What is the biggest challenge as a PM? Product Management is a hot topic at the moment and there are a lot of aspiring Product Managers wanting to break into the field. What qualities would a hiring PM look for in a person? This time it was the CEO at Craft.io, Nir Erlich’s, turn to answer our community’s questions about product management and share his experiences in product and challenges in his day-to-day life.
Started as a PM almost 2 decades ago at UK based Cellular Operations. Has lead product at RayV ( acquired by Yahoo), lead mobile and player at Kaltura, world leading video platform. 4 years ago created Execute Apps, a design and development agency. Founded Craft, the first product-driven, product lifecycle management tool. Founded a company called Knocka TV at 2006 which joined the startup deadpool 2 years later.
What are the top qualities you look for while hiring a PM?
The No. 1 thing I’m looking for is the ability to be a team player and to be honest – I love the “nice” people, they are great to work with. As for specific things I look for in product managers, depends on the team and the role, but in general I love the ones that question everything, that love to get into user’s shoes, that have truly empathetic and have the ability to suggest creative new ways to do things.
An analytical mind is important as well, but it’s not the most important thing for me.
How does the product team write requirements at Craft.io?
We obviously use Craft for that but as a method we throw any idea we have into a pile and then spend time discovering the ideas we think will bring the greatest value using User Story Mapping. Once an idea is mature enough to be planned for the near future we start with high level User Stories, high fidelity designs etc.
We give our ideas value points and Kano categorization and then prioritize them into our long term roadmap. Then we do sprints. Any changes made are reflected immediately in Craft since every aspect for the product is interconnected.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a PM that are part of a distributed team?
Our teams are remote in nature, and it took time for us to crack the system. I think the hardest barrier is what we call a virtual pressure.When you don’t see someone face to face, you tend to get more frustrated as time goes by. We use Skype, Zoom, Slack etc, to communicate all day and see each other’s faces which really helps break the tension. We also regularly travel to see each other in our various offices.
How do you keep your schedule?
I try to keep at least an hour a day to users and 3 hours to do stuff without the usual noise around. This is sometimes a mixture of finding time while working out (swimming for me) and at non-working hours. During working hours I’m being pulled 1000 different directions with meetings, chats, investors etc. and I’ve learned to live peacefully with that.
What can a UX designer do that would make a PM say ” this guy is great to work with?”
Focus less on what’s beautiful and more on what will make the user more successful. Choose a small place where there is an obvious UX problem by talking to your users or analyzing data. Suggest and design features and flows and transform the way users are currently using this small feature. Your product manager will love you forever.
What failure have you experienced that has defined you?
Every failure really; a startup that failed, a major release that did not achieve its goals, a missed deal, a churned customer. Every bit of failure made me stronger and I truly believe that in order to succeed what you need is the patience to see things through and stick with your goal for the long run.
What books do you recommend to learn more about product management?
Some books I really like are Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster by Alistair Croll, Talking to Humans: Success starts with understanding your customers by Giff Constable, the Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen and Designing with the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson.
Any advice for someone looking to transition from a non-technical field into product management?
I think companies are much more open to non techs in product management. I think it’s a great thing. Leverage the fact that you are not constrained by knowing what is “hard” to code, this makes you more creative in nature. Look for the right company with the right DNA to work for.
How do you prioritize new features?
I always like to see a mixture of the three Kano types in every release, exciters performers and basics. This makes sure that you keep bringing real value to your users while making sure that your basics and foundation work. I strongly recommend using the Kano method, google it if you don’t know it, there are tons of info about it.
How do you handle a problem when you don’t have user research data?
There are few methods but one is the best. Create the simplest form of a product (not an MVP, something that you know will be kind of crap) and launch it. The best communication tool to any user by far is a product. When we started Craft I’ve connected to 20 product managers in LinkedIn and asked them for user feedback for what was a shitty version of Craft.
5 PM’s responded, 4 answers were kind of helpful but one guy took the time to write a full feedback review which made a huge difference for us and actually shaped what you see today as Craft. Without our then shitty product this would not be possible.