Product Management: Getting the Mix Right

Written by Anne Kraske on February 1st, 2017

I recently had the opportunity to speak at SIIA’s Deciphering Product Management event where there was robust discussion on all things Product Management related. At the end of the metaphorical day, however, the bottom line is a company’s Product Management goal must be to offer the right mix of products to grow their business.

There is no crystal ball for determining what the product mix and its development path to it should be. There are, however, are many best practices, market hints, and blatant -but often ignored- “wrong way” signs that if paid attention to, can tremendously help in the endeavor.

It seems crazy simple, but when deciding on a new product and its features (or new features on existing products), the very first questions to ask are: Does it help make money (attract and retain customers)? Does it help save money (efficiencies, compliance, etc.)?  The answer needs to be yes to at least one of these questions without having to go too far into an esoteric theory.  Apply these questions to each feature and compare it to investment.

Another thing to do is stand on the shoulders of giants, or at least your competitors’.  What are their products and features? What does the market like and where did your competitors miss the boat? Pride in your products is okay, but embrace the reality that the market is the ultimate judge.  Catch up where necessary; leap-frog or innovate where possible. Adaptik’s Rating engine is an example of catching up and leap-frogging with innovation (click here to find out more).

Do not become wed to what you “know” is good and what customers “should” want.  This is business. Provide what the purchasing market wants.  Keep primary focus on what the “decision makers” require, but do not neglect the need for the product to please the “gatekeepers” that may first evaluate it.

Understand market timelines and the need to be nimble. If your product or feature timeline from “start” to “ready” is more than a year, go back and determine how you can provide value much sooner and follow with more.  Expect shift the entire time and be ready to adapt.

Finally, the right product mix is one that is, first and foremost, available.  Strive for perfection, but in the words of Voltaire and others, “don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good”. If your prospective customer is in the desert dying of thirst and your product is water, get it to them fast – as soon as it is good. If you wait for perfect, they may not be there.