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Your 101 guide to product management frameworks

For cooks, we invented kitchenware and for product managers, product management frameworks. Imagine trying to make your favorite dish without the proper ingredients. That’s what product development frameworks are for businesses.

Martin Rubin, a great writer once said “A few names have survived oblivion.” Let us translate this to brands. No matter how good your products are, you will soon be forgotten by consumers if you don’t constantly deliver actual problem-solving products.

At MentorCruise, we know the value of true guidance. From providing mentorship from market leaders to advising you on real-time projects, we help you reach your full potential without getting behind the competition.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What are product management frameworks

  • The 5 best product management frameworks

  • Product management prioritization

Let’s dive in!

What are product management frameworks?

Imagine you’re a product manager and you get your hands on a brand new project to create a stellar product for your company. You get a pile of tasks, resources, team members, and decisions that need to be taken. That’s where product management frameworks come at hand. They are the skeletons of your project that give you clear guidelines for the production, positioning, and pricing. They are not a panacea to all your problems, but they will help you decide on resources, deadlines, and workers, and answer these important questions:

  • Who is your product serving

  • How is your product adding value

  • Why is your product different from others

  • What are your company’s goals

Succeeding in business can be challenging. Huge companies like Coca-Cola, Facebook, and Airbnb don’t release new products accidentally. They carefully design them by their teams of experts, spending months upon months of preparation. If you want to do the same, the product management process framework is your best ally. Used correctly and it can increase a company’s overall profits by 34.2%.

The 4 best product management frameworks

Okay, so you understood the importance of product management frameworks. But there is still one issue: how to choose the right ones for your business?

We researched the 5 most used product management frameworksby top companies to give you an idea of how they consistently create great products.

1. Elastic product teams

Jonathan Golden, Airbnb’s first product manager, created the elastic product teams framework, where flexibility is the key to success. He approaches product management as an elastic and vision-driven process where he always focuses on outcomes rather than features.

He follows the model of:

  • Product Vision -Decide on a clear vision and share it with your team

  • Outcome - What are the results you want to achieve to serve your personas

  • Goals and Metrics -What are your goals and how can you measure them

  • Strategy -What are the steps to hit those goals

  • Resourcing -What resources will you need

Source: FirstRound.com

Once the product is ready, he asks this important question: “Is the vision of the product fulfilled?”. If not, he starts over.

For example, when Airbnb released its “Wish List” feature, users perceived it as a single user “favorites” tool. However, most Airbnb trips are between groups of people who couldn’t share their “favorites” and decide on a place to stay together. The product management team had to take a step back, analyze the data and expand its vision to meet the customers’ needs. They relaunched the product as a collaborative way of planning trips and saw a significant rise in users’ interest.

To replicate Airbnb’s success with this framework, you must understand that each item on the five-point model above has its own philosophies and principles.

While you’re forming your product’s vision, rather than focusing on the features, focus on the outcomes. It will keep the team on track as the product becomes more complex over time. If you don’t, you may end up feeling confused and wondering whether all of the features or details you added were actually useful or not.

Next, collaboration and a good team dynamic can speed up the process. Make your product development team as modular and flexible as possible. This way, every member may perform cohesively and have an equal stake in the product.

Another benefit of modularizing and versatilize your development teams is that you can rearrange or decommission them when necessary. These actions, though drastic, can boost output and solve many issues within the organization.

2. 5 project phases

Did you know that only 13% of product managers have the authority to decide by themselves? Each product management system revolves around a team of experts. From engineers, designers, and analysts, to product managers and product marketers, these professionals offer their input to the product growth and contribute to the overall decisions. Yammer’s approach to product management design frameworks is no different. It focuses on 5 phases with each phase having its own experts:

  • Design - Designers and researchers brainstorm around the problem, and work on visuals based on goals

  • Build - Engineers build the product

  • Test - Quality engineers along with analysts A/B test the product

  • Analyze - Analysts analyze the data after 2 weeks of testing

  • Cleanup -Product managers decide on either to keep or alter the product based on data, and marketers get ready for the launch

Source: Medium.com

Although every project is unique, these phases will give you a repeatable set of actions to grow your product. A smart way to apply those steps is also by using product management design tools such as Figma, Framer, ProtoPie, Adobe XD or UX Pin.

