Common problems faced by product managers and how to tackle them
Leading a product team comes with its own set of challenges and pitfalls. But knowing some of the common problems that product managers face can help you plan for them and anticipate them beforehand, so that as a leader you can tackle it in the right way when the problem arises.
The number one challenge that product managers face is the importance placed by businesses to deliver products by a certain timelines, without doing due research on what customers actually want.
This leads to countless products being released in the market that may or may not do well.
The foundation of a great product is built on customer feedback, product research and testing and validating the product market fit. These help product managers prioritise a product roadmap. Without this product roadmap in place and getting customer feedback, product managers are leading their teams blindly. For your team to be able to deliver the right solutions for the right problems, they need to not only get the product to the market as quickly as possible, but also get the product right. This is impossible without the product manager putting the right strategy in place, one that is backed by consumer insight.
The second biggest challenge that product managers face is that many companies actually encourage and push product delivery teams towards execution without doing due diligence on product market fit.
In response to external competition and pressure to keep up with developments in the marketplace, organisations push for faster innovation cycles. But without clearly defined hypotheses in place, or chalking out their learning objectives, teams cannot learn during the product development process. Before teams embark on costly development cycles, it is important to evaluate all ideas and if the idea is not solving for the right problem, or is not a good solution for the problem that the product is trying to solve, it can be discarded then and there.
Doing a careful consideration of ideas before they make it into the development cycle also ensures that the final products making it to the market resonate with the target customers and don’t end up in huge losses for the organisation.
Finally, another challenge product managers need to be equipped for is the inevitability of change.
From the changing needs of customers to new competitors entering the marketplace, product managers need to work with an agile mindset and course correct and steer their teams in the right direction to keep up with all the different changes that could impact the company. The Lean approach can be very useful here.
The agile mindset and lean UX approach for product discovery and product solution fit – creating the product in iterative cycles to get quick feedback and using data driven insights to deliver products that focus on customer experience.
When product managers approach product development with an agile mindset and use a lean UX approach, they can start with a set of assumptions or hypotheses and validate it by testing the product during each iteration cycle. This kind of approach works best to counter the challenges that product managers face when it comes to developing a product in a volatile and rapidly changing market. Using the Lean approach and perfecting a product in increments with data and research, will help teams arrive at a solution that is best suited to the company’s objectives and also meets users needs.
The importance of identifying Product Market Fit: does your product meet your business objectives and your users needs?
Product Market Fit is an important milestone for organisations – it means that your product meets your users needs and they are willing to pay for the value they get from the product. To find Product Market Fit, product teams first need to focus on finding the Problem- Solution Fit.
Problem – Solution Fit is the evidence that a product meets the business objectives of the organisation and also solves an existing problem that customers face. To achieve problem-solution fit, product teams need to meet three main objectives.
First finding a customer segment that is valuable for the early adopters and winning domination in that market. This makes it easy to expand to adjacent markets.
Second understanding what needs do they have that are not being met – organisations need to investigate the needs of their customer segment through surveys and collecting insights.
Lastly, what value proposition can you offer them? Are you solving the main problems of the target segment in a unique way? Create a winning value proposition statement that focuses on what is important to customers and what makes your product better than your competition.
Once product teams discover the ideal problem solution fit, finding that coveted product market fit becomes easy.
Tips and tools to achieve problem solution fit
Identify business objectives
Many product teams jump straight into solving their customers problems without identifying the organisation’s key business objectives. Product teams need to collaborate with all stakeholders and identify their business objectives and the KPI’s by which they plan to measure their success.
Define the Target User and identify their needs
After identifying the business objectives, product teams should define the target user and identify their needs by using data, insights from customer research and analysing product behaviour. This is crucial to prioritise products and understand market opportunity.
Start Exploring Solutions
This is the time to get creative and explore solutions. Encourage your team to think out of the box but also clearly identify the value proposition of each solution, how it solves for the problem and is different from solutions that already exist. Once you narrow down the solutions to between 3 and 5, you can start prototyping based on prioritisation.
Use the Lean Approach to Experiment and Iterate
Like we mentioned earlier, teams can keep using the lean approach to iterate and test out prototypes cheaply and quickly. But teams must ensure they are documenting their learning at the end of every iteration cycle, to make conscious decisions about the changes they will make in the next iteration.
When is the process of product discovery complete?
Once teams have found the problem-solution fit and are satisfied that their product is solving for an unmet need, addresses the pain points of customers better than existing available alternatives, and that solving this problem will meet the organisations business objectives they can move onto the delivery phase.
All good design and innovation comes from a deep desire to solve existing problems and find better solutions for these problems. To deliver products that users will truly love to use and which will have lasting impact, it is important to design from a human centred approach. Part of this human centred approach is understanding the continuous product discovery, design and delivery process. This will ensure that your team is building the right solutions for the right problems and delivering winning products that users love.