The Product Newsletter #58

Welcome to our Product Newsletter, a biweekly email highlighting top discussions, and learning resources for product managers.

What We Will Cover In This Edition:-

Top Discussions: 

1) How do you handle contradictory signals between user feedback and the product vision?

2) What qualities characterize an excellent product manager?

3) What are your thoughts on Product Sense?

Top Learning Resources:

1. How to Become a Product Manager: Your Complete Step-by-Step Guide

2. Product Management: Main Stages and Product Manager Role

3. Technical Product Management Explained in Under 500 Words

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Top Discussions

Question 1How do you handle contradictory signals between user feedback and the product vision?

Over the past year, I’ve noticed that my attitude has a significant impact on how stakeholders and coworkers interpret the facts.

As the head of product management in a mid-sized company, I am grappling with a dilemma. Our company’s product vision, based on strategic goals, is primarily focused on cross-selling and revenue-generating features. However, user feedback indicates a shift towards improving the user experience. I am considering whether to maintain our current product vision, which is effective but not delivering high NPS, or adapt our product to meet user demands.
I am seeking insights from other product managers here who have faced similar situations and their outcomes.

– Jesus Rojas

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Discussion

A] In our line of work, this is a continual source of intentional conflict. The company must constantly strike a balance between usability, client dollar retention, and revenue growth.
There is no right or wrong response; you must always be cognizant of these three factors. In light of that, I’ve listed a few options for you to consider, but there are undoubtedly many more.

  1. Create an engineering-ready paper-cut UX design backlog and include an anticipated number of hours for completion. While there is downtime in between larger tasks, have the team pick them up.
  2. When developing new products, consider including usability enhancements into project deliverables at the places where they connect with existing products.
  3. Incorporate a week of UX sprints and dependability every quarter. Then, deal with both tech debt and UXR.

This approach will ensure that user experience improvements are continuously prioritized and integrated into the development process. Additionally, allocating dedicated time for UX sprints and addressing both technical debt and user experience research will help maintain a high level of product quality and user satisfaction.

– Karan Trivedi

B] I was employed by a SaaS company that was at the forefront of its industry and had all the publicity. While conducting a study for them, I discovered enhancements that were considered essential from the perspective of the client, mostly since a rival was able to fulfill that requirement, and they concerned fundamental organizational procedures. The suggested enhancements were abandoned and are probably currently accumulating, akin to sediment at the ocean’s bottom, in the backlog. I’m relieved that you are giving this some thought beforehand.

You can accomplish anything you want if there is no competition, but I don’t know many people who are in that situation. In order to identify the largest churn risks, I was lucky enough to be able to connect customer success and the product organization. To be honest, I would first find out what customer success or support is hearing before determining whether or not to take action. Customers may perceive that a product is staying current by making numerous little adjustments to its core experience, but these enhancements must at the very least address a fundamental need. Paint jobs and brand makeovers are meaningless to consumers.

You can pitch your vision all day long, but if the businesses or people purchasing your goods aren’t getting value out of it, all you’re accomplishing is making room for someone else to walk. At least that’s what happened at that company, as their primary customer experience started to deteriorate and they gradually lost market share to a rival. They’ve lost their top spot.

– Tina Greist

C] Find high-value, low-cost UX victories that don’t influence strategy using your research and sprinkle them in. Your clients will notice if you make even one little correction every quarter. These high-value, low-cost UX victories can be achieved by identifying and addressing common pain points or usability issues in your product or website. Conducting user testing and gathering feedback from your target audience can help you uncover these areas for improvement. By making small but impactful changes based on your research findings, you can enhance the overall user experience without significantly impacting your strategic direction. Remember, even minor adjustments made regularly can accumulate into noticeable improvements over time, demonstrating your commitment to delivering a seamless user experience.

– Pauline Francis

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Question 2) What qualities characterize an excellent product manager?

I am curious to know what defines a great product manager and what distinguishes them from others. I believe a great product manager should not only perform the required work but also make the company unique. I am interested in improving their skills but don’t see anything special about the quality of product managers. I believe that companies with talented teams like FAANG have different quality standards. I’ve also seen that some people misunderstand that all product managers are males, but they are not native English speakers. I’m interested in understanding the difference between male and female product managers.
Your insights on this shall be highly appreciated.

– Carolyn Miles

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Discussion

A] Knowing your product sufficiently to avoid pursuing irrational or unattainable objectives Comprehending the market sufficiently to avoid pursuing unprofitable endeavors (which need not equate to increased sales) When considering whether or not to pursue a “new” idea, always prioritize creating a minimum viable product (MVP) and steer clear of the sunk cost fallacy.

Finally, while this is not a must but always a benefit, getting some practical experience performing the “grunt work” in your business will provide you with insightful knowledge and assist you in making wise judgments. To further enhance your overall development and success in the field, maintain an open mind and be flexible in the face of both successes and setbacks.