Source: YouTube

3. 3 questions approach

Facebook’s product designer, Julie Zhou, after years of trial and error with launching Facebook’s products, narrows down their approach to three questions:

  • What problem are we trying to solve

  • How do we know this problem is real

  • How will we know when we solve it

Source: Uxdesign.cc

These questions cast light on the overall mental picture of where you and your team are as a product management team. They focus on why the product is important to other people’s lives, what evidence do we have that it’s worth solving and what are our metrics and goals to know when we solve it.

For example, when Facebook launched its Groups, many people were still unaware that like-minded individuals were connecting online, sharing their perspectives, or even arranging physical meetings. This was a problem worth solving and the 3 questions framework led Facebook to create the recommendation of the “Groups you should join” feature. The results? Over 33% of new group memberships came out of this card.

To demonstrate how to use this product management process framework, let’s take the Facebook example as a case study and go through each of the three questions.

To best answer the first question, it’s best that you make a problem statement in the form of a question. In the case of Facebook, that question could be:

“People would like to meet people with the same interests but don’t know where to find them. How can we help them?”

That will get the ball rolling. Now that a problem has been identified, the next step is to ascertain whether that is a real problem that people face.

Facebook answered this question with the “Groups You Should Join” card. Considering how 33% of new group memberships came out of this feature, it’s immediately apparent that this is a big problem. They went ahead to fix it and, as we have already learned, that’s the start of Groups!

Now that the solution has been launched, it’s time to see if it has solved people’s problems. Facebook did this by tracking the activity of newly-created groups and their memberships over time. And indeed, there were notable improvements in users’ overall engagement and activity!

Group Growth

Source: Socialmediaexaminer.com

Using this framework, you can quickly devise “cures” for consumers’ paint points. For this reason, no matter if you’re trying to update an existing product with new features (like Facebook) or create a brand-new product, the 3-Questions approach is one of the most valuable frameworks for product managers.

4. The 4Ps of marketing

Coca-Cola is well-known for its marketing mix, the reputed 4Ps of marketing. The 4Ps of marketing don’t only focus on the product design, but also allow you to put the product in front of the right eyes, in the proper time and place. The 4Ps stand for:

  • Product - Either a tangible product or an intangible service. This category focuses on features, value proposition, and branding

  • Price - It covers the product’s price that will determine the profit margins, marketing budget, future discounts, supply and demand

  • Place - Where will the product be available for purchase, how will it be transported and stored

  • Promotion - How will the product be advertised to customers with online and offline marketing campaigns and public relations

Source: Davidolszewski.com

Let’s go back to Coca-Cola. The company has more than 500 products in its product range, sold in unique packaging and sizes. Its prices follow a discrimination strategy in collaboration with other huge brands like Pepsi while offering discounts on bulk purchases and bundles. Over the years, it has developed an excessive distribution network of over 200 countries worldwide while focusing on aggressive marketing strategies through ad campaigns and media mentions. Its marketing mix framework makes the brand successful.

The same success story may happen to your brand, too!

The 4Ps corporate product management framework is an excellent foundation upon which you can build your very own marketing strategy. Write down the 4Ps and consider how they can apply to your product.

Take a look at the product itself. Ask yourself what makes it unique? Why would people want to buy it? You may find many reasons, from how it’s more durable or looks better than anything else on the market. Or it can provide the customer with functionalities that competing products on the market don’t have.

Now that you understand its value to the consumers, ask yourself: “How much would someone realistically pay for my product?” It’s essential to avoid getting too caught up in costs or profit margins. Instead, focus on finding a reasonable price on which customers can justify spending their hard-earned money.

Placement is relatively straightforward. Do you want to sell your product online or offline? How will you deliver the product to the consumers?

