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LAST UPDATED: 27 Jan 2020
In order to help up-and-coming enterprise Product Managers, I’ve put together a set of content that illustrates key breakthroughs in the practice of enterprise Product Management. My goal is to bootstrap anyone — an Engineer, Marketing Manager, aspiring Founder — who has found themselves promoted into a B2B Product Management role and make them effective from week 1.
Obviously, you will not reach your full potential as a Product Manager in one week. Mastering the basics and adapting them to leverage your unique strengths is a lifelong practice, but one that will hopefully give you a rewarding and fun path wherever you go.
Before starting a company in the blockchain space, I was a Principal Product Manager at QuantumBlack. I’ve helped build several products from the ground up, worked with Products ranging from offline advertising to AI front-ends and technical open source libraries and advised several smaller companies on their product processes. I’ve also had the pleasure of working for great Product Managers in Google and Twitter.
Caveat: style and philosophy
In stark contract to other fields like operations that are more easily instrumented, there are various schools of thought in Product Management. It’s important to be aware of these biases, but different PMs and companies have been successful with a multitude of approaches. I’d recommend learning about all the different approaches and taking the insights that match your personal strengths and passions.
Here are a few occasionally complementary schools of thought.
Data-based Product Management
Data-based or lean Product Managers see Product Management as an experimental science where the best source of reliable information is user behavior. They focus on launching early, instrumenting all parts of the funnel, thrive on short-term feedback loops (usually easier to achieve in consumer apps), and make product decisions by trying many small changes in the form of A/B tests.
Request-based Product Management
Companies in this school rely on their Products simply having all the possible features a customer may request. They are heavily focused on the buyer experience rather than the user experience and their main goal is to eliminate objections as to why someone would not choose their product. Product Managers maintain spreadsheets of user requests or customer feedback and prioritize rigorously. The work often relies on providing services in addition to products.
Invariant-based Product Managers
Invariant-based Product Managers identify a set of invariant aspects of the Product in an established category that customers will care about for decades and then focus their efforts on developing technological or operational advantages that allow them to outcompete their competitors on these invariants.
Technological Product Managers
Technological PMs focus on building a defensible and novel technology with vague ideas of why it may be useful in the future. Their main initial goal is to develop the mix of funding and talent that will allow them to achieve a certain technological milestone and then focus on commercialization.
For most companies early in their Product Development journey, it’s easiest to build something valuable by combining aspects of data or lean Product Management or taste-based Product Management and transition into thinking about invariants and technological shifts. Customer requests are an important source of feedback but a bloated product is rarely the right approach. The single most dangerous thing is thinking that one of these styles is applicable for every kind of business model.
If you only had time to read one thing?
My favorite comprehensive introduction to Enterprise Product Management right now is Inspired V2 (2017). A good free complement is Intercom’s Book on Product Management. My favorite book on business (and product) strategy is 7 Powers.
What does a PM do?
Behind Every Great Product contains several stories of PMs working behind the scenes to launch transformational products. It covers the variety of activities a PM would do and emphasizes their focus on output. It’s also very inspirational to read.
Are there some examples I can use to build our teams’ process?
https://www.intercom.com/blog/how-we-build-software/ — Intercom’s principles and Product process
https://svpg.com/the-customer-letter/ — the customer letter (most notably used in Amazon)
https://svpg.com/dual-track-agile/ — dual-track agile (how to run a team’s work)
https://labs.spotify.com/2014/03/27/spotify-engineering-culture-part-1/ — Spotify engineering culture (talks about product team structure and process, there is also a part 2)
Where do I learn more?
Here are some of my favorite resources that are well curated or written by some of the most experienced and successful PMs out there.
https://svpg.com/ — blog by the author of Inspired
https://firstround.com/review/ — selected emerging advice from Founders and operators
https://search.firstround.com/ — curated tactical advice on specific topics
https://www.intercom.com/blog/product-and-design/ — advice on Product from one of the fastest growing enterprise start-ups
https://www.ycombinator.com/resources/ — broader than Product Management, but in many legacy companies a successful PM has to do much more than just product work to get things off the ground
https://toddgoldberg.com/posts/helpful-startup-resources.html — more emerging and classic start-up resources
https://stratechery.com/ — product strategy
Another useful source of insight to define your own style is to look for talks and interviews with people who have built great products.
After these, it’s best to get on Twitter and follow some of the above authors directly.
Hopefully these resources will lead you to a good start in your next chapter and I’d be happy to answer more questions on Twitter.