Killing it softly

October 27, 2013 by

As product managers, we’re advocates of our product. I’ve heard it referred to as the CEO of the product. I’d agree that great (not good, not above average) product managers are constantly looking for ways to enhance the product. That’s why we’re typically responsible for the roadmap. It requires vision and strategy, along with a tactical sense to manage a product and keep it viable in the marketplace.

In a sense, we form a love affair with the product we manage. We have to. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, product managers are the advocate of the product. Typically, we don’t have a staff. Yet, our focus is to work with a variety of teams and functions (sales, operations, various groups within IT, at a bare minimum).

We may be called upon to define the product – how it works, how it doesn’t work, positioning, explain how it works, and understanding its value in the marketplace. We’re supporting sales at trade shows to help explain the intricate details and convey that the feature/brand/service/product has the functionality to provide the solution for a customer’s pain point(s).

We know the benefits but we also know the sticky areas – those components we’d like to refine….if we had the resources to continue to improve the product. Faster. Less Expensive. More viable. More feature rich.

But, product managers have to know when to fall out of love.

As with customer needs, whether technology or non-technology based, the market pivots. The environment shifts and while we still love our product, a change is forced upon us. Think Blue Ocean Strategy. Or, disruptive technology. Or simply, a change in customer need. It could even be an internal (organizational) change.

As product managers, we’re tasked with a difficult challenge. Grow, love and fight for a product knowing that one day it will be replaced and we may be responsible for sunsetting it. Obsolescence and sunset is a part of the product cycle. Still, it’s always difficult to give up something you’ve put so much energy into.

Kill it softly.

Release it, knowing there’s another product and another opportunity to fill the marketplace. Another chance to satisfy customer needs with a new and improved solution.

It’s never fun. Whether due to customer or company requirements, it’s never easy. But, in the end, it’s always necessary.