PRODUCTHEAD: Managing mature products
PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.
street product (fade out)
Ways to extend a product’s life cycle: frequent usage; varied usage; new users; new uses
Sometimes removing features is more effective than adding them
You can’t change the customer, but you can change your company’s process, strategy and culture
Give your team time and permission to check you’re moving the right metrics
Data is not a silver bullet and won’t solve your company’s trust issues
a favour: please share this with other product people
every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to
What impression would someone new to product management receive purely by looking at the topics that people tend to write about?
There seems to be a great deal of emphasis on discovery and validation, product vision, strategy, and leadership.
All useful things to be discussing, for sure.
There’s maybe not quite as much being written about some of the less glamorous aspects of product management. There’s a lot of transactional work still going on, and many product managers are constrained by the working practices of organisations that don’t ‘get’ product.
Let’s take an example: managing mature products. A mature product is one that has been in the market for a while and typically has broad customer adoption. It’s also likely that the market has several competitors, but the differentiation between different brands is slight.
Managing a mature product in this scenario can lead to a game of ‘one-upmanship’ — cycles of incremental improvements to outdo competitors temporarily, with very rare leaps in new capability.
You can see this in lots of different products: skim through the release notes for Twitter, for example, and you won’t see anything particularly ground-breaking.
You can see the a similar behaviour in well-established product categories such as smartphones. Aside from bumps in screen size, resolution, refresh rate, CPU speed and so on, there’s rarely anything innovative that jumps out. The differentiation, if any, is happening in the software, which also tends to drive the model’s obsolescence (as does the contract renewal cycle). Older phones become too slow as the operating system relentlessly upgrades, so consumers are forced to upgrade the hardware periodically just to maintain a usable phone. (Pretty sus if you ask me.)
Cynicism aside, there is still a role for product management in managing mature products. There are other tactics to extend the life of a product without over-stuffing it with features until it loses coherence and usefulness to the user.
In combination with ongoing user research, you could use the Kano model to analyse existing and potential new features, with the goal of reassessing which features are baseline, which have a linear appeal (the more the better), and which are genuinely delightful (at least to begin with). Here’s a quick refresher of the Kano model and a more detailed walk-through.
To complement this, I’ve pulled together some other great content on techniques you can use when managing mature products.
Speak to you soon,
what to think about this week
Exploit the product life cycle
The definitive book to read on managing products throughout their life cycle is still Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore. But just for kicks, and lending weight to the maxim that there’s nothing new under the sun, I’d also recommend you read Theodore Levitt’s 1965 article “Exploit the Product Life Cycle”. If you’ll excuse the occasional reference that hasn’t aged well, the article is still surprisingly relevant.
Maturity can last for a long time, or it can actually never be attained
[THEODORE LEVITT / HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW]
Strategic options for mature products
Product strategy does not only matter for new and young products; it is equally important for older ones. This article discusses two main choices for mature products: extending the life cycle and revitalising the product, or leveraging maturity and turning the product into a cash cow.
Extending the product life cycle requires time and money
Escaping the build trap
Like most of us, when Melissa Perri started as a product manager she started with giant requirements documents, dutifully recording every little detail from stakeholders and turning them into shiny docs for the developers. Then she discovered Agile and churned out features even faster. But eventually she realised that she had been building features for years and never been quite sure whether users actually liked them or used them.
Reward learning and reaching outcomes, rather than outputs
[MELISSA PERRI / MIND THE PRODUCT]
How to break free of the feature factory
There’s widespread tension in our industry. While everyone talks about “outcomes over output” and says they strive for “real impact” with their craft, in our day-to-day work many of us simply give all our priorities and attention to shipping features.
It’s about trust (or the lack of it)
[JOHN CUTLER / MIND THE PRODUCT]
Growing up Lean: Lean strategies for maturing products
Building an MVP and launching a product is actually the easy part. It’s much more difficult to manage a product in its maturity or decline stages, so I wanted to tackle the challenges of a product that’s past its initial growth stage, and share some tips on:
- How to avoid becoming a feature factory, while taming your beast of a backlog
- How to use your roadmap to drive experimentation to hit company objectives
- How to disrupt yourself before someone else does
Separate strategy from delivery
[JANNA BASTOW / MIND THE PRODUCT]
6 tips for presenting slides that don’t suck
This is an updated version of an article I wrote over a decade ago.
All product managers will need to stand up and present to others at some point. Some people are less comfortable giving a presentation than others; that’s natural. Either way, you won’t be helping yourself (or your audience) if your slide deck is atrocious. So here are my 6 tips for presenting slides that don’t suck.
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
My boss wants to set me an OKR on revenue growth. Is this right?
My boss wants to set me a personal OKR [objective and key result] to achieve revenue growth through demonstrable product improvements.
Can you think of any reasons why I should push back on a suggestion like this?
Revenue is a rubbish choice of metric
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
5 tips to ace your first impression at a new job
Because so much of product management is about working with people, it’s important to take time to reflect on the kind of first impression you make to those people. In this latest entry for my series of 100 things I’ve learned about product management, I share some coaching advice to help you make the best possible impression every time you start working somewhere new.
[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]
upcoming talks and events
I’ve spoken at various product management and technology conferences around the world and online. I share ideas primarily on the topic of product management, and this tends to overlap with agile and ethical product development, leadership and strategy, and fostering healthy product cultures and communities.
“Day 2 saw an impressive presentation by Jock Busuttil on user testing. He asked the attendees to lend each other a smartphone and take a picture. What a turmoil that caused ;-) ”
Marketing & Business Development Director, BlueGlass Interactive
If you’d like to book me to speak at your event, please get in touch.
can we help you?
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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.
PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from culled superfluous product features.
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The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management
by Jock Busuttil
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