5: The best possible way may not necessarily be the right way

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned about being a product manager.

We product managers are a surprisingly upbeat bunch considering that we seem to spend a good proportion of our time making compromises.  We very rarely get the opportunity to deliver everything we need in a product.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, however.  We very rarely have truly ultimate say-so on the scope of a project; there’s always someone higher ranking that likes to make their mark on the world.  Similarly, technology has a habit of getting in the way sometimes.  Or pesky compliance issues.  And so on.

perfection is a great target to aim for, but we shouldn’t be disappointed if we have to make do with ‘nearly perfect’

Another way to look at it is that perfection is a great target to aim for, but we shouldn’t be disappointed if we have to make do with ‘nearly perfect’. For starters, we want the best possible product for our customers, so we have a natural tendency to overestimate the minimum feature set that customers will find useful and buy in to.

Less (than what we think we need) is enough in more situations than we’d expect. Meeting eighty percent of customer needs in a well-executed product that gets to market on time or early is better than a flawed product that partially meets all customer needs. Look at the early generation iPhones; Apple’s competitors made a meal out of the lack of multitasking but it didn’t stop Apple shipping a boat-load of product at a premium price.

So the lesson here is that compromising on requirements for reasons of time, cost or complexity is not necessarily a bad thing. The trick is to understand your market well enough to know where you have room to compromise.

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