Category Archives: product requirements

Steven Haines @ ‘The Three Questions for Product Manager’

Steven HainesSteven Haines has a passion for great products! This passion is evident in the three books he’s written. His energy serves as a catalyst for senior leaders so that they can adopt needed changes that improve organizational effectiveness and ultimately, contribute to the creation of the best products that deliver extraordinary value to customers, and undisputed competitive advantage.

We thank Steven for taking out time and be part of ‘Three Questions’ series for product managers.

Product Mantra: How important is it for a product manager to have experience of project management?

Steven Haines: I have a good-news, bad-news response. The good news is that there’s recognition of a difference between the two. I can’t say how many times people confuse the two practices. The bad news is that, yes, product managers must know how to manage projects and the three main pillars: people, budgets, and schedules! To be precise, all business people should know how work gets done, by whom, and when. They must know who provides work product to others and who receives work product. Also, they must know how those hand-off’s impact the overall schedule of deliverables in order to produce a planned outcome. One of the most important projects that product managers are likely to find themselves in the heart of is a product launch. It’s an incredibly important process; it involves many people, and must result in an on-time launch. If people don’t do what’s required in the launch project plan, then the product will not achieve its objectives for sales, market share, or a positive customer experience.

Product Mantra: How often should a product manager conduct competitive analysis, what’s the frequency and any methods that you can share with us?

Steven Haines: Competitive profiling is a vital practice that should be carried out on an ongoing basis – not as a periodic exercise. For example, I get “alerts” every day on various companies to find out what they’re up to and I store them in my mind, or share information with my team members. I also motivate my cross-functional team members to be alert to goings-on in the market. If a sales person visits a customer and learns about a competitor proposal, that sales person should provide input to the product manager. Another method is for the development or engineering team to be able to reverse engineer competitor products if at all possible. This can provide valuable information on costs, composition, and the user experience. In many firms, a market intelligence department carries out research that can reveal useful insights. All these inputs should be stored on a shared repository so that, across the organization, people can be alerted to any competitive activities. These can be channeled into the strategic planning process, or in other dimensions of the product’s business.

Product Mantra: Tell us more about the philosophy of product manager as business manager?

Steven Haines: It’s not so much a philosophy, but the standard. A product is a business inside a business and a business must be managed. Every business starts with a vision, goals, and a strategy. That strategy is based on various inputs: market insights, business, and financial information. Strategic goals set the stage for what’s to be done – to create a new product, update an existing product, or even expand to another market. Once everyone in the organization is aligned, the product manager, like any good CEO or general manager ensures that everyone does their part to build, test, validate, and launch the product. Finally, performance metrics are monitored to steer the product’s business, keep things running, and to re-strategize as needed.

Thanks Steven.

Steven Haines on web:

  1. Steven Haines blog:
  2. Twitter: @Steven_Haines
  3. Linkedin:


Case Study: Buyer is not the end-user – challenges for the Product Manager

Amol, the product manager of a Set Top Box (STB), was responding to a RFP (Request For Proposal) from a DTH (Direct To Home) operator; the contract if secured would mean significant revenue boost for 2 years, to start with. The STBs would be purchased by the operator in bulk and distributed to their customers (end-users). The RFP had a series of detailed questions on securing the digital content transfered, tamper proof ability, over the air firmware upgrades, recording capabilities – among others. Amol was as usual irritated. Continue reading

Product Manager – Are you going feature crazy?

I love discovering features in products, features are what define a product, right? As a product manager, one has the important responsibility to shape a product by carefully filtering through the thousands of feature requests from various stakeholders.

However sometimes there is way too much focus on building a feature rich product, especially in the enterprise space. It becomes very easy to end up feature chasing instead of focussing on producing a valuable and usable product.

It is useful to think about the following when adding new features: Continue reading

Product Mantra: When did I last meet my customer!

Repeat this mantra every few days ‘When did I last meet my customer?’, especially when you as a product owner are struggling to prioritize features or finding it hard to define requirements. Trust me, the answer to this mantra will tell you the reason of your struggle.

Influenced by a story on web, a competitive analysis you undertook a few days back or pressurized by your friendly neighborhood departments (sales, operations, customer support etc) you decide to prioritize or define a feature. You put in your best thoughts, experience and analysis but still find yourself falling short of the need (who defines it?). So what do you do? Continue reading