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Building a startup without a plan is like hiking the mountains without a map. You may reach the goal, but the route will be long and painful. Recent research showed that effective product management could increase a company's profit by 34.2%. Therefore, the message is clear: mapping the product management process in the early stages is crucial.
In this article, we'll guide you through each stage of the product management cycle and give some tips on how to pass it successfully.
What Is Product Management Process?
Behind each product, there's a strategy. In a Product Managers' world, we call it – product management process. It's a continuous flow of making assumptions, experimenting, refining the experience, learning from it, and building a real product.
As straightforward as it sounds, the product management process is a must for every startup. Regardless of which industry you're trying to enter: real estate, education, or government, PM process is the thing you need to implement.
Why Is Product Management Process So Valuable?
Launching a product isn’t an easy task to do, so having the product management process is significant and lead to a number of benefits:
- Maximizing the chances for success;
- Shaping the target audience;
- Framing the future product;
- Validating different solutions;
- Mapping all stages in one place;
- Building a product that people need;
To sum up, product management process is the way for a startup to have a helicopter view of a future product, and the lack of one is like a blind play. Let's dig deeper into each step.
7 Steps of Product Management Process
The product management cycle may differ, depending on the project you're working on. In general, it can be broken down into the following steps: idea sourcing, idea screening, market & user research, strategy development, product creation, testing & feedback gathering, and product improvements.
Step 1 – Idea Sourcing
We know how tempting it might be to write a code right after you come up with the one brilliant idea. The tricky thing here is that this idea may have already been implemented. As a startup owner, you should invest time in idea generation first. It will help you filter all basic ideas and come up with the most non-trivial solutions. Here're 2 ways you can do that effectively:
- Research. Searching for trends, growing industries, high-invested products – gathering all this information takes time, but it's worth it. It gives you a bigger picture of the market and saves time later on.
- Brainstorm. It's a process of generating all possible ideas that come to your mind. To organize it correctly, you need to create an open-minded atmosphere, exclude criticism, and last but not least, gather a diverse team. Mixing people from different professional areas and with different backgrounds is the best idea as it promotes innovations. The diverse team is called cross-functional. You may read more about its benefits here.
Step 2 – Idea Screening
With the list of ideas in your hands, it's time to define specifications. First, pick top-3 ideas you and your team decided to develop. Then you may use SWOT analysis. It helps filter ideas that look attractive but not reachable and pick only the most powerful and realistic ones.
The main point of this stage of the product management cycle is to check the idea's feasibility. There is no sense in zeroing in on an idea that you can't build.
Product Management Tip:
Even at this early stage, try to describe your idea in one clear sentence and answer the following questions:
- What problem do I try to solve?
- How do I understand it's successful?
- How do I want people to talk about my idea?
Step 3 – Market Research & User Research
CBInsights found that the first reason for startups' failure is the absence of a market need. Exploring existing market players and figuring out the white space are the most critical product management steps you need to consider.
Here's what market research includes:
- evaluating the size of a target market
- exploring the competitors
- finding out the competitors' weaknesses
- looking for the scope for improvement
The second point you need to focus on is user research. Meeting your future customer face to face is a must. Conducting interviews, surveys or focus groups, etc – all these must be done here. If you've done the interview phase correctly, the output is a Proto Persona. Though your Proto Persona may include various characteristics, there are 2 key components:
- users' needs
- users' desires
The following action is building a Customer Journey Map – a visual story of your customers' interactions with your product.
At this step, you gathered a lot of valuable information. You may use Lean Canvas to structure and keep it in one place.
Step 4 – Strategy Development
Congrats, you're one step away from building a product. But no need to rush. Creating a product development strategy is a good planning test for the Product Manager. While market research and customer development shaped the product's vision, strategy defines the steps you plan to take to meet your product vision over time.
The best way to break the product strategy into steps of execution is a product roadmap. Here're 6 points the product roadmap must include:
- Business goals and objectives
- Product areas
- Features of a product
- Key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Order of priorities
Note that a product roadmap is a tool for the whole team. Before starting to move further, make sure that all of you are on the same page.
Step 5 – Product Creation
There's no need to launch the product as right as rain – take it as a mantra during all the product management processes. First of all, perfect doesn't equal effectiveness. Secondly, minor failures are excusable if you have a startup idea that disrupts the industry.
So, at the stage of product creation, it's better to focus on the value. Implement features that solve the customers' pains or enable higher customer engagement and cut off the rest, at least at this stage. A landing page or a simple app could be enough to test the value and see the first reaction to the solution. Feel free to jump to the next curve with the minimum viable product (MVP) and make sure it serves its purpose.
Step 6 – Testing & Feedback Gathering
When the MVP is released, it's time to set up a feedback collection mechanism. Firstly, check how a user interacts with your product, capture feedback, find possible improvements. Then communicate the product requirements to the team, implement changes, and test. You should go through this cycle during the entire product development process.
Note feedback collection may go in parallel with development. You shouldn’t wait until the implementation.
Give users your product –> Check how they interact –> Capture feedback –> Find possible improvements –> Implement changes –> Give users your product.
PM insights report found that 60% of product managers say that their best ideas came directly from customers. Well-collected feedback is as important as a line of code.
Product Management Tips:
- Before collecting feedback, go back to your hypothesis and shape the interview goals;
- Create questions to validate your hypothesis;
- Add clarifying questions;
- Create the questionnaire flow;
- Check if this flow is clear and easy to understand;
- Make sure that you and your respondent are in a comfort zone;
Step 7 – Constant Product Improvement
Though the software product management process is not the endpoint, at this stage, things are coming to sustaining your business. The focus shifts again to optimization and efficiency. Try to think of possible ways of scaling, operations improvements, business outcomes maintenance while minimizing costs and optimizing efficiencies.
It's important to remember that product development isn't a linear process. As a startup founder, you need to stay flexible and cultivate both self and team resilience.
Product Management Tip:
Make your top customers the first source of improvements. From our experience, we realized that people who found your product useful are the best advisors and critics. The best thing you can do is to let them have these roles.
We create communities of our top users and get feedback from them regularly. So, our customers become contributors to the product development process.
The product management process isn't just a group of steps you need to follow. Each stage should have a purpose and goal, not just be implemented. With this in mind and our guide at hands, you'll pass a product management cycle successfully.
If you're looking for support with your startup idea, contact us to share your rides and discuss collaboration. With our experience, we know how to lead your idea from validation to complete realization of the business needs.