Product Management: The Magic Book

By | June 12, 2011

I used to watch Tony Blair answer questions to the House of Commons.  He seemed brilliant to me, but the best part was his book.

This book seemed to have magical powers.  It contained every detail imaginable to help Tony answer questions.  How many garbage cans were knocked over last week in the south end of Bristol?  The book had the answer.  22 and one half.  (It was tilted against a tree).  I loved this book.

Imagine Tony had a laptop instead.  Imagine he clicked the mouse, typed some letters, click, type and then gave the answer.  Somehow, it would be a lot less impressive.  Who cares if you can Google the answer?  I want to know he did his own research.  The book reeked of magic and communicated confidence.  The laptop would seem lame by comparrison.

Product Managers should have similar books for their products.  Rather than look up on a laptop some wiki with the answers to all of the teams questions, they should have a similar magic book instead.  Here is an outline of what I think it would contain:

  1. Overview
    1. Vision statement
    2. Rough Timeline
    3. Priority
    4. Table of Contents
  2. Competitive Landscape
    1. Competitor Name
    2. Features
    3. Screenshots
    4. Pricing
    5. Strengths/Weaknesses
    6. Reviews
    7. Customer Quotes
    8. Interview List (people who used competitive product) – with photos
    9. History (Log new features or changes in business dynamics)
    10. Other notables (people at the company)
  3. Packaging
    1. How this relates to existing products
    2. Pricing
    3. Sold separately?  Dependencies?
    4. Research (analysts)
  4. Go to Market Strategy
    1. Marketing narrative
    2. Product marketing plan
    3. Internal education plan
    4. External education plan
    5. Event/Tradeshow dependencies
  5. Related Features
  6. Research
    1. Interview List (prospects, friendlies, analysts, etc) – with photos
    2. Other research

This sort of book would have great optics and make everyone feel strong about the research being done, but it also has another benefit.  It forces the product managers to fill in all the pages.  I’ve seen, at many companies, the research given short shrift of left out all together.

This doesn’t mean the information in it is not computerized somewhere.  It doesn’t have to be hand-written.  It could be printed out from a central server.  The key of the book is how it is perceived during a Q&A session.  Figure out an easy way to maintain the book.  When you launch a product, then put the book on the shelf in a special location and start your next book.  These books become folk-lore and history of the company.

Summary

  1.  You have to do all the research to nail a good product and communicate confidence to the team.
  2. A physical book communicates more than a laptop.

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