Facebook recently hosted the first-ever Women in Product conference, which united hundreds of women who work in product management throughout the technology industry. The conference’s overarching mission? To build a community while promoting diversity in technical roles.
On the gender front, that need is clear: 84 percent of technical roles at Facebook, to name just one prominent company, are filled by males. But community is also needed to underscore another simple reality: We’ve reached a critical time in product management where the landscape is in flux and roles are evolving.
Importantly, however, even as these changes occur, the fundamentals and core principles of the field will remain consistent.
Product management, in fact, is — and will always be — an integral function for any growing startup. Good product management balances the enthusiasm of the company’s founder and/or CEO by providing them a rational and unbiased outlook for the product alongside the organization’s existing customer needs.
Letting this task happen in an unfettered way frees up time for the leadership to focus on other critical topics.
As tech moguls (and product-management bloggers) Ben Horowitz and David Weiden have described, good product managers balance all important factors, including company goals, customer demand and competition. A good product manager will also drive the day-to-day operations of a product forward, identify and prioritize new features, track product dependencies and iterate on user experience.
More specifically, though, every company’s product manager has the following three important tasks to fulfill in order to put out a successful product:
1. Know what your target market wants.
Product managers need to think about their users constantly. They must perform competitive and market research and talk to people who face the challenges they’re trying to solve. The risks of not understanding their users are serious. Investing in the wrong market is the most common reason for startup failure. It’s estimated to have led to the demise of roughly 42 percent of new businesses.
In short, you need to understand your user base as defined by your market to ensure that each feature you build targets an expected persona.
Tile’s product team, for example, recognized that people today carry at least three crucial items at almost all times: phone, keys and wallet. Because the company’s target market of young, urban professionals lead busy lives and often live in messy apartments, the company realized how easy it is for them to lose those important items. Accordingly, the company developed a device and app to help consumers keep track of them.
Similarly, a company like Lifeproof thrives because its product team is very aware of the fact that the average smartphone user breaks his or her phone within 10 weeks of purchasing it. By frequently updating its products to fit new phone models and incorporating innovative functionality to its protective cases — such as the ability to charge a smartphone — the company consistently offers products users want to purchase.