How should a PM define Product quality?

We often talk about the importance of quality. “High quality is mandatory in the competitive landscape of the 21st century”. “We achieve customer satisfaction through our high quality products”. But what is quality all about – can it be too high – and what is the responsibility of the Product Manager?

At Tolpagorni we define the role of quality-concept-757336-edited.jpgproduct management as working with insights, creation of strategy, product planning and finally product marketing. Is there a quality aspect of all these areas? I would be inclined to say – YES! So, let’s go about it and explore them process by process.

  1. Quality Insights

    We want to be scientifically precise in our understanding – or just doing what “feels right” at this point of time. Either way, if we have been exposed to the right inputs – be it market survey results or technology prestudies – the quantity and quality of information is critical.

    S**t in will lead to s**t out.

    We talk about “quality time” with our near and dear ones – there would be “quality time” also with customers and market representatives.

    There is obviously a quality aspect of Insights! 

  2.  Product strategy quality

    The great thinker Michael E. McGrath has stated that the most common failure mode for technology companies isn’t lack of strategy. It is instead – using outdated old strategy. In fact he strongly believes that no strategy is very much better than using an obsolete one!

    There is a “best-before” date for any particular strategy.

    Another challenge often addressed to product managers is alignment. Is your product strategy really in line with overall corporate directions? And if not – should you change your fantastic new business model idea – or try to convince upper management to change the corporate vision?

    It is a lot about finding inconsistencies – do you have the right resources to develop low cost products in your company (with traditions of building “the best for the best” for a hundred years?)

    I think we can agree there are quality aspects of product strategies – but to find the right answers upfront is not that easy…

  3.  Product planning

    Quality in product requirements. Having the right requirements – and documenting them correctly.

    Communication often includes distortion. Make sure to minimize sources of noise in the channel – both from “the market” and in “hand-over to R&D”.

    The product manager should be the master of writing product specifications. Be it as user stories in an (agile) backlog – or a comprehensive system description in 47 binders.

    Each product specification should be mirrored in a corresponding test requirement.
    How do you want developers to prove that the intention with the product has been fulfilled?

    One of our customers (Ericsson) developed what they call “Proof points”. This means to first understand what is important to the end buyers and users. Then to set up appropriate tests to be able to convince potential prospects about the superiority of your solution.

    In TDD (test driven development) we start by testing the solution. There would be mostly errors from the 1st pass. Over time however more and more tests do pass – and eventually we are done. This is a procedure that could be implemented on a product level by PMs.

  4.  Product marketing

    Quality in marketing and deployment of product to the market is very much about matching your product offering with the appropriate target market. The product might have been developed for a very different user group – but market changes has made it suitable also elsewhere.

    In today’s connected society quality in marketing is having a consistent message across channels. Often buyers have finished two thirds of their procurement process even before we have a chance to communicate with them directly!

    Using tools like the “Value tree” can help you create a concise yet coherent product story.

To summarize, the PM responsibility for quality is indeed a significant part of all four major product management processes. You’ll find quality aspects of Insights, Product strategies, product planning and also product marketing.

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About Erik Bjernulf, Profoto

Erik has extensive experience in product management, business management and development. Within the software, electronics and hardware, Erik has pursued commercial success.

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