product manager's manifesto How we'll execute - principals of product development

History of Product Management

Ad agency origins

"The product management role was originally created as a brand management position. It was initially defined by a New York advertiser during the Great Depression. In 1931, Neil McElroy wrote a memo to Proctor & Gamble. The young ad executive proposed the idea of a "brand man" — an employee to manage a specific product rather than serving a traditional business role." - AHA! Blog

Technology became ubiquitous

"McElroy's memo struck a nerve. Many firms adopted brand management for the next half century. This practice came to be known as consumer product management. Its principles were adopted as the software market grew during the 1980s."

Product loses customer line of sight

"Gaps between engineering and marketing widened in the 1990s. Companies like Microsoft were rapidly expanding — but they faced challenges as they scaled software development. Engineers did not have processes to keep up with customer demand or speak directly with customers about their concerns. Nor did they have time to collaborate with sales and marketing teams responsible for revenue growth. A gap between them needed to be bridged — and product managers became the ones to do it."

"Good product managers take full responsibility and measure themselves in terms of the success of the product."

- Ben Horowitz, co-founder and general partner

Technology once drove the separation of people from products and brands, today it blends them together.

- Stephen Hoelper, Total Rewards - Comcast NBCU's product guy

What is a product manager?

I’ve always defined product management as the intersection between business, technology and user experience (hint – only a product manager would define themselves in a venn diagram). A good product manager must be experienced in at least one, passionate about all three, and conversant with practitioners in all.

- Martin Eriksson, MindTheProduct Blog

© 2011 Martin Eriksson.
The product manager needs to know how to identify customer needs, be able to tell when a design is good and when a design is bad and if it addresses the customer need in the most efficient way. – Jack Dorsey, Square


Product Management is above all else a business function, focused on maximizing business value from a product. Product Managers should be obsessed with optimizing a product to achieve the business goals while maximizing return on investment.


There’s no point defining what to build if you don’t know how it will get built. This doesn’t mean a Product Manager needs to be able to sit down and code but understanding the technology stack and most importantly understanding the level of effort involved is crucial to making the right decisions.

User Experience

Last but not least the Product Manager is the voice of the user inside the business and must be passionate about the user experience. Again this doesn’t mean being a pixel pusher but you do need to be out there testing the product, talking to users and getting that feedback first hand.

A Word on Product / Service Adoption

Product Development Overview

Design Thinking's Central Thesis...Understanding

“More than ever the company’s direction, market dynamics, technology advancement and a new generation of employees necessitate Total Rewards to understand and predict our customers’ needs.” - Shawn Leavitt
"We're experts in the process on how you design stuff" - David Kelley, IDEO

Step 1: propose & discuss strategy initiatives

A strategic initiative is an endeavor intended to achieve three interrelated outcomes:

  • A boundary-spanning vision or “strategic intent”
  • Realization of important benefits to “strategic” stakeholders
  • Transformation & alignment of the organization

Step 2: set high-level goals

DRAFT departmental goals to roll-up initiaitves

  • Create amazing employee experiences (e.g., platforms, culture)
  • Harmonize benefits (e.g., consolidate and integrate programs and infrastructure)
  • Optimize program value (e.g., performance guarantees, eliminate waste, data-driven decision making)
  • Maximize employee health and performance (e.g., reduce costs, increase productivity and retention, boost program engagement)
  • Maximize GTR team satisfaction and engagement (e.g., professional development, streamlined processes, engaged community)
  • 100% Compliance (e.g., regulations, data security, internal processes)

Step 3: set product vision

It starts with setting a vision for the product, which requires you to research, research and research some more your market, your customer and the problem they have that you’re trying to solve. You have to assimilate huge amounts of information – feedback from clients, quantitative data from your web analytics, research reports, market trends and statistics – you need to know everything about your market and your customer, and then mix all that information with a healthy dose of creativity to define a vision for your product.

what we will do

A good vision describes who the customers are, what customers need, and how you plan to deliver a unique offering. The vision includes details on the target customers, the need, potential solutions, critical success factors and a joint company/customer value proposition.

  1. Complete strategic initiative problem statements
  2. Create current-state product roadmaps and backlogs
  3. Begin business case development

Step 4: consider what your user hopes to accomplish

Start with mapping customer experience. A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your product or service, whether it be an online experience, in-person experience, or a third-party service, or any combination. Your success, and that of your product, relies on every team member – from program management to operations – understanding how the vision ties back to the user experience.

what we will do

  1. Develop current-state user experience maps
  2. Consider the data required to inform the future-state experience maps
  3. Plan primary research or acquire data from existing sources (e.g., Deerwalk, Service Centers, etc).

Customer experience is generally informed through primary research, which is new research, carried out to answer specific issues or questions. It can involve questionnaires, surveys or observations, interviews with individuals or small groups. In order to tailor services to our customer archetypes and maximize the probability of program success, it is widely recommended to emphasize understanding our customer through primary rather than secondary research.

Note: Secondary research makes use of information previously researched for other purposes and publicly available and is not tailored to the needs of your unique user technographics or demographics.

Step 5: needs-based design

And then you switch gears again and start building an actionable plan to reach that vision. This includes leveraging your primary research to brainstorm solutions to create a future-state customer experience maps. Then, the your roadmap of incremental improvements and iterative development that take you step by faltering step closer to that final vision. This is when all that hard work preaching the good word pays off – and your team throw themselves into coming up with better customer understanding, better designs, better solutions and better outcomes to the user problem.

what we will do

  1. Create primary research-informed, future-state user experience maps
  2. Generate research-informed user stories
  3. Define other business requirements (i.e., operations, SLAs, etc)
  4. Lay out a data collection plan

Step 6: measure, enhance, repeat

The product is finally out there and suddenly you’re spending your days poring over data again – looking at how customers use the product, going out and talking to them about the product and generally eating, sleeping and breathing the product. Did you solve the right problem? Do your users understand the product? Will they sign-up and engage with the product?

  1. Establish mechanisms to gather feedback directly from customers
  2. Test solutions quickly using the MVP framework
  3. Enhance solutions with commonly requested features
  4. Move non-priority ideas to the product backlog

Just for fun - more on design thinking

observational research

my personal observation last week

user experience versus design

design with the user in mind



Created with images by cogdogblog - "The "Networked" Shelf"

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