Notes from reading: Inspired, How To Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan


After quitting Minio I have been spending my free time in reading & consuming lots of coffee. This book was recommended to me by Anurag Ramdasan  as I am still in process of figuring out what is next. This book is strongly recommended for product managers or folks building customer products. Do follow Marty Cagan’s official website for more of his wisdom.

These are some of my notes clipped via my Kindle :

  1. It doesn’t matter how good your engineering team is if they are not given something worthwhile to build.
  2. Do not build a product or waste your time on it if users, customers don’t need it.
  3. The job of the product manager is to discover a product that is valuable, usable, and feasible.
  4. Engineering is important and difficult, but user experience design is even more important, and usually more difficult.
  5. Everything starts with the people, but the process is what enables these people to consistently produce inspiring and successful products.
  6. New ideas can come from anywhere—company executives, discussions with customers, usability testing, your own product team, your sales or marketing staff, industry analysts, to name a few. But then someone needs to take a hard look at the idea and decide if it is something worth pursuing.
  7. Behind every great product you will find an individual who is responsible for the definition of that product.
  8. The root cause of wasted releases can most often be traced to poor definition of the role of the product manager in a company, and inadequate training of the people chosen for this role.
  9. The product manager has two key responsibilities: assessing product opportunities, and defining the product to be built.
  10. A good product requires a good user experience. And a good user experience requires the close collaboration of product management and user experience design.
  11. If you can’t manage to get the time to focus on those tasks which are truly important to your product, your product will fail.
  12. The product organization includes the design team, because the interaction between product management and user experience design absolutely needs to be as close as possible.
  13. Designers are most valuable very early in the process, when the product manager is working to understand the target market and come up with a solution.
  14. What problem a product is intended to solve should be the focus not the feature list and capabilities.
  15. Not every opportunity needs to be a billion-dollar market.
  16. Improving the product’s usability can significantly reduce the need for customer service staff.
  17. Software projects can be thought of as having two distinct stages: figuring out what to build (build the right product), and building it (building the product right). The first stage is dominated by product discovery, and the second stage is all about execution.
  18. If you’re more naturally the project manager type who loves getting things out the door, then you’ll need to work on your strategic thinking and discovery skills—remembering that what matters most is creating a product that your customers love.
  19. You need to identify your market and validate the opportunity with your customers.
  20. A good set of principles serves as the basis or foundation for inspiring product features.
  21. Everyone feels strongly about the product since—at some level—we all realize that companies need money to survive, money comes from customers, and customers come for the products.
  22. Constructive debate and argument is an essential ingredient to coming up with a great product.
  23. As product manager you can make a very significant impact on this process—minimizing churn and maximizing creativity and quality.
  24. Every member of the team should be able to see the goals and objectives you are using, their priority, and how you assess each option.
  25. You should be arguing about what’s most important to your target user: ease of use, speed, functionality, cost, security, privacy—this is the right argument.
  26. If you work at a company where you’re told you can’t talk to your users, my advice is to first try hard to change this policy. If that doesn’t work, dust off your resume and find a place where you can practice your craft and have a shot at creating successful products.
  27. Winning products come from the deep understanding of the user’s needs combined with an equally deep understanding of what’s just now possible.
  28. It is an extremely common mistake for a product to try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one.
  29. Testing your ideas with real users is probably the single most important activity in your job as product manager.
  30. One of the easiest ways I know of to innovate is to just watch (and listen) as actual users attempt to use your current product or a competitor’s product. Watch a few of these sessions and you’ll start to see patterns of frustration and expectation.
  31. Almost every consumer company out there today gives lip service to the user experience, but Apple means it. Usability, interaction design, visual design, industrial design, are all front and center in the company’s priorities—and it shows.

[BONUS] :A useful opportunity assessment for product managers.

  1. Exactly what problem will this solve? (value proposition)
  2. For whom do we solve that problem? (target market)
  3. How big is the opportunity? (market size)
  4. How will we measure success? (metrics/revenue strategy)
  5. What alternatives are out there now? (competitive landscape)
  6. Why are we best suited to pursue this? (our differentiator)
  7. Why now? (market window)
  8. How will we get this product to market? (go-to-market strategy)
  9. What factors are critical to success? (solution requirements)
  10. Given the above, what’s the recommendation? (go or no-go)