Love ’em or hate ’em, business plans are a part of every product manager’s life. They should be a part of every company’s product development definition. Because we can’t do it all by ourselves, we need to make use of funding and resources from the company. In order to get what we need, the company insists that we tell them what we’re going to be doing. That’s where the product business case comes in. However, no matter how much time and effort you put into creating one of these things, it will all be for naught if you are making the following 5 mistakes.
5 Business Plan Mistakes That Product Mangers Make
It’s not easy to write a good business plan. Where product managers seem to fall down is when they spend their time writing a business plan that they would like to read – not one that the rest of the company wants to read. If you want to be able to add this skill to your product manager resume, then you’re going to have to become better at doing it. Here are 5 mistakes that we product managers should be careful to avoid when we’re creating our next business plan:
- What Problem?: I love technology and I’m sure that you love technology. If you spend your business case writing about the fantastic technology that your product will use and you don’t discuss the customer problem that it will solve, then you’ll be missing the point. A business plan needs to lay out a clearly defined problem and it needs to identify which customer group has that problem.
- It’s A Big Market: Often Product Managers just end up saying that the market that they are going after is huge and even if the product ends up just capturing a little bit of it, they’ll do fine. The classic case in the past few years has been products that you want to sell in China – there’s so many people there that there’s no way that my product can fail! The problem with this approach is that it’s actually very hard to make customers aware of your product and then to get your product to them. You may not be able to capture even that small slice of a big market.
- Excel Magic: Just because your product is a dog, doesn’t mean that you can’t create fantastic Excel spreadsheet that show just how much money it’s going to make! Look, if the product isn’t going to fly, no amount of financial smoke and mirrors is going hide this fact, so don’t even try.
- Dream Team: No product management team has all of the skills that are going to be required to make the product successful. Every team has gaps and your business plan needs to be honest about this. You’ll eventually have to do some work and fill in the gaps. You need to let everyone know that this is a task that you know that you’ll have to do.
- No Problems Here: Any business plan that is too optimistic is instantly suspect. Launching and managing a product is hard, there will always be challenges. When you are creating your business plan you need to be upfront about the issues that you are going to be facing. The folks who will be reading your plan will be able to guess some of them and so you may as well let them know that you know.
What All Of This Means For You
In order to get the funding, staffing, and resources that you are going to need in order for your product to be a success, you are going to have to write a business plan. This skill should be a part of every product manager job description. This is how you are going to tell the rest of the company just exactly what you think that you can accomplish with what they give you.
The problem with creating a business plan is that it is all too easy to do it incorrectly. Simple mistakes like talking about technology, not the problem or assuming that you’ll certainly be able to grab at least a portion of a very large market are rooky business plan mistakes that no product manager should make.
Take the time to create a well thought-out business plan. After you’ve created it, sit back and take a careful look at it and see it through the eyes of someone who isn’t so close to your product. By doing this you’ll catch the issues that could delay you’re getting the resources that its going to take in order for your product to be a success.
Question For You: Every product team is lacking some skills. Just how open about where the skills gaps are in your product team do you think that you should be in your business plan?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Every product manager out there would like to have more customers. In fact, the best kind of customer that we’d like to have are those rare and elusive loyal customers. When we are working on our product development definition, we all figure that the more of those that we’re able to pick up, the more profitable our product will be. Good guess, but you’d be wrong…