Mistakes product managers need to avoid

Product management is the complete process of the right product to solve the right problem for the right persona. It is the process by which a vision or idea can become a valuable product. The product manager is responsible for analyzing the market needs, understanding the competition and for laying out the initial product vision based on his/her assessment.

However, every organization risks of having and releasing bad products. Some products may not be all that useful at the end. Some products are not easy to understand or to learn how to use. Product managers and product owners are human so they can make mistakes. However, some mistakes can be avoided. There are some product management mistakes ways to avoid them and learn from them.

In this article, we list the 10 most common mistakes product managers and product owners can make and some advice on how to avoid these mistakes.

  1. Confusing Customer Requirements with Product Requirement
  2. Confusing Innovation with Value
  3. Confusing Yourself with Your Customer
  4. Confusing the Customer with the User
  5. Mistaking Features for Benefits
  6. Confusing Building the Right Product with Building Right Product
  7. Mistaking Good Product with Good Business Model
  8. Mistaking Adding Features with Improving Product
  9. Mistaking Impressive Specifications with an Impressive Product
  10. Mistaking Product Launch with Success

1. Confusing Customer Requirements with Product Requirement

The product manager always thinks about customer satisfaction. He/she frequently talks to customers and document requirements based on customers needs and wants. Sometimes the customer does not know what they need or want. The customer sometimes does not know what is possible. So the product manager should avoid blindly following what customers tell her and not take customer requirements at face value. She should work through these requirements, drill down, and validate with other customers.

2. Confusing Innovation with Value

As we know, innovation without clear purpose may be useless and can lead to great problems. You can clearly see different products in the market today and tell if these products were built based on providing value to customers or were built just because it was possible to do so. Engineers can take care of solving the technical challenge. They need however a clear vision and product strategy to guide them in order to build the right thing that adds value to customers.

Product managers with technical background or startup product manager tend to focus on innovation in a vacuum while they should be validating with customers and users to provide innovation with purpose, one that provides value to the customer, the user and the market.

3. Confusing Yourself with Your Customer

We apply different standards to what we want, then to what the customer wants. When you will be able to learn new software programs then you can work in the technology field. However, the customers are not so experts as they are not technologically advanced. They can face difficulties in using the product. When he will be confused with the product he would consider the product unusable.

The product can be exited for new features and releases. The customer doesn’t consider new changes and features. They may not want to install new updates. However, it is common that product managers put their products in front of the target audience.

4. Confusing the Customer with the User

It is important for product managers to differentiate between buyer personas and user personas. Sales teams focus on the financial buyer, the technical buyer, and the operational buyer persona. Each has a specific expectation and role in the buying cycle and greatly influence the buying decision. However these buyer personas are different from the user personas; user personas are the ones who will be using the product and getting value from it in order to solve their business needs.

We have to remember that buyers and users invest in our product to solve a business problem, either save money, or make money.

While the sales team can help product managers with the buyer personas and what checkboxes our product needs to check, they might not fully understand user personas, and user journeys and how they can solve their business problems using our product.

Product managers need to understand both persona types and be very knowledgeable about the user personas and deliver products that solve their problems and streamline their workflows. When product managers start confusing the two types, they fall into confusion and their product end-up being our of sync with the real needs.

5. Mistaking Features for Benefits

Product developers can easily fall in love with product features, this can be understandable for a developer, but not for a product manager or product owner, worse, a product marketing manager. Customers buy a solution to speed up a process, increase accuracy, improve efficiency or provide visibility. Once product managers forget these end-result benefits and start focusing on drag & drop, dynamic reporting and advanced dashboard, they will miss the mark.

These are features and means to accomplish the goals and to provide benefits that solves the customer pain. Features are important, but it should be clear in the product manager’s head that these features and means can change, but the pain and the benefit are there to stay regardless of how we try to solve them and what feature we offer to close the gap.

6. Building the Product Right instead of Building the Right Product

A development team strives to build the perfect piece of software. It can be bug-free, fast and work perfectly. However, when users try it, and don’t see any value in the product the product is useless regardless of how how cool it looks or how stable it is. Yes products should be built right, reliable and perform well. However, product managers need to due their due diligence to identify customer needs and users pains and document clear requirements for the dev team to solve these pains and answer to these business needs. So product managers should be the voice of the customer and provide clear guidance to everyone in order to the right product while building the product right.

7. Mistaking Good Product with Good Business Model

There are many products in the world without a good business model. These types of products are bound to fail in the future. One such a product that comes to mind is TiVo. Although it was a success with users as they do not like commercials. There is a great need for commercials in the TV industry to sustain profitability. It took TiVo few iterations to work out a solution with the industry while keeping their core value proposition for the users. These changes were appreciated as users could skip through commercials.

Your product or company might not have that luxury to get it right the 2nd or 3rd time. You need to think of the right business model from the get go and plan for it as you build the product and framework to sell it and commercialize it.

8. Mistaking Adding Features with Improving Product

Some product managers tend to add more functionality and add new features to pleas as many users as possible, while this seems benign, it is a big mistake for many reasons:

  1. Fixing and streamlining existing workflows could improve product success, but resources were allocated to building new features
  2. Keeping users is much easier than attracting new ones.
  3. Satisfying existing users make them good champions for your product
  4. if your product doesn’t nail the basic, users don’t get to the advanced areas of your product
  5. New features introduce new complexity and user learning curve
  6. New features introduce new bugs and chances for your product to fail

We believe that improving the core value proposition of the product is far more valuable for the company and to their users than simply adding new features and see if they stick

The best strategy is to be good at the basics and make sure you deliver on the core value proposition and solve the business problems that you set out to solve initially, then you can expand from there. Doing the opposite just increase your chances for product failure.

9. Mistaking Impressive Specifications with a good Product

This is very obvious in hardware and electronics, memory, CPU, GPU, camera megapixels, etc. But a good product goes byond impressive specs. it is the ability of this product to deliver on its key promises and how it helps users solve their pains. What good would a very powerful tablet that is faster than a laptop, but has a noisy fan and heats up quickly. Product managers need to balance technical superiority with usability and cost. This mistake can easily be avoided by product managers talking to their users and understanding why they need some features, basically digging deeper and understanding the why behind the what.

Good product managers also know when to stop and when to say no. If your product tries to please everyone, it will not please anyone at the end. So product managers and owners need to focus on user journeys, use cases, user personas, and job success more than features and specs.

10. Mistaking Product Launch with Success

Product success can be measured in many ways using key metrics ranging from user adoption, active users, upgrades, conversions, number of customers to activity such as projects created, reports generated, or ROI e.g. dollars saved, hours saved, opportunities won, etc.

Launching a product is just the beginning. Certainly launching successfully and on time is a great milestone, but it is just a beginning of a new journey in the product lifecycle. At the end of the day happy customers are the ones that write your success.

Conclusion

The product manager has to play a great role in launching the product. He works hard for this purpose. He can make some mistakes during the project developments. We have discussed 12 common mistakes to be avoided. These are very common mistakes of product managers in the past. When the product managers can focus on these types of mistakes and try to avoid these mistakes then it will be his successor.

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