In the life of Product Management its all too easy to get engrossed with documentation, planning and QA. Before you realise it weeks have gone by, the release has gone out the door and your starting all over again for the next release. Everyone is happy, the boss has seen all the new features added to the product and the sales team now have another five minutes of great software to demo. This is the start of the product release spiral.
What’s missing? The time with your customers to understand how they use the product.
Being stuck in the continuous release spiral doesn’t offer the chance to head out of the office and spend quality time with your customers. If you can’t spare the time, then plan for the time as part of the product lifecycle. Allow a least a day every other month with your customers. Go visit them onsite so they feel comfortable in the environment speaking to you about the things they do with the product on a daily basis. This is a great chance to spot the obvious omissions from the roadmap and even find little niggly issues that cost the customers wasted time and anguish. Now imagine the delight that in the next release the dev team has fixed the one little issue they had! How much feedback is that worth to you and how much more supportive will they be towards the product?
Document your time with the customer. Look for the areas that all the customers want to address and become their voice in the next backlog meeting. It’s easier to put forward a case for changes when you have real names and real world scenarios to back it up.
Graphs, statistics are all fine and valuable tools for looking at the direction of the product but the sole purpose of the product is to be sold to and used by your customers.
Actions: Make time for your customer. Plan it as a task. Get the expenses approved and get out the door!