As a product person, you need to get familiar with the industry your product fits in and the broader domain. Most likely this requires some form of research.
The tricky bit is to know what type of research to do.
If you work on a product that you directly sell to consumers or other businesses, the majority of your research is about your customers and buyers. There is plenty of information about that in product management communities out on the web (I’ve included a couple of references below). The main goal of this research is to understand your customer’s needs and identify ways to satisfy them.
If you work on an internal product, one that supports your organization’s business processes or enables selling your organization’s actual products, the nature of the research might be a bit different.
Your organization may have already identified the needs of its customers and how it intends to address them. Your internal product is most likely intended to enable or support one or more business processes your organization has put into place or wants to put in place.
Your research in those cases is understanding those business processes, and how they relate to common practice in your industry as a whole. This research may be important if you implementing a new process in your organization, or if you are new to an organization, and domain, and you need to get up to speed quickly.
Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work on internal products at several different companies in several different domains. Each time I started a new gig I started off by doing research about the product, about the company and about the domain in which I was working.
This week, I’ve shared some resources that describe how other people go about industry research as well as an idea I try to keep in mind whenever I do research. I also included a couple of resources about what product managers typically think of when they hear research – some of those ideas are certainly applicable in an internal product setting.
As I was putting this week’s newsletter together, I had a hard time finding any resources about how to conduct research to learn more about a domain for the purposes of working on an internal product. As time permits, I’ll try to write a bit more about how I approach it, reflecting on some things I’m doing on my current gig. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about some of your experiences. If you have something to share, just reply to this email.
In his last few articles, Marty Cagan described coaching tools for helping managers of product managers to raise the level of performance of the product managers that report to them. The latest tool he described is a skill assessment that he uses to identify skill gaps that product managers have and the plans he typically uses to help product managers address those gaps. Part of those plans is how he helps product managers gain a better understanding of their industry and domain.
The Difference Between Knowing the Name of Something and Knowing Something
Richard Feynman was a great physicist of the 20th century who worked on the Manhattan Project, won a Nobel Prize for his work in developing an understanding of quantum mechanics, and was a sought out professor of undergraduate physics at Caltech. On the Farnam Street Blog, Shane Parrish described Feynman’s explanation of why knowing the name of something doesn’t mean you understand it. This idea is a powerful argument for the value of glossaries, and the work you should put in to create one for your product and the corresponding industry.
Market Research Tips: How to Conduct an Industry Analysis
Industry analyses are useful in a variety of fields ranging from manufacturing to retail and involve multiple factors including geographical area, industry outlook, regulatory environment, and target audience. By investigating and analyzing your competitors, you can determine the best strategies for achieving business success.
Should product managers do user research?
If product management literature agrees on something, it is that great products match customers’ needs. Still, countless product managers don’t have a clear idea of their customers’ needs because they don’t study them. You can try to restore the bond between product builders (designers, product managers, developers) and customers through research. Chloé Martinot shares what she has found from 10 months of doing research:
- Product managers don’t make time for research
- Research is not quite plug-and-play
- Product managers need backup to do research
- Maybe product managers should not do research at all
Accelerating Research is Product Management
On This is Product Management, Shauna Pettit-Brown, Consumer Insights Researcher at Cambia, discusses how the field of market research is evolving, her approach to collaborating with product teams, and her strategy and toolkit for improving speed-to-insight.