Last but not least, design a promotion program that’s relevant to the group of consumers you’re hoping to attract. If your product’s primary audience is young people, you will find more success reaching out to them online or via social network advertisements. On the other hand, working professionals or older groups are usually reached by old-fashioned marketing mediums like TV ads and newspapers.

Once you have satisfied all 4Ps, you now have in your hands the complete marketing mix of your own product!

Of course, this is not an end-all-be-all. Be flexible. You can change the marketing mix over time as the nature of the product, the market, or the psychology of the consumers changes.

To tier the benefits of this product management framework, it’s important to use tools to organize your teams, such as Trello, Asana, Jira, Monday, or Prodpad. At MentorCruise we have a wide range of available resources and mentors to guide you every step of the way.

Source: Getnave.com

Prioritization Frameworks

So you’ve created an ambitious vision, identified your customers’ needs, and decided on your goals and KPIs. Now, where do we start? Product management can be chaotic, especially with teams of experts that bombard you with their input on what should go first. One wrong decision and your plan could fail ingloriously. That’s why setting a prioritization is crucial to ensure that your product growth will be successful. It’s surprising that 7% of product managers spend no time at all on prioritization.

Luckily for you, there are product management prioritization frameworks that could guide you towards your important decisions. Here are 3 of the most used ones by companies:

1. The MoSCoW analysis

This prioritization tactic will help you understand what’s important to both customers and stakeholders. The name represents an acronym: M stands for Must-have, S for Should have, C for could have, and W for Won’t have. By breaking down your tasks in this manner, you will have a clear image of what needs to go first and which deadline should be met above all others.


2. The Eisenhower Matrix

For our next product management prioritization framework we have the Eisenhower matrix, a method used by product manager Anusha Bahtnagar for Microsoft. It’s based on drawing 4 squares, 2 on top of the others, and labeling the y-axis as Important and Not Important and the x-axis as Urgent and Not Urgent. When you categorize your tasks, you get a clear image of which ones you should do first, which you should assign and which you should eliminate.

Source: Clockify.me

3. Value vs. Complexity

Lastly, the value vs complexity prioritization framework, gives your team a clear understanding of which tasks they should opt for first. This strategy is one of the best prioritization product management frameworks for teams that have limited resources or delivery time.

The “Value vs. Complexity” framework relies deeply on two factors: perceived value and difficulty of implementation. Prioritization is given to initiatives that have high perceived value and are easy to implement. For any task that doesn’t bring much value to the business, while being difficult or costly to maintain, the team or manager can choose to de-prioritize or shelf them entirely.

Value vs. complexity

Source: Productplan.com

To effectively use this framework, the first thing that you have to do is to get used to the prioritization matrix. An example can be seen above.

In this matrix, you have two axes: one denotes perceived value (Business Value) and one denotes complexity of implementation (Complexity/Effort).

The matrix is further divided into four quadrants, going from upper left to right:

  1. High value, low complexity
  2. High value, high complexity
  3. Low value, low complexity
  4. Low value, high complexity

It is immediately apparent that you must give the greatest amount of attention to tasks that belong to the first quadrant (high value, low complexity). These are the tasks that must immediately go into your product roadmap.

Value vs. complexity

Source: Productplan.com

Then, depending on your team’s available resources and time, you can assess tasks that belong to other quadrants in descending order. Tasks that are too low on the spectrum, like those that belong in the fourth quadrant (low value, high complexity), should be eliminated.

But how do you determine which task goes where on the matrix?

The trick is rather simple. Select a random task or initiative, then assess it using two questions:

  1. “How much value can it contribute to the project/organization?”
  2. “How difficult or resource-intensive it would be to implement?”

Write down your (or your team’s) answers to these questions. By the end, you should be able to judge where the task or initiative belongs on the matrix. You can then adjust the course of the project accordingly.

You made it to the end. Congrats! Remember that a product management process framework is the only way to deliver excellent products that your customers will want to get their hands on.

Now that you know what frameworks are and you have a variety to choose from, it’s time to take your next step to your product management endeavors.

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