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Who & What is a Product

Technology Product Management
Session 1

Prof. Andrew Breen

© Copyright 2014-8 Andrew Breen

Who am I?
SVP Digital at Argo Group

Disrupting the insurance and risk management

industry...from the inside

Studied CS, Founder or early Five years at VP Digital Professor

Human-Computer leader at 8 tech Palm Products at (adjunct) @ NYU
Interaction and startups American Express Stern
Business Learning a lot
Spent 20+ years building iterative Where I built a Teaching
building tech software in a lean startup Technology
products as an hardware process inside the Product
engineer and now enterprise Management
leading product using lean

Advisor for VCs/startups as well as large orgs on innovation & product development
Your TA

Emily Greenwald

Please join Slack

nyu-tpm.slack.com...24x7 office hours ;)

Class plan

● Already, you have read Talking to Humans:

Introduction & The Story (Part One), pg
● Today, we'll discuss what your product is
● In classes 2-5, we'll work on in-class
exercises on your product
● Class 6 will have you hand-in your product
case and related artifacts
25% class participation
● Please use your name plates and sit in the
same seat
● Commentary and in-class exercises
● NYU Classes forum postings and Slack

35% homeworks (4)

40% product case project

How the class will run
Goal: give you a bit of theory but focus on best
practices, tools and approach

Use case readings to dive deep into key areas

Make you conversant to knowledgeable in product

Good PMs know how to apply these tools &

techniques effectively
○ Great PMs have the intuition to go along with it

About Talking to Humans and the readings

Not a textbook but goes in-depth

on one of the most critical parts of
the job for a product manager

Read it (and the other readings)

and see the different mindset
from traditional business thinking
and MBA coursework

Product management is a rapidly evolving

Product is experiential requiring expertise

which is difficult to simulate in a class: you
have to learn market, company, existing
products and process (we'll help with that

Companies are moving toward a
hypothesis driven product+user
centric model
vs. design, marketing or

Make vs. plan, test & learn

Most successful tech companies started in the

past decade operate this way
A (brief) history of innovation & risk management

“...innovation transforms an
existing market or sector
introducing simplicity,
convenience, accessibility, and
affordability where complication
and high cost have become the
status quo.”

- Clayton Christensen, Harvard

Business School

The innovation cycle
Prior to the Middle Ages,
the innovation cycle (the By the middle ages mostly
cycle where new tech due to militarism, it had
displaces an existing shortened to a lifetime
tech) was generations to
1000s of years

Still not very rapid...why?

The industrial revolution set in
motion the modern innovation era
NYT: “During the period
between 1870 and 1920,
cars, planes, electricity,
telephones and radios were
introduced. But over the next
50 years, as cars and planes
got bigger and electricity
and phones became more
ubiquitous, the core
technologies stayed But why did innovation
fundamentally the same.” slow post-WWII?
Creating the first modern
corporation: General Motors
For the first time, innovation risk was
not borne by those with the most to

They distributed risk across

shareholders (vs. families)

They operational risk across a

professional management layer

"Modern", 20th century
style corporations and
their risk mitigation
heavily influenced

NYT: “Celebrated corporate-research departments at
Bell Labs, DuPont and Xerox may have employed scores
of white-coated scientists, but their impact was blunted
by the thick shell of bureaucracy around them. Bell Labs
conceived some radical inventions, like the transistor, the
laser and many of the programming languages in use
today, but its parent company, AT&T, ignored many of
them to focus on its basic telephone monopoly. Xerox
scientists came up with the mouse, the visual operating
system, laser printers and Ethernet, but they couldn’t
interest their bosses back East, who were focused on
protecting the copier business. Corporate leaders
weren’t stupid. They were simply making so much
money that they didn’t see any reason to risk it all on lots
of new ideas.”

