#1 Mistake in Product Management

Hi I’m Michael Valiant. You may recognize me as a Product Manager staring in such corporations as 1ShoppingCart… (sorry, I just watched the simpsons)

A new quarter has started, we’re looking at product road maps, and I’ve been thinking a little about Product Management; just in general.

It’s amazing how easy it is for employees inside a company to become institutionalized. I don’t mean that negatively, a good employee SHOULD become institutionalized to some degree and live the dream so to speak. It’s important, it benefits the company in a number of ways…

But, if you’re not careful, it can also lead to the number 1 (this may be a bit subjective of course, but it’s definitely up there!) mistake in Product Management (after Not HAVING a Product Manager :) )

Confusing Yourself with Your Customer.

Think about it. You, and your fellow employees show up to work every day, you live and breath your product. You know how to use it inside and out. You know where the all the strengths lie. You know exactly how you would use it every single day if you were the end-user.

But you aren’t.

And being institutionalized, we all wear our rose-coloured glasses as we go about our jobs supporting, enhancing, or improving our products.

The problem of course is that your customers and prospects don’t have your glasses on. They’re not immersed in your world and in all likelyhood, when they pick up your product for the first time they’re going to be overwhelmed, frustrated and bewildered. And depending on the complexity of your product, this ‘stage’ may last days, weeks or longer.

…Oh, and did I mention that to your prospects, your weaknesses jump out long before your strengths?

And while you may be eagerly anticipating the next release to take advantage of the new added widget, most of your customers dread the thought of having to spend time to learn something new; even if it IS going to totally revolutionize their world!

But Wait…

There is hope!

And it all comes down to talking and listening to your end-user and taking their thoughts into serious consideration when planning your product roadmap or specifications. Each end-user is going to have a different opinion on what needs to happen within your product, and you’ll get plenty of suggestions that border on the unthinkable; but they help keep us on track and honest!

(and with all the social networking tools available for free online today, it’s easier than ever to accomplish… but that’s another post!)