4 Product Building Tips from a Veteran PM

Symbl’s Head of Product Anthony Claudia shares how product managers can build products for lasting success.

It’s a difficult statistic to read: 70% of upstart tech companies fail. There are many reasons why tech companies shutter their doors, ranging from mismanagement to lack of funds.

Sometimes, tech failures are inevitable.

But having a great product that serves the unique needs of your customers and stands out from market competitors is a key way companies can increase the odds of being around for the long-haul, if that’s their goal. Behind every strong business is an excellent product that consumers regard as essential.

Product managers play an integral role in creating products that evolve with their customer’s needs. Here, Anthony Claudia, head of product for Symbl, maker of conversational APIs, shares his sage advice for building a better product for lasting success.

1. Solve Real Problems

While they vary by organization, a product manager’s main objectives often include identifying which features and functionality to build, when to build them, and why. Product managers formulate strategic roadmaps by interviewing customers, analyzing market trends, and tracking competitor launches.

However, especially when selling in a crowded, cut-throat market, product managers are at risk of solving problems that don’t matter to their customers. Whether it’s because PMs don’t accurately understand their customer’s tech requirements or because they want to remain competitive, adding features that only look good on paper isn’t an effective strategy because your customer likely won’t use them, making them feel like they are overpaying for a service.

Claudia’s advice? “Follow the golden rule of product management: Never be a solution looking for a problem,” he says. Listen to your core customers, and devise creative interview questions to get to the root of what they really want and how they’ll leverage new features in their business.

2. Avoid Tech Debt

Rapid development is vital to build new product features for potential customers while remaining competitive. However, it also places your team at risk of tech debt. Tech debt is defined as the result of prioritizing speedy delivery over perfect and functioning code, and it can waste your company’s precious engineering resources and frustrate your development team. While it may seem smart to rush through an engineering task to create a minimum viable product, it becomes a waste later on when you’re trying to scale and hit roadblocks caused by sloppy code.

“Be allergic to tech debt,” says Claudia. “And be precious with what you build. That’s not to say move slowly or be overly cautious, but be lean. It’s OK to be ugly at first.” Your engineering team is likely your company’s most valuable employee asset. Be mindful of your build requests, and make sure new feature builds will make a difference to end-users.

3. Be a People Person

It’s hard to make any progress as a product manager without buy-in from your team, engineers, and leadership. It is a product manager’s responsibility to get all stakeholders aligned with your product roadmap and stoke excitement for new features and functionality. “It’s all about getting people on board with your idea — even if your idea is wrong,” says Claudia. “You get them on board, and you try it. And then you try it again and hopefully get it right the second time.”

Solidifying your team’s vision — what it is and how you will get there — will enable your product to strategically evolve for long-term revenue generation.

4. Make it Intuitive

The most successful software companies are obsessed with user experience and know that seamless onboarding, intuitive interfaces, UX/UI and in-depth documentation and tutorials are vital to scaling a product and earning dedicated customers. Developer-focused products such as APIs or SDKs are especially at risk of being unpleasant to use, as PMs may assume their customer is inherently tech savvy, and can figure out implementation and customization without any assistance.

“The intuitiveness of your product is paramount to its success,” says Claudia. “If it’s not enjoyable for the developer to use, the product is likely a non-starter because it will frustrate your end-user.” Ensure your product documentation is solid, and don’t underestimate the importance of talented devrel and customer success hires.

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About Symbl

Symbl’s conversational intelligence API unlocks proprietary machine learning algorithms that integrate with a brand’s communication systems to identify and highlight priorities, actions, and insights born from verbal workforce collaboration in real-time. Learn more at Symbl.ai.