Building a world class product

I read this blog yesterday and wanted to share my thoughts on building products.

The idea of bucketing features is not new. Almost all product managers distribute features across “themes”. These themes maybe coming down from upper management as they decide key areas of focus for the company as a whole. But, it is still interesting to bucket features for your product into the categories mentioned by the author:

  • A gamechanger. People will want to buy your product because of this feature.
  • A showstopper. People won’t buy your product if you’re missing this feature, but adding it won’t generate demand.
  • A distraction. This feature will make no measurable impact on adoption.

I tried to do so but I could not find any items in the “Showstopper” category. I think its because I have a very well established product. Maybe a lot of our “incremental features” would end up in this category. We know customers will buy the product even if we did not do all these features but we should do “a bunch”

It is also not easy for me to put any feature in the “Distraction” category. I think it would be very hard for any product manager to do so. So.. maybe its better to have your customers complete this exercise for you. You cannot be as unbiased as your customers. Customers are not afraid to call you on your bullshit.

I’ve found that Amazon’s product management process is more insightful and creating this one slide for every release is a more complete exercise than just feature bucketing.

  • Heading – Name the product in a way the reader (i.e. your target customers) will understand.
  • Sub-Heading – Describe who the market for the product is and what benefit they get. One sentence only underneath the title.
  • Summary – Give a summary of the product and the benefit. Assume the reader will not read anything else so make this paragraph good.
  • Problem – Describe the problem your product solves.
  • Solution – Describe how your product elegantly solves the problem.
  • Quote from You – A quote from a spokesperson in your company.
  • How to Get Started – Describe how easy it is to get started.
  • Customer Quote – Provide a quote from a hypothetical customer that describes how they experienced the benefit.
  • Closing and Call to Action – Wrap it up and give pointers where the reader should go next.

The most useful way for me to test the validity of a release has been to present the features to a group of customers and then give them five minutes to write down their thoughts on the proposed release on a post it. The way your customers describe your features and the over all release are great for marketing as well as for course correction. Collect their descriptions and put them up on a wall.

So instead of spending all your time on powerpoint or excel creating feature lists and benefits. Get out in front of customers and practice the pitch. Be open to criticism and take notes