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Mature products require tough decisions and time for retrospection.
In this discussion, we bring some mature thinking to the topic of maturity. The product life cycle consists of five phases — introduction, growth, maturity, decline, and retire. Successful products make it to maturity, and if properly managed, can generate profit for your organization for a long time. However, managing maturity comes with many challenges that are not present in the earlier stages of the product life cycle.
My guest helps us understand the issues and how to avoid them. She is Janna Bastow, co-founder of ProdPad, and co-founder of Mind the Product including MindTheProduct.com, ProductTank, and ProductCamp London. ProdPad creates tools for product managers for road mapping, backlog management, and customer feedback.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[1:55] How did you come to be a product manager?
Like everyone else, I got into it by accident. I’ve been a dabbler since my teenage years, everything from sales to graphic design to HTML. I didn’t have any direction and had never heard of the term product manager. Those things didn’t come together until years later.
[4:19] Can you walk us through the stages of a product life cycle?
A lot of people are probably familiar with the Introduction-Growth-Maturity-Decline scale, but they only talk about the first two stages when it comes to product management. Those pieces are actually a very small portion of the life cycle. Most of the money is made when a product is mature, but it’s also when churn and retention issues start to creep in.
[8:15] How do you keep customers with you as a product reaches maturity?
The original customers have a high tolerance for problems and we were able to build good relationships with them. They now have more complex needs like custom reporting and advanced segmentation. We have to weigh building for them vs. building for customers who are newer to the product. How do you onboard someone to a product that is significantly more complex than it used to be? It’s almost like building two products at the same time.
[15:33] What are some of the challenges that product managers face with mature products?
Teams are often pressured to have their mature products become feature factories. Getting new features out is addictive in the early days, but those features start adding up over time and start to create Frankenstein of a product. Companies should be focused on solving problems rather than getting features out. Many of these features come from the roadmap, which sets product teams up for failure. Instead, think of the roadmap as a prototype you can use to determine whether you are solving the right problems.
[22:28] How do you redefine the feature set to stay within the product’s vision?
Some things aren’t as profitable and don’t make sense to build. You need to make sure that your product is solving the best problems for the best market that you can do.
[23:43] What does the build-measure-learn cycle look like for a mature product?
There are always opportunities to solve new problems and breathe new life into existing ones. If you have customers leaving, it will chip away at your overall saturation rate. A product team’s role is finding new markets for the product or finding adjacent problems to solve. Many companies are so focused on building that they don’t spend time measuring and learning. You need to build both discovery and delivery into your workflow. We recommend building a retrospective roadmap that allows you to go back and see if the solution solved the problem you intended. People should also feel safe piping up and pointing out failures. Discovery and delivery are best done together.
- Janna’s company, ProdPad, Everything you need to build amazing products
- Product Tank community for product managers
- World Product Day
“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” – Douglas Adams
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social media network.