In this ProductTank Barcelona talk, Andrew Moll, Head of Product at Abacum explains how the role of the first product manager at a startup can vary wildly from what product managers hired later on or those at larger companies might encounter.
Watch the session in full to see the talk or read on for an overview of his key points:
- What is product management really about?
- What is discovery?
- Early-stage research
- Product judgment
- Being directionally correct
What is Product Management really about?
Product managers are responsible for achieving results. They are accountable for business outcomes produced by leading both discovery and delivery within a specific problem space. Product managers often find themselves working together with UX researchers, other product managers, product strategists, data analysts, designers, product marketing managers, copywriters, product ops, customer success, engineers, and others.
The common mantras surrounding product managers come from those in larger companies. In a smaller company, the role doesn’t change. Still, product managers won’t have these experts to call on and may find themselves working only with a designer, a customer success, and an engineer, meaning that they are much busier.
What is discovery?
Discovery is an exchange of time for an increase in confidence that what we aim to build will solve our customers’ problems. While this is a good definition, again, it is different for new companies and new product managers. Time is expensive, and the speed of delivery is inversely proportional to maturity.
In newer companies, the goals are different as project runways are shorter. In the beginning, product managers will ship to learn about their customer base rather than ship to earn revenue and scale.
Product managers need to increase the confidence in their products to start delivery. But without an existing customer base experiencing problems, this can be challenging. Andrew recommends using the first 15 minutes of sales calls to conduct research.
Another way to improve success as the first product manager is by using product judgment. Product judgment is the idea that you can use your own judgment to accurately predict what your customers need, want, and value and then design and ship the right solution for them.
Recognizing product judgment
Some ways to start applying product judgment are by seeing what other companies are doing. If a large company like Netflix is doing something, it’s likely that they have tested it numerous ways and could be an opportunity to copy them. Another example is if someone recommends you not to take a particular course of action and provides a few reasons why.
How to build product judgment
Some tips for building product judgment that Andrew provides include learning from others, playing with other products, trusting your gut, building empathy through exposure, and building the wrong thing to avoid building it twice.
Being directionally correct
Don’t expect to have super high accuracy or precision, but make sure that when you need to go right, you go right. Use user journeys as a prioritization tool. To do this, find a single theme, build the happy path and work with customer success for the rest. In the early stages, it’s essential to not look at where you want to go but to compare down to the baseline and see if you’re improving.
The key takeaways from this talk are to focus on learning not earning, cultivate your product judgment, be directionally correct, compare down, and find good founders teams and problems when starting out as the first product manager.
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