Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Product Management: Define a right problem to solve

One of the most important skills that I've found as product manager is coming up with a right problem to solve.  Problem must be a real problem.  It must be something worth solving.  Something that has real impact to people.  It cannot be too big to solve, but at the same time it cannot be too trivial that no one cares about.

Start with problem definition;
continue to sharpen the focus.
When I look back at my college years, I completely got it backward.  My college buddies and I would get together and start talking about what would be cool to build with the latest technology.  I remember in 1998 working on dating website without really understanding what problem that we were solving.  We had tools to build a site, we knew how, we had servers, so we went ahead and built a site.  Because we knew how, we started building.  And that's how many engineers think about, myself included

That's not the way to launch a product.  One thing I've learned from watching other product managers and doing it myself for a couple of years is that I have to understand clearly what problem we are solving with our product.

Understanding clearly means that you can explain to people in one sentence what problem it is solving.  One sentence only.

If you cannot explain your problem in one sentence, it is either you don't understand the problem or the problem does not exist in reality.  Spend time thinking about the problem.   Refine it, and bring it to focus.  It will go long way in paying you back the dividends in days on end until you launch the product.

Make sure you really understand crux of the problem.  Make sure your problem is real.  Don't fall in the trap of start building without knowing what you are solving.

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