I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with Saeed Khan. He started the On Product Management blog and has been a career product manager, working in Toronto, Canada and Silicon Valley. He is also a frequent speaker at product management events, including ProductCamps.
I saw a presentation Saeed did on the topic of successfully using product management metrics. I wanted to explore this topic with him along with what else it takes to be a good product manager, which is what we did in this discussion.
In the interview Saeed shares four categories of metrics and his 6-stage product model:
- Build It,
- Nail It,
- Scale It,
- Extend It,
- Milk It, and
- End It.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- What is a metric? Any type of measurement to gauge some kind of quantifiable component of performance. A sales metric could be revenue or a marketing metric could be leads. For product management there should be specific metrics as well.
- Why do product managers need metrics? There are two words that make up product management – there’s product and there’s management. The old management adage is you can’t manage what you can’t measure. So when we think about management, is it just an ad hoc sort of set of tasks or can we apply some discipline to it? Discipline and business focus help to make our work successful.
- What is your model for product management? I use 6 phases… Build It, Nail It, Scale It, Extend It, Milk It, End It. I’ll describe each in a moment.
- How to approach metrics for your model? I look at four broad categories. The first one is business. There’s a bunch of things in your business strategy and business objectives you need to understand. It could be pricing, overall strategy, other things that are more business-focused. The next one is go-to-market plans. Even in the early stages, you need to think about go-to-market. There’s organizational readiness, which is an internal focus. You can measure how well across your company people are ready to do what needs to be done for their product. Lastly and certainly not least, is product. In each of those you could break them down into metrics. I use the term metrics and some people take it very literally like it’s some number you can measure on a scale, but I look at it more holistically. From a business perspective you can look at things like revenue or pipeline or win-loss analysis. You could look at deal size, you could look at pricing, etc. You could look at channel numbers. For go-to-market, it could be things like how good is your positioning? Is it ready? How are you looking against competition? Do you have some way to evaluate that? What’s going on with things like references if that’s what you’re interested in? Anything related to organizational readiness could simply be metrics within the company, is support ready, is sales ready, where are other groups needed in terms of readiness? And then lastly for product, it’s everything from strategy to roadmap to product quality to whatever.
- Build It. You start by building. You’re not building in a vacuum, you’re building in the context of market need or customer needs. You’re not building in isolation. Metrics might include the number of customer interviews that we’ve done, with how many people, or the number of needs that we’ve captured.
- Nail It. This is the stage after you’ve built it, you’ve got something, and you’re getting feedback. Nail It means you’ve got it really, really well done for a given use case or a given customer segment. Things like Net Promoter Score can be a helpful metric.
- Scale It. This means you’re scaling your business as well as your product. So you might be really focusing on customer growth and obviously revenue growth, but if you do that, your business has to be ready for it. I’ve seen companies where they Scaled It before they Nailed it, meaning that their product really wasn’t ready to go to market.
- Extend It. This is an interesting phase. This is when you move into new markets, new market segments, and new use cases. You’re looking for new customers or extending your reach inside of companies that already use the products, so this is almost like the rebirth of the product. You’ve taken one trajectory and now you’re saying, we have to go further.
- Milk It. People talk about some products being a cash cow. It’s sort of the same metaphor but you’re reducing investment in the product. You’re continuing to just do the things to sell into markets, but it’s not heavy investment. It’s not intended for growth; it’s really intended to maximize profits. You’re reducing your overall costs and you’re increasing your margin
- End It. This is when it is time to remove the product from the market.
“Nail it, then scale it.”
Listen Now to the Interview
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.