Blog – I Manage Products

I Manage Products is Jock Busuttil’s blog for product managers and marketers to learn about product management from the ground up.

You can find the blog at imanageproducts.uk.

62: How to measure product manager performance
Early on in my blog, I wrote one of my most popular posts – 4 key ways to spot a successful product manager – about measuring the performance of product managers. The problem is that a lot – and I mean a huge amount – has changed in product management, and my own approach, since I wrote it. I found myself describing to Martin Eriksson at his recent book launch some work I did at the [...]

In addition to the ‘soft' skills I discussed in the last post, a good product manager also needs ‘hard' skills (product management techniques). Read on for my list of the 16 most important technical skills a product manager needs. (There is a point to these two listicles. It's coming next post.)Defining product vision – being able to describe clearly, concisely and memorably how your product will make life better for people Managing stakeholders – working with the broad [...]

I'm often asked what skills a product manager needs. In my view at least, a good product manager needs both ‘soft' skills (emotional intelligence) and ‘hard' skills (product management techniques). Read on for my list of the 12 most important soft skills a product manager needs.Empathy – the ability put yourself in the shoes of the user to understand their needs from their perspective Communication – ability to speak your audience's ‘language' and tailor what you say [...]

59: Find the tipping point in your research
I bet you've found yourself in this situation. You're trying to get your head around the main user problem your new product is going to solve. The thing is, for every question you try to answer, several more questions arise.The more I know, the less I understand1 On a recent product I was helping with, we were trying to make it easier for academics to exchange information with each other. “Simple,” everyone thought to begin with, [...]

This is an interview I did a little while ago with a user experience author living on the US East Coast. She was interested in moving into freelance product management. We cover: how to move into product management; differences between working in the private and public sectors; KPIs and financial modelling; and the pleasures and pains of being a product manager.If you're interested in asking a question, you can do so in the comments below. SA: You started with Classics and [...]

Another question: When it comes to the ecommerce checkout process, what's one thing that retailers are doing wrong? What's one thing they're doing right? From a product manager's perspective, there's no one thing everyone gets wrong – it depends entirely on the circumstances. This is why context and understanding of user needs are so important. Figure out what people need – their goals, frustrations, distractions… everything – then figure out how well your ecommerce capability meets those [...]

58: What Eurovision taught me about product management
For a glitzy song contest, Eurovision has a lot to answer for. There is a product management angle to this post. Eventually.The annual Eurovision Song Contest is somewhat of an institution over here. It has brought special moments to our television screens, such as: inexplicable pratfalls by dancers, Baila el Chiki Chiki (Spain) from Eurovision 2008 some non-traditional Polish milk churning, Donatan & Cleo (Poland) from 2014 and who can forget these monstrous Finnish metalheads? Lordi (Finland), winners from 2006 Worst of all, [...]

57: Cut through red tape
I enjoy being a product manager, although on some days I question whether my level of patience is suited to my chosen career. When working somewhere, I often spot opportunities for them to improve, gain a competitive advantage or reduce wasted effort, then become terribly frustrated when bureaucracy and organisational inertia prevent me from moving quickly enough to exploit them. If this feels familiar, read on.Thanks to the “instant everything” provided by Amazon Web Services, [...]

I was recently asked this question: How do you keep user needs at the centre of your product management process? Read on for my answer:The straightforward answer is that you and your delivery team (yes, even the developers) need to get out there and observe your users using your product or your competitors' products. You need to do this as frequently as possible, a minimum of 2 hours every 6 weeks. Why? This is the only way you [...]

I gave a talk recently about how I've been using data and analytics to guide my decisions in product management. I've edited the transcript a little and split it into bite-size parts for your entertainment. This final bit tells the secret behind meaningful product roadmaps. The previous bit was about the benefits of open and transparent data.What is your roadmap focused on? I bet that most of your roadmaps – these are the plans you have [...]

56: The coffee shop problem
During a class I was giving the other day over at Edtech, we were looking at possible risks that might affect the theoretical products we were discussing. One team of students was hotly debating the relative importance of one of the risks. They couldn't agree how much of a problem it would be if they discovered that something similar already existed on the market. I call this The Coffee Shop Problem.There's nothing new under the [...]

I gave a talk recently about how I've been using data and analytics to guide my decisions in product management. I've edited the transcript a little and split it into bite-size parts for your entertainment. This bit is about the benefits of open and transparent data. The last bit was about how UK government digital services gather and use evidence.Credit: Government Digital Service The 4 main KPIs in UK Government The next thing is getting into the [...]

Here's a question I was asked recently: What sources of information do you suggest folks building their product plans today rely on, so that they can get the evidence they need to build the product that will meet the needs of end users? Read on for my answer:The answer is always: it depends – I know it's the ultimate cop-out – but it depends on what you're trying to demonstrate. The sources of data that you need [...]

I was recently asked this question: Are you seeing any key trends from the user perspective that companies need to be thinking about at the aggregate level? Read on for my answer:Ooh. It's difficult to say, really. I guess the main thing that maybe I am seeing as a general trend is that users don't care about your products. And I know that sounds quite harsh. But they're bothered about solving their own problems first and foremost. [...]

I was recently asked this question: During the problem exploration phase, what kind of questions should I be asking and how do I go from 1000 problems to the core problems that will unlock the solution? Read on for my answer:Hi there, Steve Blank has some great tips on the kinds of questions you should be asking – here's a handy set of bite-size videos he's done. In the course of discovery, it will start to become apparent which [...]

How UK government digital services gather and use evidence
I gave a talk recently about how I've been using data and analytics to guide my decisions in product management. I've edited the transcript a little and split it into bite-size parts for your entertainment. This bit is about how UK government digital services gather and use evidence. The last bit was about why we can't help jumping to conclusions.A new approach in UK governmentI spent about eight months recently as head of product for [...]

Here's another question I was asked recently: If you're concerned about buyer needs and their objectives, how closely aligned do you suggest product organisations should be with marketing and with the persona development to ensure they are creating a solution that does meet those needs in the market? Read on for my answer:User and buyer personas Very important distinction here: if you in a B2C company (business to consumer company) then obviously your user personas (for the people [...]

Why we can't help jumping to conclusions
I gave a talk recently about how I've been using data and analytics to guide my decisions in product management. I've edited the transcript a little and split it into bite-size parts for your entertainment. This bit is about why we can't help jumping to conclusions. The last bit was about expensive and risky assumptions (and why you should check them).Daniel Kahneman (Credit BBC) Two systems of thinking This chap is called Daniel Kahneman, and he is a [...]

I was recently asked this question: Do you have a rule of thumb for deciding how much evidence is sufficient for decision-making? I often see decisions made on the basis of a sample of one. Read on for my answer: Hi there, Thanks for the question. I don't have a general rule of thumb for sample sizes for user research as it depends on a few things, including: What level of accuracy you're looking for from your research (statistical [...]

Expensive and risky assumptions (and why you should check them)
I gave a talk recently about how I've been using data and analytics to guide my decisions in product management. I've edited the transcript a little and split it into bite-size parts for your entertainment. This bit is about expensive and risky assumptions (and why you should check them).Data from the outsetThis slightly blurry typescript is from 1931. It's a memo that a chap called Neil McElroy wrote to his bosses. He used to work [...]