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Essentials of Product Management
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The Art of Product Management

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Product managers drive the vision, strategy, design, and execution of their product. In this presentation I share my lessons learned on the art behind each of these four dimensions of product management.

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The Art of Product Management

  1. 1. The Art of Product Management Sachin Rekhi @sachinrekhi Entrepreneur, Product Guy, and Software Engineer
  2. 2. My Product Roles 2005 2007 2008 productivity for database pros experience music where you want it (acquired by imeem) unlimited ad-supported music
  3. 3. My Product Roles 2010 2011 2013 contact management without the work (acquired by LinkedIn) the easiest way to stay in touch the leading social selling solution LinkedIn Contacts LinkedIn Sales Navigator
  4. 4. My Product Advising Roles
  5. 5. Here’s What I’ve Learned in the Past Decade...
  6. 6. What Do Product Managers Do?
  7. 7. Product managers drive the vision, strategy, design, and execution of their product.
  8. 8. Vision Strategy Design Execution
  9. 9. Vision Elon Musk, SpaceX “It is important that humanity become an interplanetary species.”
  10. 10. Strategy Jeff Bezos, Amazon “Your margin is my opportunity.”
  11. 11. Design Steve Jobs, Apple “You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
  12. 12. Execution Stewart Butterfield, Slack “We do it really, really fucking good.”
  13. 13. Vision Strategy Design Execution
  14. 14. A compelling vision articulates how the world will be a better place if you succeed Vision
  15. 15. The Best Format: A Customer-Centric Vision Narrative “Full sentences are harder to write. They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six- page narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.” — Jeff Bezos Vision
  16. 16. Vision Narrative: 1997 Shareholder Letter “But this is Day 1 for the Internet and, if we execute well, for Today, online commerce saves customers money and precious time. Tomorrow, through personalization, online commerce will accelerate the very process of discovery. uses the Internet to create real value for its customers and, by doing so, hopes to create an enduring franchise, even in established and large markets.” — Jeff Bezos Read: Jeff Bezos’ 1997 Shareholder Letter Vision
  17. 17. Vision Narrative: PayPal Speech in 1999 “The need PayPal answers is monumental. Paper money is an ancient technology and an inconvenient means of payment. In the twenty-first century, people need a form of money that's more convenient and secure, something that can be accessed from anywhere with a PDA or an Internet connection. Of course, what we're calling 'convenient' for American users will be revolutionary for the developing world. It will be nearly impossible for corrupt governments to steal wealth from their people through their old means.” — Peter Thiel Read: Peter Thiel’s PayPal Speech in 1999 Vision
  18. 18. Vision Narrative: Apple Introduces the iPhone in 2007 “Most advanced phones are called smart phones. They combine a phone + email + baby Internet in one device with a plastic little keyboard on them. The problem is that they are not so smart and not so easy to use. What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been and super easy to use. So we’re going to reinvent the phone. Starting first with a revolutionary user interface.” — Steve Jobs Watch: Steve Jobs iPhone Keynote in 2007 Vision
  19. 19. Vision Narrative: Slack Pre-Launch Employee Memo “That’s why what we’re selling is organizational transformation. The software just happens to be the part we’re able to build & ship (and the means for us to get our cut). We’re selling a reduction in information overload, relief from stress, and a new ability to extract the enormous value of hitherto useless corporate archives. We’re selling better organizations, better teams.” — Stewart Butterfield Read: Stewart Butterfield’s 2013 Employee Memo: We Don’t Sell Saddles Here Vision
  20. 20. Vision Narrative: LinkedIn Economic Graph “LinkedIn’s vision, our dream, is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, all 3 billion people in the global workforce. The way we are going to do that is by developing the world’s first economic graph. We are going to digitally map the global economy… and in doing so, the hope is we can lift and transform the global economy.” — Jeff Weiner Watch: Jeff Weiner introduces the LinkedIn Economic Graph in 2015 Vision
  21. 21. Communicating The Vision A vision is valuable only if it inspires the entire team Vision
  22. 22. Communicating The Vision: The Power of Repetition Just as it takes 7 impressions to garner a response to a marketing message, you need to constantly repeat your vision Vision