– Matthew Shun

B] We are a Canadian tech company with over 10,000 employees, and I aspire to be a great product manager. I have had a few successful years as a senior PM, receiving the top rating both years in a row and an extra bonus directly from our chief product officer (which is pretty good as he is many levels above me).
I would say that while some of what I do is largely circumstantial, it is still required for me to be very good.

I make judgments, engage in a lot of client interaction, am well-versed on our intricate products, and take on as much work as I can.

However, the reason I excelled in this particular instance is that I have relevant experience from doing this at a previous job, and we have a gap in impact measurement. I therefore distinguish myself by possessing pertinent talents that are now lacking in my colleagues and are precisely what we require.

– Flavia Bergstein

C] Since product management has evolved into such an I’ll defined catch-all job to group a bunch of individuals doing VERY different things at different firms that being good in one place may get you fired in another, I don’t think there’s a universal definition of greatness that will leave you satisfied.

Traditionally, the role is meant to be owning a product’s go to market, therefore the PM, who is ultimately responsible for revenue and profitability, should at the very least coordinate all aspects of the product, including packaging and sales enablement.

Long-term PMs who have never owned P&L are common in tech companies, which I find absurd. However, when I interview some people, they speak as though making money is a dirty idea and sound more like designers than product managers.

– Bobby Duncan

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Question 3) What are your thoughts on Product Sense?

Product sense is a crucial skill for Product Managers (PMs), often referred to as a combination of experience, domain knowledge, empathy, and design thinking. It is often referred to as a “secret sauce” or “silver bullet” but is actually an important skill.
My questions are:

  • What does the term “product sense” actually mean?
  • Have you ever met a PM in real life who is exceptionally knowledgeable about products? What makes them unique?
  • Is “Product Sense” something that can be developed?

The community’s opinion on this topic is welcome.

– Pauline Francis

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Discussion

A] One of the best articles on product sense/product judgment that I’ve come across is this one: https://www.intercom.com/blog/product-judgment/

I discovered this a few years ago, and it’s quite amazing. Read it, please.

It involves putting yourself in the customer’s position by getting to know them well (via routine interactions and procedures) and being able to predict how they will react to a certain feature concept.

– Dave Kim

B] @DaveKim, It doesn’t sound like “product sense” is something that can exist outside of the confines of the product that a person is working on, according to the definition in this excellent essay.

Therefore, it is foolish for any hiring manager to search for prefabricated “product sense.”

It seems to me that a candidate can have good systems to understand customers, but that ‘product sense’ is not a typical PM talent.

Product sense is not a standalone skill that can be acquired independently of the product itself. It is a nuanced understanding that develops through hands-on experience and deep knowledge of the product’s intricacies. While a candidate may possess excellent customer understanding and analytical abilities, true product sense can only be honed by actively working on and shaping the product over time. Hiring managers should focus on assessing a candidate’s potential to develop strong product sense rather than expecting it to be pre-existing.

– Rohit Kumar

C] I completely agree with @RohitKumar. “Product sense” appears to be just another buzzword utilized and pushed by organizations that provide product courses and Product Management elitists. While it is true that some organizations may use “product sense” as a marketing tactic, it is important to recognize that the concept itself holds value. Developing a strong understanding of the market, user needs, and industry trends can greatly contribute to successful product management.
Just as any expert will acquire a “legal sense,” “medical sense,” “bridge engineering sense,” etc., I’m not arguing it doesn’t exist. However, it is crucial to approach the concept of “product sense” with a critical mindset and not blindly follow any organization claiming to provide expertise in this area. It is essential to thoroughly research and evaluate the credibility and reputation of the courses or individuals offering product management training before investing time and resources into them.

– Rob Martin

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Top Learning Resources

Product managers are one of the most in-demand hires in business right now.
As more and more companies rely on these coveted professionals to drive innovation and success, there’s never been a better time to break into the field.
If you’re thinking about a career in product management, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will cover absolutely everything you need to know to get started—even if you don’t have any prior experience.
By the end, you’ll know exactly what steps to take to get your product management career off the ground

Product Management: Main Stages and Product Manager Role

What do you need to create a product? First, an idea of how it will look in the end. Then follows a long process of product creation that takes a lot of time, effort, a team of professionals, and a team leader. To transform any idea into a profitable product, a company has to go through several stages to set a vision, define a strategy, develop a product, and sell it to the right people. This article examines the details of product management, describing its main stages, and a product manager’s responsibilities in this process.

Technical Product Management Explained in Under 500 Words

Every great team needs a tech person. Think about it. Ocean’s 11 had Livingston Dell, Batman had Barbara Gordon, and The Fast and Furious gang had none other than Ludacris.

In product management, your tech person is the technical product manager. This person works with engineering teams to create products that customers will like and will achieve the business’s short- and long-term goals. If you’re running a SaaS business, this role helps stakeholders understand how products are being produced and why they should include certain features in their design. In this post, let’s review what a technical product manager does, then dive into some of the key responsibilities they have on the development team.

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