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Chapter 1

Identify and Understand the Problem

Start Doing

So you’re a product owner.

Maybe you fell into a role that someone else at your company left, maybe you grew into this position of greater responsibility, maybe you even fit into one of the archetypes of a product owner shared in the introduction. 

It’s time to get past your self-discovery and move onto your first big test as a product owner: Identifying the problem you want to solve.  However, before you get there, let’s take a deeper look at the company where you’re working.

What Stage is Your Company In?

Are you pre-funding, seed stage, Series A/B, post-acquisition, public, or some financial position that even you don’t understand? 

It’s essential to know how much money your company has, where that money comes from, and who you’ll be pitching your ideas to.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Make a quick judgment call.

If one part of your company was going to win a prestigious award, which one would it be? 

 If you were going to completely divest another, who would you cut loose? 

 It’s a tough decision to make, but so is the world of the product owner and you will have to make decisions like this every day. Knowing your organization’s strengths and weaknesses will help you build a strong foundation with your product.

Evaluate Resources

Even the best Product Manager is lost without developers and designers.

It’s important to take inventory of what resources your company has a surplus of and what resources they have severe shortages of. 

 At this point, you shouldn’t be too concerned about the exact people you need for your team and their project (we’ll cover that in Chapter 4), you should be more focused on understanding areas with strong and weak talent pools in your company.

Failure Tolerance

This assessment is incredibly important and, unfortunately, very difficult to determine in a new role.  You can’t simply ask your boss or your investors this question and expect to get an honest answer.

However, you can study past projects that were perceived to be “fast” or “slow”, “successful” or “disastrous” and start putting together the pieces of the puzzle to measure your company’s overall risk tolerance. 

 Before you commit to build a new product or improve a current product, you should know your company’s failure threshold.

New or Existing Product Development?

The smaller your company, the higher likelihood that you’ll skew to “new product bias”. The more established your business is, the higher chance that you’ll be biased towards incremental features and improvements.

There’s nothing wrong with these biases; in fact, they’re established for very logical reasons. Smaller companies are still looking for their “big product”, their major traction, while bigger companies are often looking to maintain their competitive position and keep current customers happy.

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