My Tryst With B2B Product Management – Part I

Tech products come in two flavors – B2C products and B2B products. While the development methodologies are quite similar for both type of products, there is a difference in the way we approach the creation of products right from the initial requirements stage to roll-out and beyond.

I’m penning down my thoughts on the experiences I have had in being a product manager for B2B products. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to understand the end user and the buyer’s needs from the product and figuring out a way to solve the problem by delivering value to all involved stakeholders.

A typical day in an enterprise product manager’s life include activities such as market research, competitor analysis, discussions with customers, design teams, development teams, QA teams, marketing teams, discussing new ideas with the product leadership teams and measuring product KPIs. It is imperative to be in constant touch with each of the teams to ensure that the product gets built the way it was expected.

Market research has been the key in unearthing user problems. Once the proper audience have been identified, we ask them the right set of questions to achieve what we aimed for – to understand the problem and identify its root cause. It is important that while interviewing a person, we do not lead them with the answer. Sometimes it helps when we ask them how they think the problem can be solved.

What your competitor (direct or indirect) does will always impact your product. While it is good to be in the know about the features your competitor offers, it is important not to jump the gun on copying them when they have something new. We first make sure that the new feature that we want to ‘copy’ stays true to the vision of the product. Analyzing your competitors will always keep you on your toes to find out how best to serve your customer, as eventually, that is what matters.

Once the product has been launched, celebrations are always in place, but that is where the journey begins for the product. You need to iterate on the product to stay relevant. But you also need to make sure you don’t end up creating different products for different customers. Customers always love to customize and during the initial period after a product launch, we took several customization requests for the sake of getting new customers to buy our product and before we knew it, we were supporting a number of different code bases and left with little time to fix bugs and no time at all to build market features. At first glance, all feature requests made by customers looked like showstoppers, but once we got into interviews with the users, we knew that we could push back on a lot of requests and gain time to build market features.

To be in constant touch with the design, development and QA teams are vital to ensure that the product shapes up the way it was actually meant to be. And it is also important to elaborate in detail the business functionality of the features to the developers for a couple of reasons – a) they understand why they are building that feature and how it is expected to work, b) they are aware of the importance of the feature and its impact in the real world and how it solves a real world problem. It is my belief that a team that knows that it is contributing to the betterment of the world is a happy team and will perform better.

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