Product excellence is an approach to product management that emphasizes acquiring deep user insights and using them to fine-tune a product strategy — ultimately, this enables teams to get the products that users want to market fast.
The term is derived from the product management ethos of creating products that matter and will make a measurable, positive difference to a user’s personal or professional life.
Achieving product excellence, therefore, starts with knowing what the end-users of a product value most. That knowledge is used to anticipate future requirements and predict how a new product or feature will be used.
Basing product development on in-depth customer knowledge reduces the likelihood that product teams will allocate too many resources to features or products that only appeal to a small market or subset of users.
Product excellence can make companies more competitive by enabling faster, more targeted innovation that’s driven by real market needs, but it requires a clear product plan, vision and objectives to succeed.
Product excellence compels teams to sustain focus and prioritize against clear business (and user-centric) objectives.
Rather than completing one feature and jumping to the next, product managers can keep their teams focused on initiatives that unify everyone's efforts around measurable goals before moving on.
Goals could relate to driving growth, improving differentiation, achieving compliance or addressing the needs of defined user types or market segments.
With a product excellence mindset, everyone working on the product understands how their work contributes to high-level objectives, which can be an incredibly powerful means of motivating teams across business functions.
Working with a product excellence approach means creating systems that can funnel regular user and customer feedback to product managers.
Qualitative interviews or ethnographic research may be conducted to understand user preferences and set priorities. Insights captured by sales and support could also be gathered in a central data repository, analyzed, then shared across the team.
Having that depth of information available makes it easier to test ideas and prototypes. Actual user behavior can then be monitored after launch to inform future enhancements.
For product managers to be good at their jobs, they have to be able to articulate a product’s vision and objectives across a divided set of stakeholders. Product roadmaps are crucial to this, and play a central role in keeping everyone involved in a product’s development aligned, focused and informed.
The emphasis on user insights to drive product excellence also lends itself to better roadmaps. As dynamic visualizations that help communicate the goals teams are working towards, roadmaps are a crucial element in moving product development forward and keeping everyone focused on the highest-value tasks.
As a result of this, roadmaps are fluid and designed to be nimble enough to react and change course when new insights arise. Product excellence enables product managers to take full advantage of that flexibility and deliver a product that matches the most current user needs.
The volume of data available to product managers has grown exponentially, and too much data can bring new challenges, namely: are teams listening to the right things?
The amount of data produced by popular products (consider Netflix with its 128 million subscribers) is massive, but even smaller product teams can have a data-overload problem. In many cases, problems arise from having too much information without the expertise to analyze it effectively, and being unsure which data points are the most important.
Too much information can also weigh down product roadmaps with excessive detail while changing course too frequently in response to data risks derailing otherwise stable progress on important features.