  23. 23. Communicating The Vision: The Litmus Test Ask a team member where the product is ultimately going and see how often they recite back the vision Vision
  24. 24. Vision Strategy Design Execution
  25. 25. A compelling strategy details exactly how you’ll dominate your market Strategy
  26. 26. A vision should be stable, but your strategy needs to be iterated on and refined until you find product/market fit Strategy
  27. 27. Best Format: Product/Market Fit Hypotheses Ditch the business plan; instead focus on a few-page summary that captures each of your critical product/market fit hypotheses Strategy
  28. 28. The Product/Market Fit Hypotheses 1. Target Audience 2. Problem You’re Solving 3. Value Propositions 4. Strategic Differentiation 5. Competition 6. Acquisition Strategy 7. Monetization Strategy 8. KPIs Further reading: A Lean Alternative to a Business Plan: Documenting Your Product/Market Fit Hypotheses Strategy
  29. 29. 1. Target Audience This is not your pitch deck, so don’t think about the broadest possible definition of your TAM Instead think of the bullseye of your very best potential customers Further reading: How to Find Your Ideal Customer Strategy
  30. 30. 2. Problem You’re Solving Is the problem you’re solving for your customer a vitamin or a painkiller? Strategy
  31. 31. 3. Value Propositions Not the feature list, but instead the promise to your customer on the value you will deliver for them Strategy
  32. 32. 4. Strategic Differentiation Why is your solution 10x better than the leading alternatives? Strategy
  33. 33. 5. Competition How will your solution win against direct competitors and indirect alternatives? Strategy
  34. 34. 6. Acquisition Strategy How will you find & attract your potential customers? And how will you do so cost-effectively? Strategy
  35. 35. 7. Monetization Strategy What are your primary and secondary ways to make money? Is there strong willingness to pay? Strategy
  36. 36. 8. KPIs What are the right metrics for you to know if you are headed in the right direction? Strategy
  37. 37. Minimize your dimensions of innovation Further reading: The Best Startups Minimize Their Dimensions of Innovation Strategy
  38. 38. Don’t innovate on ALL dimensions 1. Target Audience 2. Problem You’re Solving 3. Value Propositions 4. Strategic Differentiation 5. Competition 6. Acquisition Strategy 7. Monetization Strategy 8. KPIs Innovate on a few, use best practices for the rest Strategy
  39. 39. Strategy: Google Maps Leverages Superior Technology Dimension of Innovation: Strategic Differentiation Google Maps unseated the ubiquitous MapQuest (which had already become a verb) largely through a superior product that leveraged early use of technologies like JavaScript and AJAX to bring the first smooth scrolling and zooming experience to an online map interface. Strategy
  40. 40. Strategy: Tesla Takes a Top Down Market Approach Dimensions of Innovation: Target Audience, Strategic Differentiation Tesla's primary goal was to commercialize electric vehicles, starting with a premium sports car aimed at early adopters and then moving as rapidly as possible into more mainstream vehicles, including sedans and affordable compacts. Tesla first introduced the Roadster, a high-end luxury sports car in 2008, selling 2,400 units up until 2012. It then followed it with the broader appeal Model S, a full-sized luxury sedan in 2012, which has sold more than 100,000 cars globally. Strategy
  41. 41. Strategy: Venmo Focuses its Digital Wallet on P2P Dimension of Innovation: Problem You’re Solving While many of the digital wallet & payment solutions like PayPal were far more focused on digital commerce and merchant transactions, Venmo decided to solely focus on the problem of helping individuals make payments amongst each other. This focus enabled Venmo to create a superior P2P solution compared to any other provider, ultimately leading to their acquisition by PayPal. Strategy
  42. 42. Strategy: Evernote Exploits App Store Distribution Dimension of Innovation: Acquisition Strategy Evernote grew its user base faster and larger than any prior consumer productivity tool by taking advantage of distribution on the newly launched iPhone App Store. Evernote continued to exploit this strategy by being amongst the first to deeply integrate and launch with each subsequent app store, including Android, Mac, Windows Mobile, and more. This supported their product strategy by ensuring they remained the most broadly available cross-platform notes app. Strategy
  43. 43. Strategy: Zenefits Reinvents The Business Model Dimension of Innovation: Monetization Strategy Zenefits built a SaaS HR platform to help businesses manage benefits, payroll, talent, and more. Instead of leveraging the classic SaaS business model of per-seat customer pricing, Zenefits gave the software away for free and instead monetized via benefits providers by acting as an insurance broker. Strategy
  44. 44. Vision Strategy Design Execution
