Where do I begin? A Product Triage

By Pragmatic Institute February 03, 2010

Many product managers find themselves in a new role, in a new company or with a new product, and wonder where to begin. There's so much to do! In every situation, there are more things to do than can be done, so a new product manager has to determine the best use of time.

Do a product triage.

In a new job, we make assumptions about the product plan. Is there a plan? Are there any suggestions in the plan needing proof? Validate the plan with your assessment of the market. The five boxes of Market Analysis make a good starting point. They are:

  • Distinctive Competence
  • Market Research
  • Market Problems
  • Technology Assessment
  • Competitive Review

What is this company's distinctive competence? Few companies that I've encountered seem to know what they do best, not to mention what they do uniquely. What is your unique ability to deliver value to customers?

Has any market research been done? If you're moving into a new technology market, read what the analysts have to say about the technology trends in that space. Is there any research for our specific target segment? Your company is probably paying for research from Gartner, Meta, and other analysts; go read some of it.

What market problems are we solving? You can get some ideas from the business case if there is one. Then go to Development to see what problems they think that they're solving. Now contact some potential buyers (or potential test sites), take a prototype or demo to them and get the buyers (and users) to explain the benefits to you. What features are cool? What impact will this have on company operations? If possible, invite yourself to spend the day observing the department that will use the product.

Now go to your developers and tech support for their technology assessment. What is their perception of the cool features? (These will be different than the ones the buyers and users like.) Are there any limitations in the technology? What do they need to finish? What are they planning for the future?

Finally, a competitive review will identify all the players in the space. Does anyone have a leadership position (that is, 30% of the market size)? How many competitors are chasing the same deals? Perhaps we need to focus on a specific market that we can dominate instead of going after everyone.

In any new job, there's more to do than can be done. Pick the more important activities that will have the most impact on the product's future. The first step is to assess the market analysis, getting yourself up to speed and making sure that all the base work has been done satisfactorily.

Related article: The State of the You

Categories: Roles & Activities Leadership
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