I want to share the main points I always keep in mind when working on product management. Most of these are common knowledge to the lean start up / customer development crowd as they are inspired by those initiatives, but I wanted to see what you guys make of it.
1) Your main responsibility is to decide what not to include. This is the key to fast iterations, and fast iterations are the most sensible path to finding product/market fit because it helps you built the institutional knowledge you need at a faster rate. You see, when you start your company you really don’t know what it is you don’t know. Figuring out what to finally build requires a corpus of institutional knowledge that needs to be unique to your company and unique to your product.
2) The main criteria for what to include is to pick the riskier items first. For example, if you are trying to build the next Facebook on top of voice notes (as opposed to pictures) probably all you need to start testing your idea is a feed of some sort with the voice notes of all your friends. A profile with my education background or an event invite system is not something you need in order to test your idea. You are starting a company because you think there is a different and better way of doing things. That new way of doing things will be your riskier items. Test those first.
3) Never lose sight of the product development cost structure. Since fast iterations are the key, the main item of the cost structure is time. Hence, you need to have a good sense of how long things take to get done. This is particularly difficult to get right in software development but every marginal improvement in accuracy on your end has a disproportional positive impact in your ability to launch a product that will work. Early product development ROI is a function of time spent per iteration x positive delta in institutional knowledge. The more visibility you have on the time it takes to iterate, the more visibility you will have on the ROI of your iterations.
4) Before product/market fit use metrics to test Bold hypothesis. This will increase your chances of maximizing institutional knowledge per iteration. By bold hypothesis I mean educated guesses about users intent that will result in new features or removing features. In contrast, light hypothesis are changes that clarify and optimize current usage. Examples include changing the order of the items on the navigation bar, testing colors and copy and optimizing viral hooks. After market fit, you should make way for more light hypothesis but never abandoned the bold ones. You should always ask yourself: If I where to start this from scratch, how would I build it ?
5) Simplicity is key. You need to make sure that if people don’t use a feature it’s because they don’t like it, not because they don’t understand it or they can’t find it. Simplicity has an aesthetics quality to it, but it does not mean optimizing for aesthetics. In fact, people often will bundle aesthetic approval with product approval and what you need first is product validation.
I would be interested in learning what are the key product development guidelines that you always keep in mind.