During my brief stint at Intuit, I liked this practice of meeting users of the product; Intuit refers to this practice as Follow-Me-Home (FMH). Nothing unusual in that. However what was unusual was that the whole team meets the end users of the product – the developer, the quality assurance person, the technical support person – everyone. Many people outside Intuit asked me if everyone met customers, were Product Managers needed? This is the same question that Product Managers of Intuit asked back in 2009 when lean was introduced (see The Lean Startup Eric Ries p248-50). Do we really need to go to the extent of asking if Product Managers are needed?
If the only work of the Product Managers is to meet customers and prescribe solutions based on the finding then it is over simplifying the job totally. A customer meeting provides qualitative feedback with sometimes a lot of noise. The noise needs to be filtered out by analysis of vast amount of quantitative data that one has accumulated. Combine this with what is happening in the business environment and goals of the product to decide what to do next. Not to forget the acumen needed to project manage the execution with cross-functional teams. The customer meeting, although important is one among other important things for a Product Manager. So next time there is a proposal for the developer to join a customer meet, heartily welcome it. It keeps you as a Product Manager on the toes and prevents you from prescribing solutions purely based on symptoms alone.
Photo credit: Victor