Product Management Software Will Not Fix Your Broken Product, But Knowing the Answers to These 6 Questions Might

Online tools are changing the modern workplace. Everywhere you look there is another cloud-based app or bot promising to help you get more done, faster. And yes, all of us fall victim to the hype of the newest technology sometimes, including many product professionals I know.

But just because your colleague uses the latest trendy tool does not mean you will find it helpful. You first need to be clear about what you want to achieve and why. Tools come second.

This is truer for product builders than anyone else. After leading product and strategy at six software companies, I can tell you there are no shortcuts when it comes to building great products.

That may sound strange coming from the CEO of Aha!, since we build product roadmap software. However, great product pros understand that using new software won’t fix a broken product or product development process.

Where to Begin?

You must have a strategic vision and work hard to fix a broken product and build a lasting product that matters. You need to know where you are going and who is doing what before you research a product management software solution to help you get there.

For product teams that have lost their way, the best way to get back on track is to ignore the current challenges and get back to basics. Ask and answer the most primal questions before you drown in the details. And before you trade in your sea of spreadsheets and PowerPoint files for product management software, ask yourself the following six questions:

  1. Do we have a high-level purpose for the business?

Define and distill the essence of your business. Why do you show up at the office every day, and what value do you provide to customers and coworkers? Great companies build great products, so think about what drives you and the team. This is key when your product starts to head sideways or you build something new.

  1. Can the entire organization clearly articulate our product vision?

Product teams should be able to explain the product vision in their sleep. But they also need to share that vision with the larger company. That way, the entire organization can articulate the overall direction that the product is headed in, so that each functional group contributes to a terrific customer experience.

  1. Who is our customer and what do they really want?

Your customer’s pain is your pain. You should live it, breathe it and deeply relate to it. When you truly understand who your customer is and what their motivations are, you will be able to craft a solution that will grow alongside your customers. Revisit assumptions about what your customer needs from you and then take a hard look at whether you actually provide it.

  1. Do we have quantifiable goals to measure progress?

Goals with measurable results and fixed timeframes are necessary to realize product potential. If you fall short on important goals, explore why and set new ones. Good product goals are quantifiable and clearly show how that product will support overall business objectives. For example, your goal might be to grow revenue 30 percent year over year, with a metric of adding $20 million in revenue.

  1. What initiatives are needed to achieve those goals?

If you want to achieve specific goals, initiatives are the key bodies of work that will help you get there. They define the major themes that you need to be working on and should be decomposed into the details when it is clear you are prioritizing the right work. For example, an important initiative for the revenue goal above might be to expand into three new international markets.

  1. How do we want our functional teams to deliver a delightful customer experience?

If your product is struggling, your customers are suffering. Be sure to map your customer’s journey with your product and company, then try to understand where you are failing them. This is where product management should pull in the cross-functional teams that are collectively responsible for the customer experience. Together, create a plan for improving every customer interaction. Get this question right, and your product goes from being merely tolerated by customers to genuinely loved.

What Comes Next?

The best products begin with answers to these tough questions. And those answers need to be customer- and market-driven. They have nothing to do with the software tools you use and are all about the value you deliver.

Yes, it is hard, thankless work to turn around a broken product. However, once you get back to basics, you'll benefit from whichever product management software tool you use.

Remember, first you have to know where you are headed and why. Only then will you be poised to enjoy the experience of building a winning product and the respect that goes along with it. Now get busy. 

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff is co-founder and CEO of Aha! and author of Lovability, a book for product and company builders. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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