Habit Number 1: Bottom-Up Approach to Product Management
The Habit: Most products are developed with a bottom-up approach. Many requirements are piled up from various sources dealing with various issues and are than prioritized into a version, some may hold a common value, but for the most part they are addressing various issues that are raised from customer requests, POCs (Proof of Concept), and are quite specific and detailed.
The Result: Your product lacks focus, and when a potential customer asks you, “what is new with your product?”, you are bound to respond with a long blurb including many items but with no one coherent theme, or give them a few highlights extracted from that list.
The Solution: Combine top-down and bottom-up approaches to Product Management. At any given point in time your product should be focused on achieving specific themes, creating concrete customer value. A theme can remain the same over time or can change based on market trends.
Practical Comment: You should not promote more than two or three themes at any one time.
Habit Number 2: Letting You Most Vocal Customers Lead the Product
The habit: Customers and potential customers are key influencers on the product roadmap, this is especially true for younger companies and B2B companies who are focused on large targets. So when you ask yourself what should you do (next) with your product, there is always a new customer around, or more likely a salesperson who is working on a deal, that has a long list of features that need to be developed.
The Result: Your product becomes one dimensional, addressing a market segment of one, or few, very specific customers. Strangely enough, this works sometime, especially early on in the product lifecycle, when the functionality required still basic. However, you need to realize that this is not the case in the long run, and developing a tunnel vision that is focused only on specific customers may ruin your product. If you adopt this method you are basically taking a big gamble that the customers you focus on are an accurate representation of the target market.
The Solution: Base your product on a representative sample of your target market. Do not ignore customers within your target market because they are not vocal enough and do not let sales people define your product. Make decisions after
Practical Comment: This is not always possible, but, … consider the option of customers paying for functionality that is developed especially for them. If this is an option consider separating this functionality into a separate layer of the product, a customer specific layer.