23 January 2013

Why

As a product manager, the most important question for me is 'why'. Who, what, when, and where are all important; however, why drives the most interesting conversations when understanding the problem I want to solve.

Often, customers will tell me 'what' they want instead of 'why' they want it. Salesforce.com has an entire site dedicated to providing that dialogue called Ideaexchange.

I love this site and spend a lot of time trading comments on various feature ideas.  It's really about the democratization of product where anyone can post ideas for new features. 

The best posts focus on the question of 'why' rather than just providing an idea of 'what' they want. My colleague and I were just talking about one post in particular, Convert Salesforce.com to Chatter Free, which did an incredible job of explaining the use case why they wanted to downgrade salesforce users to chatter free licenses.

A litmus test I use to figure out if someone is asking 'why' or 'what' is by asking, "if I could give you that feature tomorrow, how would you use it?"

The answer to that questions is always the basis of 'why' they want it and helps me work with my talented team of developers to determine what will actually solve their problem. An example of this is the Record Type Selection in Permission Sets idea with 88 comments to date, mostly consisting of an ongoing conversation to get to the heart of why they actually want it.

All ideas are incredible, but the reason why you want that idea will always be more helpful to create a solution that solves the original problem.

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