10 rules for successful product managers to live by

From a copyrighted story at SoftwareCEO written by Bob Weinstein Software product management: If you can't define it, you're doing a bad job at it

Product managers' rule #1: The best product managers follow the Pragmatic Marketing maxim: Your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant. Always use market facts to decide the best course of action.

Product managers' rule #2: Product management is a not a "natural" fit for everyone. A good product manager has a technical background with business savvy. Software engineers and programmers, for example, can make a smooth transition to product management because they're starting off with a strong technical background. But technical smarts alone won't cut it.

Product managers' rule #3: In "Crossing the Chasm," Geoff Moore says that product management is a senior, business-oriented role and typically fails because we staff it with junior, technically-oriented people.

Product managers' rule #4: Credibility comes from being able to manage the business of the product. Otherwise, product management gets relegated to a technical support role.

Product managers' rule #5: Product management is about delivering what the market needs. Good product managers spend more time in front of customers and potential customers; they spend less time on sales calls and in their corporate offices.

Product managers' rule #6: Product management is not necessarily about delivering what the customer asks for. The best products solve the customer's problems and no more. A product manager has to observe and understand what the customer needs in order to solve the problem, rather than building the features the customer requests. "The old guys at Home Depot do this well," says Johnson. "They don't ask you what you want to buy; they ask you to describe your project so that they can tell what you need to buy."

Product managers' rule #7: Mature companies value product management and enjoy shorter time to market. According to a survey Pragmatic Marketing conducted with softwareminds, companies that consider product-management business critical cut their time to market in half. This results from more focus on the product and less last-minute reaction to sales demands du jour.

Product managers' rule #8: Product management usually fails when organized in the development or engineering team. Technical managers do not consider product management a value-add to their teams and relegate them to project management and scheduling.

Product managers' rule #9: Similarly, product management fails in sales departments. Naturally, sales management considers product management a sales resource and allocates 110 percent of its time for supporting salespeople.

Product managers' rule #10: It seems counterintuitive, but product managers who spend a lot of time supporting salespeople find that they are not valued by their companies. Invariably, the product managers who have been laid off are the ones who are closer to sales.


  • "Product managers' rule #1: The best product managers follow the Pragmatic Marketing maxim: Your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant. Always use market facts to decide the best course of action. "


    1. If that were the case, there wouldn't be any innovation, which I define to be creating something that people never knew that they needed. Once they have it, they need it because they can't live without it. When the market doesn't understand the product or feature yet, you can't trust "market facts". Who would have predicted the commercial success of the Internet and online shopping? If you would have asked consumers 10 years ago: "Would you shop online and buy products, sight unseen?", I bet 90%+ would have said no. And yet, in the last 5 years, I've spent more $$$ online than I have in brick and mortar stores.

  • #1 struck me a little strange as well - the story of the Aeron chair comes to mind. However, not that many product are innovative, they are incrementally different than their predecessor/competitor in which case #1 makes more sense.

  • i don't agree with such rules...just simply look at google!

  • I'm not sure what you mean. Which rules does Google not apply?

  • If someone told you "Oh, we're making this new search engine, Google, want to invest a few bucks?" before Google launched, what would have been your reaction? You probably wouldn't have given it a second thought and moved on.

    I think that the most successful ventures in life are the unexpected ones, not the ones that are "planned by committee". Just take Microsoft as an example. There was a time when computers were relegated to scientists and hobbiests, now just about every household has one.

  • Google for me is not as interesting as the aeron. When Google started they could do anything they wanted because they didn't have to make any money. How many other "innovative" search engines never saw the light of day because they didn't have a university backing them.

    The aeron was so innovative that nobody liked it when it was first released. It took 3 years before it became the icon it is now. But, they collected market facts. They knew everyone who mattered hated their chair. They chose to reject the facts and proceeded anyways.

    Many product managers don't have any facts to accept or reject, they just "feel" like it is a good/bad idea.

    Rule #1 dosen't say "don't innovate", it says "check your facts, not your opinions"

  • And what I'm saying is that sometimes the facts are unknown or the market is simply unaware, which is when you get true innovation.

    True, this may be rare. How many times in a generation do we get a Google or an Amazon or a Microsoft? But the fact is, saying that you should always use "market facts" to drive your product strategy is somewhat limiting the boundaries of innovation to what people already know.

    This all stems from an interesting slide I saw from one of my friend's business/IT classes, blah, can't remember the exact details off the top of my head now.

  • Once again, the rule doesn't say "do what the market says" - it says "use the facts to make decisions". You can decide to proceed inspite of/because of the market's negative reaction. But at least you know what you are doing.

Comments have been disabled for this content.