Futher, this model is based on a flawed view of software that holds you can define high-level requirements independent of detailed requirements and especially the user experience.
In companies with the model, product managers become little more than a spec-generation service. It is a frustrating job that tends to stifle innovation and rarely produces successful products.
If you’re in really bad shape today, you might need to make this 30% or even more of the resources … if you are to have a chance of pulling through, here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Do a realistic schedule and timeline for making the necessary changes that engineering identifies.
- If there’s any way humanly possible to break up the rewrite into chunks to be done incrementally with user-visible product development continuing on the site, you should absolutely do so.
- Since you’ll only have very limited ability to deliver user-visible functionality, you will need to pick the right features, and make sure you define them right.
Companies tend to believe that their products are inherently complex, or that a 9% conversion rate isn’t bad, or that they just need to spend more on customer acquisition marketing or advertising, or that investing in customer service is just a necessary cost of doing business.
However, what’s actually going on is that the product is weak, and the company is just trying to make the best of what they have.
This notion of requirements and design as a sequential, predictable and scheduled phase in a product development process is so ingrained in our industry that it’s often one of the most difficult habits for product organizations to break. But we all need to get past this. Product organizations need to come to terms with the fact that the product invention process is fundamentally a creative process. It is more art than science.
One common response is “We’ll get feedback during beta,” or with Agile teams, “We’ll test the idea out at the end of the sprint.” Unfortunately, this is far too long to wait to test out an idea. A good user experience designer will want to try out dozens of ideas and approaches in a matter of days, and the thought of waiting even for two- to four-week sprint would be debilitating as the frequency is an order of magnitude too slow.
Testing your ideas with real users is probably the single most important activity in your job as product manager.
One of the surest ways to derail a product company is to confuse customer requirements with product requirements. … first, it’s extremely difficult for the customer to know what he needs until he sees it; second, customers don’t know what’s possible; and third, customers don’t often interact with each other in order to identify common themes.
But, more generally, even if the customer doesn’t have these issues, it’s not clear that these are the best things to focus on right now. By pursuing these special features now, what important work are you delaying? What is the business cost of delay?