When I was 18, my father kicked me out of home. I was not the easiest teenager in this world, but who is anyway? One of the things I did for a while was working at several restaurants, where I rotated among different roles. From cleaning dishes to waiting tables I could understand a well know secret in the hospitality industry: success has little to do with the food.
Most Product Managers think that developing a product is about great user experience. Some of them center on the user interface. The old school ones focus on marketing, the 4Ps and that kind of think. But there is little to none that I have known that really understand that developing a product is about being able to create an economy around it. That’s it.
Creating an economy around it might sound misleading. It’s not about people buying it or having an impact on the stock market. It’s about understanding how your product development works. How to make decisions based on data that reflects the economy of the product. Knowing your customers and how they use it it’s ok, but knowing them and the wisdom to push what they don’t know they want makes all the difference.
15 years later, I love cooking and I love delighting my friends with some dishes prepared at home when they come over. But that does not make me able to open a restaurant, where managing uncertainty is more important than you think. When you go to a restaurant, of course you think you go for the food. But you don’t. You expect certain qualities when being there. That you are served timely. The more expensive, the more timely. That restaurant hasn’t run out of food. That there are desserts.
All the same, of course your customers join because they like your product. And they also expect certain qualities, that if present, they won’t even notice. Those qualities you can manage and are the ones that will mae you money.
Most Product Managers or Product Owners don’t know how to quantify anything of the follow: Cost of Delay, Development in Progress, Total Cost of Ownership or Queues. These things are there and they don’t pay attention. They make decisions that have a huge impact in total cost of ownership -i.e. creating technical debt- just to push features that don’t even have a revenue return.
They decide to add old browsers compatibility just because someone said that the app does not work in Internet Explorer 6. They think that Scrum or Kanban are just control methods for lazy developers and ignore tools to manage tactical risk. Some of them think that those frameworks are just HR tools.
Yes, I could think that because I am a good cook at home, I could open a restaurant. Just to find out that it’s all about managing complexity -How much food should I buy today? (Development in Progress)-, Expectations -Dishes that don’t take ages to arrive (Release frequency), How much people can I accept in my restaurant -Number of tables (Queuing), Running Costs (TCO) and maintaining a good Product Cost Ratio. What do you think you learn at chef school, how to cook? That’s the easy part, the difficult one is how to run a sustainable business.
You might think you are a vissionaire product developer, but that does not make you capable to run a Product that might be successful at the real market. There is an unfair advantage, the people that know about processes and management methods to manage complexity. Make good use of them.