So you want to be a product manager, part 2: The user is in charge

Posted On Oct 6 2016 by

This post is a personal reflection on the excellent post written Rohini Vibha and introduced earlier on Hectic Pace. See part 1 of this series here.

2. Your product is only as good as a user’s perception of it.

In today’s personalized web word, the user is always in charge. That’s not the same thing as “the customer is always right,” but regardless, you need to check your ego at the door.

My favorite writing professor in college once gave me advice that I follow to this day. He told me to find my favorite sentence in what I’ve written and throw it out. Chances are, you’ll love it more than the reader and you’ll be the only one to appreciate its cleverness or  nuance.  Products are the same way. You’ll see the most brilliant feature gathering dust in your backlog. Or you’ll watch users “misuse” a product and it will feel like you’re watching someone grind the gears on the car you just built with your own hands. Get over it. Make it work.

The good news is there’s job security in this enhancement treadmill, especially given the nature of web technologies. On the other hand, even if yours is better than anyone else’s, that doesn’t mean it’s any good. The key is that your users will define what “any good” is. I’ve always been quite fond of a quote from Ron Dunn, formerly of Thomson Learning when he so presciently said at a conference back in 1999: “The worst level of service that users will accept [on the Web] is the best level of service they’ve ever seen.”

Buyer Persona vs. Functional Persona

As a product manager, you’re focused on the functional user. Let the marketers worry about getting their message out to the buyer personas. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes that more mature organizations make is marketing to their users (as opposed to buyers). Buyers are not yet users.

Yogi Berra: "You can observe a lot by watching."
Courtesy of CNN:

Focus on your users: mine customer data, read what your users read, attend conferences, interview people, research job descriptions, try some more in-depth contextual inquiry. And remember, if you’re building a product for someone you don’t know, you’re not a product manager.

Last Updated on: January 19th, 2024 at 12:22 am, by Andrew K. Pace

Written by Andrew K. Pace