As a product manager based in India, its great when your product gets centre stage at a worldwide conference in the US. This happened to me last week and it made all the struggles over the last 8 months worth it. But the real heroes are the engineers on the product team. They put in the real work to realise, shape and rationalise management’s vision. It was gratifying to send pictures and emails to the team letting them know that their work mattered and is being showcased at the highest level.
It’s only after shipping that the real analytical work begins as we try to answer the following questions:
- Are people using the new features?
- If yes, how much are they using it?
- What amount of use makes an investment in a feature worthwhile?
- Are these features bringing new users to the product? – If this was a goal for the release.
- Are the new features usable?
I try to get question #5 answered via prerelease testing but all the other questions are truly answered only after the product reaches the customers hands. I know that #4 was not a goal for this release.
Q3 is always tricky. Sometimes you invest way more resources into a feature that you anticipated at the beginning of the cycle. This is just the engineering truth. You discover usability issues late or the engineering team discovers workflow issues that we did not think of before hand.
Sometimes you find a single bug or a performance issue that prevents you from shipping a feature that you worked on for 4-8 weeks. This is still not bad considering that only a few releases ago we would have wasted many more months of work since we were were following a waterfall approach. Every time I run into such situations I feel proud that we develop software incrementally and send it out to a set of users for testing every month. This validates our assumptions earlier and allows us to discover issues earlier. And, that is worth the pain the process changes bring with them.