And How To Avoid Them
Martin Cagan Silicon Valley Product Group
THE TOP 12 PRODUCT MANAGEMENT MISTAKES – AND HOW TO AVOID THEM
Martin Cagan, Silicon Valley Product Group
Bad products are everywhere. Products that simply aren’t useful, don’t work right, are too difficult to learn, or that take forever to sell. Little wonder, as there are so manythings that have to go right in order to create a successful product. There are, however, some pitfalls that occur so frequently and are so damaging that we believe they are at the root of the vast majority of bad products. In this paper we review each of these pitfalls and describe why it’s so easy to get confused and fall into these traps. Keep this list handy, as it can hopefully serve as areminder of the dangers to avoid in your own product development efforts. 1. Confusing Customer Requirements with Product Requirements Many product teams look to the marketing function or sales or the customer to define the product to be built. If you’re building a custom product, or doing contract product development work, then letting your marketing or sales organization define your product may befine. However, if you’re trying to build an innovative product that will meet the needs of a wide range of customers, then this approach will rarely produce the product you want. The logic goes that the marketing organization communicates with the sales organization and the customers, and hence they are in the best position to know what product is required. However, there are several reasons whyfew good products are created this way. First, customers don’t necessarily know what they want. Not because they aren’t smart, but because it is very difficult to proscribe a specific solution and predict its effectiveness without actually building it, or at least building a prototype.
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Second, customers don’t know what ispossible. It takes significant time and expertise to stay abreast of the many developments in technology that may apply to your problem. Third, customers aren’t in a position to see the wide range of needs and opportunities. The customers are busy with their own lives and jobs and don’t have the time to learn about others in the market and how their needs may be similar or different. Productmanagement is responsible for defining the right product. It is the job of the product manager to deeply understand the target market and their needs, and then to work to combine what is possible with what is desirable, to create products that solve real problems. This is why top product managers often come from the engineering ranks; they understand what is possible, and when they see an unmet need theycan often envision new and innovative solutions. Product marketing is also very important, just very different. Product marketing is all about communicating what the product does to the target market, and supporting the sales channel with the tools they need to effectively sell. Good product marketing is difficult and critical, but it is not at all the same thing as inventing the actual product.2. Confusing Innovation with Value Innovation without a clear purpose is simply technology looking for a problem to solve. There are countless products on the market today simply because they were now possible, not necessarily because they solve a real problem, or solve the problem better than other solutions. What motivates the engineers on the product team may not be the same thing that motivatesothers. Engineers care a great deal about the technical challenge itself, and the particular technologies that they get the opportunity to learn and use. However, if the engineering team is provided with a clear vision and product strategy, and if the engineers are provided the opportunity to see the customer problems directly, then they can often come up with innovative solutions to very real...