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6 Types of Products that PMs work on

Product Management is a versatile domain.

The job you do as a PM depends a lot on the type of product you are working.

Your day-to-day activities and and long term responsibilities can vary wildly depending on the kind of job you are doing.

In the phenomenal book “Cracking the PM interview” authors Gayle Mcdowell and Jackie Bavaro classify products broadly into 6 different categories.

These are the 6 different types of software products that you will work on as a Product Manager.

The list is based on 3 parameters –

  1. Medium of the product – Shipped vs Online
  2. User of the product – Consumer vs Business
  3. Life stage of the product – Early vs Mature

Let’s goπŸ‘‡


1. Shipped Software Products

This is the oldest kind of software product there is.

In the pre-internet age, software used to be shipped on CDs, DVDs, and on Floppy Disks even before that.

Shipped Software today can be products such as mobile apps published on the iOS and Android App stores.

Operating System Software that comes pre-bundled with a hardware you buy, it can be your mobile phone, or laptop or your smartwatch.

It’s hard to publish rapid updates to shipped software, often you need app store permissions and user consent to provide updates.

So user research and requirement gathering needs to be more thorough.

And Project timelines are longer with such products.

And PMs need to follow more structured approach to software development that’s closer to the old school SDLC method as compared to Agile.


2. Online Software Products

These are primarily websites and web-apps.

Online software runs on server and interacts with the user only through thin clients like web browsers.

So shipping updates and making changes is much easier in the case of online software products.

Rapid prototyping and A/B testing is a core skill a PM needs for online software.

Shipping times are low and teams follow a more Agile approach to software development

Examples of Online Software is any websites you visit or web-apps you interact with.

Eg. Bannerbear.com, Gumroad.com, Nomadlist.com


3. Consumer Products

This classification is based on the user of the product.

B2C products are the ones that interact with the end user directly.

PMs need to have a deep understanding of the consumer markets and the average user on the street.

Prime examples of B2C products are social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.

For B2C products, everyone on the team has tons of ideas for feature to build, because almost everyone is the user of the product themselves.

But PMs must have the influence to guide the team in the right direction, and build features based on the User Personas created for the product.


4. Business to Business Products

B2B products are the ones where the end user is another business.

The customer works for another business.

Email marketing software like Mailchimp and ConvertKit are great examples of B2B software.

PMs for these product need to have a very good understanding of 2 user personas –

  1. The actual user at another company, who will use the product every day
  2. The key stakeholder in that company, who will make the call to buy the product.

Both personas have their own set of challenges and motivations, and it’s important that the product addresses them.


5. Early Stage Products

This classification is based on the life stage of a product.

At a very early stage, it’s not clear what the product is, and sometimes, even who the user is.

The company is still iterating on the problems it wants to solve through the product.

The PMs role is to prioritize the core set of features that will help them validate the idea and get these features built.

This is often called the Minimum Viable Product or the MVP.

At the stage, Product Management is lot more art than science. And PMs must rely on their intuition and product sense to figure out if they are building a useful product or not.


6. Mature Products

These are products that have stood the test of time.

Have been used by customers for a long time and there is not a lot of changes to be made on the core features.

A PMs job is to figure out the incremental improvements necessary to make the product better for its existing users.

Product Mangers should also not shy away from trying out new experiments with mature products.

Many a times, that’s how innovation happens and mature products see a step change improvement.

Examples of mature products include Operating Systems like the Windows or Android where the core features have been stable for many years.


Thank You for readingπŸ™

Hope this post added value.

Have thoughts, let’s discuss on Twitter and LinkedIn where I talk about Product Management every week.

Considering transitioning into a PM career, I can help you, drop me a message on Twitter.

Do check out my current projects on my β€œNOW” page.

Cheers,

Ayush