Having been a project manager and a product manager for a large enterprise firm I considered that what I didn’t know about talking to users, gathering and prioritizing requirements and driving the development path of your product wasn’t worth knowing
Well, I’m learning 2 new things at the as I step into the sell side of the tech industry. If you are a product manager in a large company you might want to consider how these fit into your day to day life. They are;
- The difference between what you think your customers want and what they actually want
- Adapt to your surroundings to make yourself successful
What you think your customers want vs. What they are asking for?
It’s fairly easy when you are experienced to assume that many of your users/customers are the same and therefore if one or two of your largest customers wants a particular feature that the smallest 100 customers will also want it. The challenge in breaking this assumption is two-fold, firstly you can’t necessarily go out and speak to all of your customer (unless you only have about 5-10 customers and then this might be possible). Secondly requirements are complex and companies that from the outside may appear the same have lots and lots of complexity that is worth understanding.
Working for a particular customer of mine I have been working with an independent research company to conduct customer focus groups. The objective of which is to understand existing customer needs and perceptions to be able to provide product development material to existing customers and prospects to support retention, improved penetration and acquisition.
The independent research firms are conducting Mini-Focus Groups that last 2 hours and are conducted in a viewing facility. Each groups is ideally 4 people and the participants are very knowledgable in the product area being discussed, typically they might be the IT specialist, senior buyer or service manager – but they would have a very good working knowledge of the day to day user needs within their firms.
Observing these sessions in the viewing facility was an interesting exercises, I found ;
- It either validated my understanding of what was required – about 70% of the discussion.
- Dispelled pre-conceived ideas (such as all customers of size X will be broadly the same) – about 10% of the discussion
- The conversation went in new and undiscovered territory – about 20% of the discussion.
So having attended one of these sessions today, I’m really intrigued to see the next session and the overall write up. Of course I took copious notes – but did I write down what I heard vs. what I though was said … we’ll see.
In the end we are hoping these sessions prove invaluable on getting that golden customer feedback to help you develop the killer features to make your product unique in the marketplace.
Adapt to your surroundings to make yourself successful
The second lesson I’ve started to learn is collaboration often starts with checking your experience at the door. I’m working on a new development idea for another customer and they have a bunch of really talented designers, coders, infrastructure folks. They are used to using an Agile methodology to develop products from a short set of ideas / concepts.
Agile and sprint based delivery is new to me, but let’s roll with it.
I suspect this part of the blog entry is a bit premature because having written the first set of requirements and not yet conducted the team kick-off or first sprint the ‘make yourself successful’ tag may have to change on a future edit.
Until then .. bring it on..