What should keep a product manager awake?

Should it be the state of product development, the next release, the next sprint? Should it be what keeps the company executives awake? Should it be the competitors? While some of these should indeed keep a product manager awake, the most important thing that should keep him/her awake should be what keeps customers awake. Customers have problems today that are real pain points. They are struggling to solve them using current means and are hoping that someone will solve them. They are willing to pay someone to solve these problems for them. This is what product managers should focus on and spend most of their energies. If you do this, everything else should follow. If you do not do this, then all of the other things tend to happen – your execs tend to stay awake, you start worrying about competitors, your sales start to shrink, you start worrying about hitting the numbers etc. So focus on the only thing that really matters – understand better what keeps your customers awake and solve them via your products – existing or new.

Thoughts? Please share them via comments.

8 thoughts on “What should keep a product manager awake?”

  1. Funny, two things mentioned here (Metrics and Internally Generated Noise) seem to be what is most important to the management team members who just don’t ‘get’ what a PM does for the team. As Rony says, get out of the office and listen to the customers pain.

  2. Nitesh hit it square. My company tag was “Manage – Eat – Sleep.” Good products help customers do manage, prosper and relax (SLEEP!). Customers looking for help with “Manage – Eat – Sleep” expect product management (without realizing it) that takes on their most worrisome burdens. Successful products do that.

  3. Way too often, Product Managers become internally/product focused and start making decisions based upon their own thinking. Understanding the problems that the buyers and users in your target markets is the most important responsibility of the Product Manager.

  4. Couldn’t agree more about making sure you’re focused on the market and the most pressing problems there. One of my favorite acronyms that I picked up at one point is NIHITO (Nothing Important Happens In The Office), Organizations tend to get so inwardly focused they take their eye off the ball and you know how the rest of that story goes. What keeps me awake as a product manager is when there is so much internally generated NOISE that I can no longer listen.

  5. What keeps me awake are all the things I don’t know across all those areas. Of course, as we all know, great product managers never sleep ;).

  6. Agreed. It’s far too easy to become engrossed with some silly metric that doesn’t really drive your business and let’s face it… in most organizations the PM has to do this as no one else will. In the past, I had a network of a few “leading indicator” customers and people who did not buy, but with which I had developed a good realtionship. This informal group helped answer rapid qualitative market research questions, but also served as the most direct VOC I could ever dream of. It took a lot of effort to develop these relationships, but they did bear fruit. I’m now in a new segment of the industry with a start-up, and have to start over from the ground up.

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