One of the most important tasks, and often what is occupying a good part of the thinking of a PM is, what should we build next? a simple question but one that carries with it allot of details as to what usually goes into this process and how good PM’s source and priotorize ideas, for the context of this post I will focus on where do ideas comes from, prioritizing them will be a subject of a future post.
There are some differences of where ideas come from and their importance depending on what type of a PM you are and to what type of product,, there 3 main types of PM or products in the tech. space:
- Consumer products or B2C products (think of instagram, snapchat)
- B2B products (think of SAP, AliBaba)
- Internal products (think of customer service tools)
Lets start with the common sources of ideas and add the specific cases for the 2nd and 3rd types of products, one thing to keep in mind, is that its very rare for you as a new PM to start off with a clean slate/no backlog that already exists, in most cases you would be owning a product that exists with a backlog of ideas that you need to understand and priotorize.
Employees and colleagues
The first source of ideas are employees in the business, these include your team members, PM’s of teams working in the same business area/unit, your manager, leadership team, or CEO, depending on the size of the business these titles will change but they all fall under this category. Also researchers and analysis’s are a valuable source of “high quality” ideas as its usually coming from a qualitative or quantitative source which saves you a bit of time in validating it, but it still needs to be prioritized (more on that later)
Customers can tell you things in two ways:
- Directly, as in from feedback forms, customer service tickets/issues and calls, these are usually bugs or issues but can also uncover user needs and features improvements or new features that could be built.
- In-directly, this happens from metrics, your users can be telling you something, a problem they are facing (exits from a funnel, high bounce rates for example) or something missing they are looking for (high churn rates for example can indicate missing value proposition), a good PM hunts for these signals in the myriad of data sources they have at their disposal, finding such signals usually requires a deeper look, might include implementing a survey, feedback form or follow up emails to gather more details as to why a user has left the product.
In a B2C product, the above cover the main areas where PM’s gather and generate ideas that need to be vetted, sized (business impact and effort) and then prioritized. There are many techniques to generate ideas with your team such as design sprints and brainstorms where you would combine your insights and use these frameworks to help come up with new/innovative ideas.
There are however, other sources of ideas that are more common in the B2B and internal products.
Sales or Clients in B2B products
in a B2B business, there are usually less users of the product but these users have a much stronger influence on the product, in many organization sales represent the clients and PM have to work with sales to understand what clients need, working directly with clients or users of the software in SAAS business for example is usually best to capture what their needs and pain points are.
There are many commonalities to B2C products in how PM’s should go about validating these needs, but the main difference is that in B2C you usually have hundreds of thousands or millions of users while in B2B its a much smaller number.
Users of internal products
If you are a PM for an internal tool, then your main source of ideas are the users of the tool, depending on how many users the tool has, your methods of collecting these ideas would differ, but managing an internal product is usually very different than a B2C product, you usually will not be able to experiment (A/B tests) for internal products as you would never get the statistical power needed, as such you will have to rely on proper understanding and capturing of the user needs and making sure the product delivers on their needs efficiently, objectives usually resolve around efficient usage, time saving of the users and adoption. (this of course can be very different depending on the product but this is what I have seen in my previous experiences)
I hope you found this useful, there is much more to discuss in each of these categories that I hope I can cover in a future post or podcast.
As always, stay safe, and stay wild!