The most important thing for a product manager is user feedback. Lots and lots of user feedback. In my old “enterprise product” days, it was pretty easy:
- “Largest pharma company in the world” needs a feature.
- The Product Manager grovels, growls and writes a PRD that will define the feature for the customer, and hopefully be of use to all other customers as well
- (very important!) Largest pharma co. pays its annual hefty support contract
In the SaaS world, life is both simpler and more complex: as you move away from big, monolithic, on premise features and into the world of agile services, it is very easy to see if a feature is successful: you can measure immediately how often people use it. As you turn to consumers or prosumers, you find customers are much more approachable and forthcoming than CIOs in huge companies.
But how do you know what will be the next feature?
We employ several tools:
- Automatically ask the users! (surveys)
- Look closely at our support and feedback tools. We use Kampyle, which allows anyone to drop us a line. Analyzing these will expose an interesting picture.
- Event logging and smart indexing: The user name is his email address. Our system generates thousands of alerts and logs a day, using splunk (which merits it’s own post, it IS the greatest thing since sliced bread) and google apps to search of my inbox, I can correlate not only system events, but also any kind of interaction I had with the user.
The three simple (but hard to implement) methodologies above mean that I can, with relative ease, go through hundreds of feedback items in my search to find trends.
Do users need 24/7 running servers? are we providing enough RAM? I have the answers!
It only took me a couple of days to generate an excel of thousands of feature requests, feedbacks and support cases. A couple of clicks, and I am data-mining for trends. Eating my own dogfood, I make sure the next batch of feedback compilation will be even more automated (thanks Schachar!).
Too often, we fall into the human fallacy of remembering only the one who shouts loudest and latest. By countering this with numbers, you can provide your users with a better product and a better service. True, this will not work with “Largest pharma” in the example above, but there are other considerations (hefty support contract) as well..
And the most important tool of all? talk with your users, walk a mile in their shoes:
- If they are using your product for training – visit a class
- If they are using your product to do demos – try running a demo yourself
- If they are using it to perform development – try bringing out those rusty engineering skills and code, using the product
I have done all of the above, and more, and each one has been an eye opener. Stepping into your customers shoes is an important step on the way to Product Manager Nirvana.