but also led to happy and focused teams.

The turning point for me occurred when I learned and adopted the Jobs-to-be-Done framework. JTBD clarified my thinking and reoriented my perspective on product management. After years with a product-centric point of view, JTBD asked me to take a customer-centric view. It made all the difference in the world. I realized that the tightest sprints in the world won’t fix a broken product strategy that doesn’t focus on customer needs. I’ll admit, it was challenging at first. I had to break the way I had been thinking and speaking about products for years.

Eventually, I understood Jobs-to-be-Done was more than a buzzword and more than a mindset. It’s also a process that brings science to the art of product management and increases the product launch hit rate and efficiency for those willing to put in the effort. When it came time for me to venture out on my own, I knew that helping others reap the benefits from this approach was not only what I wanted to do, but was also something that the product community needed.

thrv helps companies and product teams understand that successful launches aren’t about innovative features (though that can help) or user tests saying your product is “cool” but rather about satisfying unmet customer needs. People buy products, people switch from other products, not just because something new comes along, but because it helps them do something they are already trying to do faster or with greater accuracy. With thrv, we are building the only platform for product managers based on understanding and quantifying the unmet needs of the customer’s job-to-be-done.

Nothing gets me more excited than working with an organization and being there for the “lightbulb moment” when the customer-centric approach kicks in. thrv helps people understand and leverage the Jobs-to-be-Done process in a way that makes adoption faster and keeps the entire team focused on the customer throughout product development. While the theory of JTBD has a growing influence within the product management field, little has been done to help teams implement the practice. And as product managers, we all know a great idea doesn’t launch a successful product–it’s all about implementation and execution. thrv’s tools and services are here to support you every step of the way.