THE OPEN SOURCE PRODUCT MANAGER

How thinking of product as an amusement park helps us understand the difference between core, platform and growth product teams.

An amusement park with a wheel and rollercoaster in the foreground and some other rides and attractions in the background.
An amusement park with a wheel and rollercoaster in the foreground and some other rides and attractions in the background.

Product is an evolving field. In the past decade, three distinct flavours of the product team have begun to emerge: the Core Product team, the Platform Product team and the Growth Product team. Understanding what these teams do and how their goals differ is an essential framing for anyone in product. To help explore the role of each team, consider an amusement park.

A successful amusement park is a combination of big attractions that draw people in, and less exciting services such as parking, security and taking payment. Making each of these elements work together seamlessly requires a range of…


THE COMPLETE PRODUCT STRATEGY GUIDE — PART 4

Network effects are a staple of the digital age: the same principles which make them powerful can be applied to strategy and business model design.

A number of lightbulbs spreading out on wires from a central node.
A number of lightbulbs spreading out on wires from a central node.

Network effects have become a staple of the digital age, underpinning the value propositions of products as varied as operating systems, eCommerce apps and social networks. Many of the same principles apply to strategy and business model design.

What is a network effect?

Networks are systems of interconnected things. A network effect is when the addition of more things to the network increases the total value of the system.

Network effect: (noun) a phenomenon whereby a product or service gains additional value as the number of participants increases.

The quintessential example is the telephone. A single phone is useless. However, for every additional phone added…


THE COMPLETE PRODUCT STRATEGY GUIDE — PART 3

Creating a strategy is hard: by avoiding these ten traps, it can be a little bit easier.

A mouse holding a lightbuld surrounded by mouse traps
A mouse holding a lightbuld surrounded by mouse traps

Developing and executing a winning strategy is hard. It is a messy, iterative and often experimental process. It must unify multiple considerations from the business opportunity, competitive dynamics and game-theoretic assumptions about how markets will respond. However, many businesses fall foul of a more basic pitfall: unintentionally not doing strategy at all. These unforced errors often result from a misunderstanding of what strategy is. Here are ten of the most common misconceptions:

What Strategy is Not

1. Strategy is not a vision or mission — Visions and missions are descriptions of the hazy future the team is seeking to build. They are great tools…


The Complete Product Strategy Guide — Part 2

Top-down business objectives and bottom-up feedback loops allow a strategy to flow: here’s how to make these mechanisms effective.

A waterfall of light bulbs with three hot air balloons flying round the edge
A waterfall of light bulbs with three hot air balloons flying round the edge

An organisation’s ability to define and execute a winning strategy is fundamental to their enduring success. However, “doing strategy” is fraught with challenges. Perhaps the hardest to overcome is cascading a strategy throughout an organisation.

For product leaders, this challenge can be particularly acute: how do you create direction and common purpose while empowering teams to deliver autonomously?

This article will outline two mechanisms which create a multi-directional flow of strategy through an organisation. All leaders, and especially Product leaders, should consider these as they act in their role as a bridge between the business strategy and the day-to-day focus…


The Complete Product Strategy Guide — Part 1

Strategy is hard: here is a framework which I hope will make it a little easier.

A large map in the style of a World War 2 war room with poles to move light bulbs around.
A large map in the style of a World War 2 war room with poles to move light bulbs around.

For leaders within many organisations, “strategy” is one of the most challenging aspects of the role. Aligning a team around a vision and empowering them to deliver is hard. It becomes exponentially harder when you must also align yourself within the shifting sands of a corporate structure. If managed poorly, the result is misalignment, confusion and sometimes even conflict.

For product managers, this challenge is particularly acute. Product managers are bombarded constantly with feature suggestions. It often seems everyone has an idea which will significantly improve their product. Most will not. But if care is not taken, product managers can…


The Open Source Product Manager

The 3 principles I adopted while surfing, which have made me a better product manager.

A drawing of a surfer in a wave
A drawing of a surfer in a wave

Ten years ago, I moved to Australia from the UK to start a new job (and take up a new sport). The job, as a strategy consultant, put me on a path which wound its way from mine sites to websites and ultimately my current role as a product manager. But the sport, surfing, has had just as much of an impact on my attitude to life and work.

Lesson #1 Absorb and act

Surfing is competitive, with everyone battling for position to have priority on the wave. If you are in the wrong place, you don’t get the wave; you don’t get to surf…


The Open Source Product Manager

Hint — there is more to it than pop-ups and paywalls.

A squiggly line going from a phone to a persons ear creating an explosion of stars and hearts in their head
A squiggly line going from a phone to a persons ear creating an explosion of stars and hearts in their head

The digital world is increasingly becoming freemium and self-service — from Atlassian to Zoom via the New York Times, Medium and Spotify. As a result, generating revenue is often becoming a core component of the product experience, and squarely within the remit of the product team. But where does one begin when building a product that solves real problems while also guiding potential customers through a decision to buy? Surely there is more to it than annoying pop-ups or paywalling off parts of the experience? …


The Open Source Product Manager

Three questions which capture what is means to be a great product manager.

A balance scale with a person on one side and a pile of stars on the other with figures around it making adjustments.
A balance scale with a person on one side and a pile of stars on the other with figures around it making adjustments.

The product manager is an important role within any technology company. In the most clinical terms, they help organisations discover and build the right products, ultimately seeking to ensure the effort expended by engineers returns a multiple in business value back to their organisation. The responsibility is a big one — the effort of development teams is much more than the millions of dollars they cost to run: it is the opportunity cost of falling behind a close competitor, missing out on a market by being late to the party or burning through your runway and never finding product-market fit.


The Open Source Product Manager

The books which have made a meaningful contribution to my thinking as a product manager.

As a product manager, reading is one of the most productive development activities out there. It helps broaden your perspective, discover different ways of working and allows you to see problems in a new light. I generally try to read a few books a month, and I find they often fall into three categories:

  • Table reference — books I will reread (in part or full) or find myself referencing back to frequently
  • Happy on the bookshelf — books I enjoyed, found useful or which have contributed something to my thinking
  • Hidden in the garage — books which didn’t live up…


The Open Source Product Manager

The benefits and pitfalls of using a North Star to shape your product direction and roadmap — and how to navigate them.

Drawing of a telescope pointing at stars, with 1 star bigger than the rest.
Drawing of a telescope pointing at stars, with 1 star bigger than the rest.

What is a North Star Metric?

The North Star Metric is the one metric which best captures the core value your product delivers for your customers and users. It is invaluable in helping product teams remain focused on delivering long-term value in the face of a constant flow of new ideas, feature requests, cool technology and other shiny baubles. Done well, the North Star should shape decision making at every level and ensure every team in the organisation is aligned around a common outcome.

What makes a good North Star Metric?

A good North Star Metric reflects the value exchange within a product. It should capture the value that is being created for…

Julian Connor

Product leader at SafetyCulture. Previously product, strategy & data at Domain, Indeed & the Guardian. Recovering strategy consultant. @julianconnor on Twitter.

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