Feature Requests versus Fulfilling Needs

Today I came across a great posting (via User>Driven) from the Senior Product Manager of Adobe Photoshop who was asked to resopond to a request from Photoshop users for their list of feature enhancements.

The key message here is that as Product Managers we should be looking beyond what features customers are requesting and try to understand why they are requesting them. What are they trying to achieve that the current generation of your product cannot deliver? Here is an example from the post:

Let me give you an example from Photoshop’s history. It’s hard to imagine now, but for many years Photoshop supported only a single level of undo. Customers rightly clamoured for multiple undos. They didn’t ask, however, for the History palette, much less the History Brush, snapshots, and related other features. It’s possible that the PS team (of which I wasn’t a part until later) could have delivered a simple, straightforward multiple undo system sooner than they did. By looking beyond the immediate requests however-by really thinking about what we needed, not just requested-they were able to deliver real breakthroughs that remain unmatched more than 10 years later. —Photoshop Senior Product Manager, John Nack

John provides a number of other examples and anecdotes as well.

As a Product Manager it can be difficult to rise above the torrent of feature requests and firefighting that we are often expected to manage and improve our product. However, you will always save time in the long term by investing in properly understanding how your product can better fulfill unmet needs.