Three Different Approaches to Product Management
My last post concluded our exploration of the impact an organization’s stage of growth has on the skills needed by a product manager. This week we’ll delve into three different approaches to product management and take a deep dive into the first of these three types:
1 – Capturing the voice of the customer
2 – Workflow analysis
3 – Outcome-driven innovation
Central Differences in the Three Different Approaches to Product Management
The Capturing the Voice of the Customer approach relies heavily on what your customers tell you they want. The Workflow Analysis approach is focused on what you observe about how your customers work. Finally, the Outcome-driven approach is centered squarely on what your customers want most to accomplish and how they measure success.
The best approach for you may well be a combination of two approaches. In deciding on the approach to use in your organization, it is wise to revisit your organization’s business plan and review your company’s objectives. Then, overlay that information with what you know about your company’s orientation toward augmenting current products vs. innovating.
Drilling Down on the First Product Management Approach
Let’s take a closer look at the first of the three approaches: Capturing the Voice of the Customer. This approach supports the idea that if you listen to your customers they will make clear what you need to do.
How Product Managers Hear the Voice of the Customer
How the Voice of the Customer is collected varies from organization to organization. Customer insights can come from:
- One-on-one conversations
- Online communities
- Sales organizations
- Customer service databases
- Site visits
- Client conferences
- User meetings
- Other sources
It can be a real challenge to collect and organize the customer’s input into something that is useful. Once you’ve figured out a system for collecting and organizing information so that the priorities rise to the top, you need to establish a framework for prioritizing the various inputs. It is vital that information be proactively collected and processed through your framework.
As challenging as the process of collecting and filtering is, the results are well worth the effort. They will reveal how your existing products can be enhanced for maximum benefit. Another side benefit of your process is that it will provide a logical rationale for why your company has invested in one product enhancement over another.
More Benefits of the Capturing Voice of the Customer Approach
If you are new to your current product management position, the Voice of the Customer approach will give you a way to accumulate market information. This information will either confirms your company’s actions or help you decide how best to adjust the direction you are heading.
It takes time to collect enough data to make major changes. In the meantime, you’ll collect information you can use to make positive tweaks to products without slowing down your company’s momentum.
Limitations to the Capturing the Voice of the Customer Approach
When product manages follow the Voice of the Customer approach they have to accept several assumptions. These include assuming the customers know what they want, can express those needs clearly and ultimately will be willing to pay for the enhancement you create. Unfortunately, customers often fall short in one or more of these areas.
You also need to keep in mind that the customer is only seeing things from their limited perspective. Customers may not be able to adequately speak for your entire market. Gaining the broader perspective requires you to employ other means of data collection.
You, as product manager, are in a better position to see the global needs of your market. It is wise to reserve part of your development budget for innovation that specifically addresses the latent needs in the market.
The Capturing the Voice of the Customer approach is an excellent tool to use in augmenting existing products, but it is much less useful in the development of new ones.
In my next post, we will continue our exploration of different product management approaches. Next up? An in depth exploration of the second product management approach: Workflow Analysis.