Hello. I’m new.

I remember once starting a product manager job where it took me two hours to establish where my desk was.  It took me that time to break the protracted conversation between my well-intentioned manager and two colleagues.

When I eventually found my desk, I had to resort to stealing paper from printers to take down the notes about what my product was (conclusion: not entirely clear), what my purpose was (conclusion: look busy, make yourself useful) and what people expected of me (conclusion: ????).

On the plus side, I gained a valuable insight into how NOT to manage a new starter.  Fast forward a few years and here I am with a new product manager about to join my team.  Here are three basic lessons I’ve learned, so that hopefully you won’t be the subject of a similar blog post some time down the line.

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Questions you need to be asking

There are many questions that a product manager needs to ask to determine the best course of action or to analyse underlying motivations.  Of them, I use the following three questions most often:

  1. So what?
  2. Why?
  3. What’s stopping us?

So what?

Use this repeatedly to uncover the true benefit of something rather than simply features of the proposition.  For example:

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Pay attention to local requirements

I was reading the Evening Standard last night on the tube home. It’s a filthy habit, but it  avoids having to make eye-contact with other Londoners. For the uninitiated, social interaction was seemingly banned on public transport in London several decades ago.

While I freely admit that the quality of journalism in the Evening Standard is precisely what you’d expect from a free newspaper, one article (with coherent sentences and everything) about how 3G iPads may not roam around the EU due to a legal technicality started me thinking about the extent to which local details can affect the successful launch of international products.

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By way of an introduction

Why write a blog?

Up until recently if someone had suggested that I start writing a blog (or twittering, but that’s a story for another time) I would most likely have unfurled my ‘To Do’ list with a flourish, watched the unrolling end bounce off the floor and gestured vaguely into the distance.

So what’s changed?

blogging is ridiculous because the word to me sounds faintly unsanitary

Before I became a product manager, I used to write a great deal more, not only relatively serious essays and papers, but also creative nonsense and frivolous, fictional articles mainly for the amusement of friends who shared the same daft sense of humour.

As a product manager, the most creatively I’ve written recently has been to use an adjective in a use case once, though I had to remove it in a subsequent draft of my requirements document following a complaint Development escalated to my line manager.

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