  45. 45. A compelling design delivers a useful, usable, and delightful experience to your customers Design
  46. 46. Delivering a useful & usable product has proven techniques, but how do you build truly delightful experiences? Design
  47. 47. By bringing emotional intelligence to your product design Design
  48. 48. Start by falling in love with the problem you are solving for your target customers But not… with the solution Design Further reading: The Best Product Managers Fall in Love With a Problem
  49. 49. Develop Personas Personas are fictional characters developed to represent the different archetypes of users of your product. A persona typically describes the goals, pain points, behaviors, and psychology associated with members of a particular segment. To bring them to life a name, a profile image, and sometimes even a background history are associated with them. A team usually develops one or more personas to represent the core audience of users they are optimizing their product for. Design Further reading: The Importance of Developing Personas in Product Design
  50. 50. Develop Personas Sample personas from MailChimp Design
  51. 51. Increase Exposure Hours “It's the closest thing we've found to a silver bullet when it comes to reliably improving the designs teams produce. The solution? Exposure hours. The number of hours each team member is exposed directly to real users interacting with the team's designs or the team's competitor's designs. There is a direct correlation between this exposure and the improvements we see in the designs that team produces.” — Jared M. Spool, Founder, User Interface Engineering Read: Fast Path to a Great UX - Increased Exposure Hours Design
  52. 52. Deliver delight by adding a desired emotion dimension to your product design process Send Confirmation in MailChimp Design
  53. 53. Delight Through Attention to Detail Hipchat Slack vs Slack sweats the details: Emojis, Onboarding, Animations, Reliable Notifications, Slackbot, Platform Integrations, Quick Switcher, Keyboard Shortcuts, Attachments, Link Previews, ... Design
  54. 54. Measure Delight Through Net Promoter Score (NPS) Read: A Practitioner's Guide to Net Promoter Score (NPS) Design
  55. 55. High EQ: Facebook Sharing Facebook not only made the sharing process frictionless, but more importantly provided instant social gratification Design Further reading: Bringing Emotional Intelligence to Your Product Design
  56. 56. High EQ: Instagram Filters Instagram made your mundane photos share-worthy in seconds with beautiful photo filters Design
  57. 57. High EQ: Slack’s Watercooler Slack brought the classic R&D team watercooler conversation right into Slack through common channels like #fun, #general, #random, #etc Design
  58. 58. Vision Strategy Design Execution
  59. 59. Relentless execution ultimately determines whether you’ll make your vision a reality Execution
  60. 60. Execution isn’t just project management, but doing whatever it takes to win Execution
  61. 61. You must also ensure you’re pointing the team in the right direction Execution
  62. 62. Execution Loop: Define. Validate. Iterate. Define Validate Iterate 1. Define your hypotheses 2. Validate each hypothesis 3. Iterate based on what you’ve learned Execution
  63. 63. #1 Goal: Increase execution loop velocity Execution
  64. 64. Fast iteration requires clear decision rights Who owns this decision? But… no shortcut for building shared context Execution
  65. 65. Establish yourself as the curator, not the creator of great ideas Execution
  66. 66. Favor decisions today over decisions tomorrow The enemy of decision-making is time Execution Further reading: The Art of Decision Making as a Product Manager
  67. 67. Reward engineering velocity over elegance Instead of rewarding teams with elegant architectural solutions to yesterday’s problems... Reward teams that are moving fast enough to solve today’s customer challenges Execution Further reading: Solving for the Mythical Man-Month
  68. 68. Invest in Retrospectives Improve your ability to accurately forecast (and ultimately improve) engineering cost & product outcome estimates through post-sprint retrospectives Execution Further reading: Design Your Development Process for Learning
  69. 69. Metrics: Learn to Read the Matrix Build your intuition for metrics by spending time every day reviewing a few critical acquisition, engagement, and monetization dashboards Execution Further reading: 3 Essential Dashboards for Every Product
  70. 70. Enjoyed this presentation? Subscribe to my weekly essays at
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Product managers drive the vision, strategy, design, and execution of their product. In this presentation I share my lessons learned on the art behind each of these four dimensions of product management. Enjoyed this presentation? Subscribe to my weekly essays at


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