LinkedIn principal author Doug Winnie describes what a product is, and shows how there are lots of different examples of products all around us, ranging from end user products, to components, platforms, services, specifications and processes. Each of these products need product management to manage the design, development, testing and release to bring them to market.
- Everything around you is a product. The computer at your desk, the email service you use, the faucet at your kitchen sink, or the transit system in your hometown. A common misconception about products is that they have to be objects. They don't, a product can be many different types of things that you use every day, and it can be a thing that you take for granted. Let's look at a couple of examples to better understand what a product actually is. Let's start with something that you can clearly identify with as a product, your smartphone.
When you think of your smartphone, there are lots of pieces about it that immediately come to mind. First is the physical hardware, the phone itself. It includes all the circuits, processors, sensors, storage, body, and screen. This is a user product. Each of the components inside of the phone are products in and of themselves, and they need to be designed, built, tested, and released. These are component products. They don't do anything themselves, they rely on other products to let them come to life, but they are key components that need to be created.
Of course, the hardware is only half of what makes your smartphone work. The other half is the software that comes with it. First, you can have the operating system, iOS, Android, or Windows. The OS is the platform that connects the hardware on the device to the apps and interface that you work with. This is a platform product. A smartphone is a product that we can put in our hand. It is tangible. Inside, while they are hidden, we know that there are other components.
Each app or tool on the smartphone is a product too, because each on has to be designed, built, tested, and released. Take, for example, cloud storage. While there might be an app on your phone, there are services that allow that app to interact with the databases and storage in the cloud to make it work. Services are their own type of product, and they are the roads and transit hubs that allow systems to work. When you send an email, send a text message, or upload a photo, these all require one or many service products to be created to make them work.
There are technologies called standards that are a part of how software and the web work at a basic level. Examples of these are things like IP, or the internet protocol, or TCP, for transmission control protocol. These are the rules for how information sent across services is broken down, finds its destination, is validated and accepted. And yes, those too are products. Of course, all these components, platforms, tools, services and base technologies need to be built, manufactured, and assembled.
The process of how the product is ultimately made is, you guessed it, a product. In this case, our product is the process itself. So that makes sense for the phone in your pocket, but it applies to other things too. Take an airplane. The plane is the user product, it's what someone uses. It has an engine, or a component product, and there is the entertainment system that works the same across every seat, which is a platform product. In the cockpit are radios and GPS systems that require connections and services to communicate and work with other radios and satellites.
There are standards that must be met to ensure that a plane from one manufacturer is compatible with airports and other airlines. And finally, there needs to be a way for all these things to come together and get manufactured. So all around you are products, even in places you weren't quite expecting, and a product manager is responsible to ensure that their product, regardless of the type, is designed, built, tested, and released.
- Identify types of products.
- Recognize different types of industries.
- Examine what elements make up a quality extended team.
- Explore the components of managing a life cycle.
- Name the elements of a strong research plan.
- Break down how to pitch an idea.
- Identify versions, releases, and sprints.
- Recognize how to monitor progress using a burndown chart.
- Define your go-to market.