This book will help you learn how great products can be built!

A must read for every aspiring/existing product manager :)

Why this book?

If you have already read this book, I hope the takeaways summarized below serve as a refresher;

  1. The author, Marty Cagan is an accomplished and well established voice in the product management and tech community
  2. Most importantly, this book presents well organized and easy to read content; providing practical advice that we can use to build better products

My key takeaways from the book

1. Mercenaries vs Missionaries

There’s this banger of a quote in the initial pages of the book — “It doesn’t matter how good your engineering team is if they are not given something worthwhile to build”

  • Mercenaries build whatever they’re told to build; while missionaries are true believers in the vision and are committed to solving problems for their customers.
  • The user experience design that presents this functionality to end users
  • The business model to monetize the product
  • How we would attract, acquire, onboard and serve users and customers; Even, offline experiences surrounding the customer journey as they discover, purchase and use the product etc.

2. The art of product discovery

As mentioned earlier, the key to building great products is to discover real customer problems, and align the technology and design required to solve those problems, all in a way that works for the larger business.

  • How would a single solution work for multiple customers?
  • This stresses the need to test out multiple ideas quickly and efficiently
  • The product is scalable and performant to the degree necessary; It has a strong suite of automated regression tests; It is instrumented to collect the necessary analytics; It has been internationalized and localized where appropriate; It is maintainable; It is consistent with the brand promise; And, most important, it is something the team can release with confidence.
  • usability risk (whether users can figure out how to use it)
  • feasibility risk (whether our engineers can build what we need with the time, skills, and technology we have), and
  • business viability risk (whether this solution also works for the various aspects of our business — sales, marketing, finance, legal, etc.).

3. What should a product manager aspire to be?

This was eye opener for me — in terms of the responsibilities a product manager carries; and the work need to do justice to the role.

  • Gains deep knowledge of the customer — their issues, pains, desires, how they think/how the product will work for them/how they will buy and use it; i.e. qualitative learning (to understand why our users and customers behave the way they do), and quantitative learning (to understand what they are doing)
  • Understands the data; i.e. how customers are using the product, and the associated KPIs based on the nature of the product
  • Gains deep knowledge of the business; i.e. knowing who your various stakeholders are and especially learning the constraints they operate under
  • Gains deep knowledge of the market/industry; i.e. includes not only your competitors but also key trends in technology, customer behaviors and expectations, following the relevant industry analysts, and understanding the role of social media for your market and customers
  • No product lives in isolation; it needs to fit into an ecosystem of products and play well with them.
  • Industries and technologies are constantly moving, and we must create products for where the market will be tomorrow, not where it was yesterday.

Closing thoughts

Product management is quite the cross functional discipline, and the great thing is that — there is always more to learn about it; there will never be a perfect way to get the PM role right or build great products every time, but books like “Inspired” certainly help move the needle in developing this art, and helps build communities that will keep innovating to push boundaries and products for ever eager customers.

Currently build software products@EY; looking for problems to solve and things to learn to solve said problems; hobbiyst musician and video creator.