Risk aversion becomes institutionalized
● Identify an incremental market need, do
some R&D, test and release...and market
the hell out of it
● Policies and procedures over index on risk
● Information, process and decision making
is controlled by a few at the top

Risk avoidance business strategies begin to
● The innovation cycle had closed meaning
long form, expensive R&D could not easily
be justified
● Low cost foreign products challenged
western corporations

Technology starts displacing workers and
disrupting companies (mostly industrial)

The age of "fail fast"
● Institutionalized "maker" culture of disruption and
innovation (mostly in new ventures)
● Those implementing tech have control and power to
change industries in short order with a group of
loosely affiliated people (see Uber, Airbnb,
● Power has shifted to consumers meaning marketing
alone no longer wins (see Amazon & Yelp
reviews)...great products now win
● Sophisticated workers in finance, legal, education and
healthcare are being disrupted now
What does this have to do with
modern tech product management?

Product management is risk mitigation within

a process that begets innovation

This course will be about how you approach

product development to mitigate risk

“Organic” product approach

Jeff Bezos: “I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s
going to change in the next 10 years?’ ...I almost never
get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the
next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second
question is actually the more important of the
two — because you can build a business strategy
around the things that are stable in time. …It’s
impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now
where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love
Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ or ‘I
love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more
slowly.’ ...When you have something that you know is
true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a
lot of energy into it.”
What is a product?

What is a product?
“an article or substance that is manufactured or refined
for sale”
Business Dictionary
“A good, idea, method, information, object or service
created as a result of a process and serves a need or
satisfies a want. It has a combination of tangible and
intangible attributes (benefits, features, functions, uses)
that a seller offers a buyer for purchase. For example a
seller of a toothbrush not only offers the physical
product but also the idea that the consumer will be
improving the health of their teeth.”
What is a product?
i ng
U s
e r .
a tt .
’ t m e s
e s n d o
d o a c h
u c t pro
r o d a p Packaged Goods?
a p a n d
s n ’t e t
/ i n d s
t i s m i
h a t
W oduc
p r

Financial Instruments? Services?

What is a tech product?

What is a tech product?

Few industries and companies are insulated

from tech today. Every business is a digital
business. 29
However, you need to understand whether
tech IS your product or a key enabler of it


"...one of the things I've always found is that you've got to start with
the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.
You can't start with the technology and try to figure out where you're
going to try to sell it." -Steve Jobs

Tech product development focuses first on user needs then

experience, features, technology and marketing (in that order)

Facebook phone
Why were these players successful?
They won’t win awards for their UI

Are they keeping up with user needs?

What & who is a product manager?

What are the key responsibilities? 33

“In the Internet Century, a product manager’s job
is to work together with the people who design,
engineer, and develop things to make great
products ... These derive from knowing how
people use the products … To do this well,
product managers need to work, eat, and live
with their engineers.

- Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg, How

Google Works

If there are 3 takeaways from this class...

1. Think about impact vs. complexity

of your product

2. Think about how you de-risk a

problem through user validation

3. Think about how you communicate

(both oral and written)
You are primarily a communicator

Not (necessarily) the idea people
(nor do you want to be)

If your company is out of ideas talk to users (or potential ones)

Facilitate new ideas by focusing on solving customer needs

● Avoid internal “ideation” for user needs...the ideas are not in
the room

Products are manifestations of user insights

● Customer feedback is an insight
● So are competitive moves, company goals, user tests,
● Make an idea into a hypothesis

Efficiency (10%) vs. leverage (10x)

Courtesy: eShares 101 by Henry Ward
De-risk the problem
Use a process of short iterations gaining
knowledge through experimentation so
decisions are a series of small ones



PMs plan and execute an idea
Ideas are cheap, execution is difficult

Don't be a cowboy/girl: know your customer, make sure it fits

with the business and be aware of your
constraints/capabilities 41
How do you balance inheriting a
product vs. driving your own vision?

If you’re pursuing your

own idea you’re called
an entrepreneur

How does a product manager operate?

setting the
vision for your

laying out the

driving the
execution of
The product manager is the product
uniquely positioned to
systematize innovation

Finding the ...

Problem Solution

Jobs theory Hypothesis testing

What’s the use-case What’s the experience

insights > problem identification > hypothesized solutions > validation


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