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Agile methodology is a framework for how we build software. In an agile environment, teams work incrementally and check in with stakeholders on a regular cadence to ensure top-priority work is always being done and a project evolves in tandem with changes in the market.
A competitor analysis is a way to identify your current and potential competitors and assess their strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge is key in developing a successful product, as it informs you of who you’re up against in the market and helps identify opportunities to set your brand apart from the pack.
The customer development process helps you assess whether there’s a viable market for the problem your product is trying to solve. It involves frequent interactions with potential customers — such as finding users and conducting user interviews — in order to build the best products.
Having a strong customer focus in a product or organization means putting customers’ wants and needs at the top of your business priorities. This builds a better relationship with your brand and drives better business performance.
Influence Without Authority
Being able to influence without authority means learning to lead by influence, by becoming a trusted advisor to various stakeholders. This is particularly useful for product managers, who, while working across many teams, often do not have immediate control over those teams’ workflows or priorities.
Lean Methodology & Lean Startup
Lean methodology is a customer-first framework used to decide whether to move forward with new products and features. After you’ve found a problem customers care about and a solution that meets your customers’ needs, you assess the market to determine whether the market will support the development of that solution. The lean startup movement, spearheaded by Eric Ries, has applied that idea to creating companies that speed up the process of getting a product to market.
Minimum Viable Product (or MVP)
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a tactic that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers, with the least amount of effort. Entrepreneurs use MVPs to reduce risk by testing and validating their product ideas early in the development process.
When building a product, your product vision serves as your mission statement. It’s the big-picture goal a team works toward, and sets the direction for the product development process.
A proto-persona is a tool for aligning a product team on a shared conception of the user during the initial ideation phase for an idea; it’s lightweight compared to a marketing persona based on extensive research. A proto-persona allows us to document our inherent assumptions about what our users care about so that we can continuously refine our understanding of the users and their problems.
Rapid prototyping is the process of quickly mocking up early draft versions of a product — building the fastest, cheapest, lowest-fidelity product you can in order to learn what you need to learn. A good prototype minimizes the chances of investing significant time, effort, and/or money to make something you might throw away.
Risks and Assumptions
Identifying and testing assumptions and risks is key in the product development cycle. Assumptions are statements you believe to be true about your product, which you can then test using a hypothesis statement. You’ll often prioritize which assumptions to tackle first by the risk they represent, i.e., what will happen if your assumption is incorrect?
A product roadmap is used to illustrate a product’s primary goals, themes, and features, and keep all stakeholders aligned throughout the development process. It’s typically oriented around time (e.g., weeks, months, quarters), and encompasses both long-term projects, milestones, and small wins.
Stakeholder management is all about handling people — specifically, internal and external stakeholders such as developers, marketing and sales teams, executives, managers, customers, and funders. It’s one of a product manager’s most important functions, involving communication, status updates, tracking feedback, running effective meetings, resolving disagreements, and more.
SWOT analysis — an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — is a key tool in business strategy. This process allows businesses to discover growth opportunities, distinguish from competitors, leverage strengths, and anticipate challenges.
Usability testing is the process of observing users as they interact with a product to assess ease of use. When measuring for usability, you’ll consider factors like learnability, efficiency, memorability, error management, and satisfaction, which can later be used to improve the product.
When building a product, user interviews reveal potential users’ habits, why and when they’ll need your product, how they’ll access it, and other key insights. This research is essential in validating or refuting assumptions a product team has about a new product.
A wireframe is a visual guide for a website or app used for planning, communicating, and testing ideas. Wireframes are key for communicating with stakeholders, testing your product with users, focusing on functionality, and more.