The 3 Pillars of Product Decision-Making
Ravi Mehta is the founder and creator of Slidevana, a toolkit designed to help presenters create professional looking presentations in significantly less time. He’s also an angel investor and advisor primarily focused on consumer tech companies. Prior to doing that, he served as the CPO at Tinder and was a product leader at Facebook, TripAdvisor and XBOX. Ravi holds an MBA from MIT Sloan and a BS in Computer Engineering for Boston University.
He recently hosted an informative Products That Count webinar where he discussed examples from across the industry to illustrate the three pillars of product decision-making and why it’s so hard to get it right all the time. He used real-world examples of major corporations to illustrate the importance of these pillars.
During the webinar, Ravi Mehta spoke about the “3 Pillars of Product Decision-Making.” These include intuition, analytics, and customer feedback. His product management career has given him the insight to understand each pillar better and use them to build successful product.
The webinar explores all three elements in relation to real-world products developed by notable names like Apple and HomeAway. Mehta explains in great detail how to utilize each pillar for a successful product launch.
You can watch Mehta’s webinar presentation above or read on for some highlights below.
What is the Product Management Role?
Before getting into the pillars, Mehta laid the framework for the webinar. He started by answering a question all product managers should ask themselves.
Knowing your role is essential to the success of a product. As Mehta explains, it is:
“A role that requires the right sensibility about what people want, not necessarily a role that requires years and years of schooling. So I think that’s an exciting part of the role. And then one of the things that makes it a constant challenge to do well So making great products is about making great decisions and great decisions are decisions that deliver value to customers and the business.”
The Importance of Intuition
Anyone that succeeds in business has some form of intuition. It’s a primary means of understanding what the customer wants and how your product can help them. Mehta explores the concept of intuition and has this to say:
“Intuition is a sensibility about what a great product looks like for the customer. And at its best, intuition leads to breakthrough products that disrupt markets.” Mehta continues, “Intuitive insights are actually the most valuable when the rest of the world is in the dark. Peter Teal refers to this as knowing a secret.”
Mehta went on to explain that, “When you have a really deep, interesting, intuitive insight, you get feedback that is intense and critical.”
On Analytics-Driven Product Decision-Making
Where intuition may not be based on real figures, analytics-driven decision-making is less about knowing the customer and more about reading and interpreting figures. During the webinar, Mehta discusses analytics-driven decision making and has this to say:
“Great companies are often built on massively impactful intuitive insights. But the quality of these intuitive decisions can be hard to evaluate. And it leads to teams over-relying on decisions, swinging and missing a lot.”
He continues, “So, as a result of this, the tech industry has put significant emphasis on analytics-driven decision making as a way to support intuitive insights. And make sure that when you’re making a decision that relies on intuition, that it is also grounded in good strategy and good analytics.”
But is ‘Database Decision-Making’ the ONLY Avenue?
Product managers have a host of tools at their disposal. Sometimes, it’s essential to use two concepts to draw a well-composed and functional conclusion. Mehta spends a little time discussing how intuition and data-driven decisions can work hand-in-hand.
“Today, I think Silicon Valley has, to some extent, fetishized database decision-making. And it’s important to take a step back, and not just use that sort of black and white insights that data provides, but really get to the heart of what customers want and pair that data with a good intuition about what makes a great product and with really good feedback from customers.”
The Three Forms of Product Decision-Making
Mehta gets to the core of his presentation when he speaks about the three forms of decision-making. He explains:
“Done well, intuition leads to valuable insights that can have a disruptive impact. Done poorly, it leads to misguided investments and really big misses. Analytics done well enables products to realize their maximum potential. Done poorly results in incrementality, diminishing returns, and eventual irrelevance. Feedback done well leads to a deep, accurate, and empathetic understanding of customer needs, but done poorly focuses on the vocal minority and misses opportunities that customers can’t see.”
On Making Great Products
All product managers strive to make great products, but what are the stepping stones to get toi that point? Mehta has suggestions for developing great, successful products.
“So ultimately, a lot of making great products comes down to making great decisions. Making great decisions is a matter of striking a balance between intuition, analytics and research. “
On Experimentation and Product Management
Customer feedback will vary from person to person, creating a range of perspectives In response to a question on experimenting with this data, Mehta has a clear and definitive answer.
“I think experimentation is really important. One of the things that is important is that experimentation really gives you the ability to see whether or not a particular behavior is causal based on the thing that you’re experimenting. It’s very hard to get either correlative or causal insights from longitudinal testing where you have one feature and then you roll another feature after it.”
On Failure in the Product Space
Not everything can be a hit. Failure is sometimes an important part of the industry. However, Mehta has some words of encouragement for product managers.
“I think the only thing that’s really failure is doing something that doesn’t work and not learning from it. So, if you’re very crisp about something that didn’t work as expected, but we think this is the reason why, that becomes a great base that you can continue to build on.”
Reading Customer Feedback
Product decision-making must factor in all variables. That includes listening to the customers providing thorough and engaging feedback. Ravi explains a little further why customer feedback is so important.
“I think an important thing is to look at the users that are giving you the feedback and how they came to get the feedback, how they’re using the product. Specifically, how representative they are of the average use case or representative of the average case of that particular segment that you’re thinking about.”