Amit Goel
Amit Goel
Amit's Ever Colliding Neurons.
Dec 1, 2017 5 min read

Building a product feature without knowing what the customers need ….

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Talk to anyone in the senior management including the CEO, CTO, Sales head, Engineering head , & everyone else and they’ll define the problem statement, create the requirements, propose a solution, design and detail out implementation specifics and even create a multi-phase release plan in less than an hour. All of this gets done for a product feature that the customers themselves are not even sure whether they need it or how they are gonna use it ?

You can always argue that they have experience, may be they know the business inside out, they can be visionaries, they are talking to customers everyday or possibly, they have a crystal ball. If that’s all possible and is easily achieved by a few people in less than an hour, then what’s the need of Product Manager anyway ?

This whole saga is always kicked off by a sales executive who believes that this product feature is the holy grail to close a multi-million dollar deal. And this is the only feature standing between customer happiness and his six figure incentive that’ll finance his vacation to Hawaii. So, this “urgent requirement” from the customer gets into product roadmap ahead of schedule by making everyone believe that money is almost at the door.

Alright !! back to the topic as you have already learnt how “urgent requirements” happen in many of the cases. :-)

So, as an “ experienced and sincere product manager ”, what will be your thought process ?

  1. Talk to the salesman and collect feedback for initial discussions.

  2. Talk to the customer and their current workflow and how it is really a problem for them.

  3. Look for feedback given by other customers on their workflows and try to arrive at highest common factor of requirements.

  4. Understand how competitors have solved the same or similar problem. If no one has ever solved this problem, 90% possibility is that the requirement is something else and may be you have misunderstood it.

  5. Define the requirement and write a requirement spec with putting in some thoughts of your own about how the customer will really be using it and how it can be generalised as a product feature and not, made only for one customer.

  6. Define the User experience and work with UX experts to get early design and run it through the customer to get initial response.

  7. Meanwhile, using requirement spec, understand the impact on overall product from technical perspective by getting in early discussions with engineers.

  8. Roll off sprint plans with engineering taking over the development.

  9. at the same time, understand the potential of the feature it brings to the customer and arrive at a decent price point or business model.

  10. Wait for the development to finish and let the salesman enjoy his vacation in Hawaii… > # All’s well that ends well ? > # Naaaahhhh !!!! Karma is a bitch and then you die !!!

If the above scenario happens to you, you must be living on Jupiter or Saturn. Definitely, you do not belong to this planet earth or surely,

So, as a “pragmatic product manager” , what’s your thought process ?

  1. Call for a meeting with right set of stakeholders in a room. That includes the engineering heads, developers, development leads, UX experts, operations head and possibly , some other senior management folks like a CEO or CTO etc… Make sure you DO NOT invite the salesman who asked for it to the meeting.

  2. Wait and Watch. Keep Quiet and Don’t ask any questions.

  3. Engineering head will outline the dependencies , technical challenges, etc..

  4. To prove their might, developer will actually design the whole solution and provide implementation details then and there.

  5. Engineering lead will put out the task list and estimate the delivery time.

  6. UI developer will say yes to everything.

  7. CEO & CTO will provide the competitive analysis, finer nuances of the feature, the summary of the discussion they had with customer, the way they know the industry better and how it can be done better by reducing the complexity as defined by engineering head, changing the design proposed by developer, cutting the timelines by suggesting multiple phases to engineering lead. And reduce timeline further by cutting down the basic stuff that customer may have been expecting …

  8. As a product manager, you write all that down, send minutes of the meeting and put up a nice slide deck together so that there is documentation available for this feature.

Have a good time that everyone else except you did the job that you are hired and paid for… :-)

> *Disclaimer : Please don’t react like armchair activists , NDTV journalists, communists, idiotic intellectuals or JNU students by trying to read between the lines… There is nothing between the lines. This post is written just to find some plain stupid fun out of high pressure work environments and have some silly humour at the cost of our job profiles. Life is much better . Don’t waste your time in over analysis. Better go write those requirements that have been pending for days…. :-)*

and signing off with one more Dilbert !!! :-)

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