The life of a product manager and his product go through phases that I have symbolically defined as care, betrayal and abandonment.
Imagining a product, drawing up documentation, talking to developers, designers and stakeholders is a long and tiring process. Conceptualizing functions and then managing constant flows of fragmented communication is pure care. Creating something that didn’t exist before and gradually seeing its potential grow is an indescribably satisfying feeling. During this period, the role of the product manager is to protect the product at all costs by remaining firm on the company’s objectives and on the needs of the customers it aims to satisfy. Protecting a digital product does not mean isolating it. Protecting it means ensuring that it sees the light in its best form, in the shortest possible time, at a reasonable budget and without defects that could compromise its life in the medium/long term.
After the launch of a “complete” digital product, care must be alternated with betrayal. Betrayal consists of changing components, strategies or processes that after measurements did not have the imagined effect. Obviously, doing product discovery and user testing can reduce the risk of major usability problems but let’s be honest, apart from start-ups, all non-strictly digital companies have products with life cycles ranging from two to five years. A product manager therefore after the launch must spend a lot of time listening to both users and stakeholders, technicians, numbers and all the input that comes from outside.
Apparently this phase of betrayal is the one defined as continuous improvement, but the big difference for me is that this improvement can come from interlocutors you wouldn’t even expect. From the CEO who uses the app for the first time, to the system administrator you tortured for months; from the angry user on the App Store, to the cousin of the doorman. Anyone can provide useful information to improve or evolve your product. The pm’s ability, a bit like in the care phase, will be to channel and correctly interpret all the ideas to transform them into activities understandable to the whole work group.
The product manager is therefore not the master of the product, but is the one who has the duty to make it more and more useful and performing day by day.
The death of a digital product, whether it’s a website, an app or a management system, is the most natural and desirable thing that can happen in a modern and efficient society. Technical evolutions, changes in strategy and user needs are sometimes so strong that it becomes necessary to abandon the old product while making the most of what has been learned.
Abandonment is right, it is inevitable, it is growth and it is almost always improvement as long as it is done with awareness and knowledge. To abandon a product, you need to know perfectly all the components that have worked and those that have not. Abandoning it without delving into its history, team and real results achieved brings into play a component with which no company should confront itself: luck.
In summary, the role of the Digital Product Manager is to raise and protect products until they reach such maturity that they can accept any criticism or significant change. Positive change must be accepted from any source, and improvement must continue until the need for abandonment is reached. That is the moment when the baggage of knowledge is such that you can say goodbye to the old product and start the flow of care for a new product that will have to start from the highest level reached by the old one.Condividi/Share