In the course of talking with and about Braintree over the last couple of months, I've been hit with a lot of questions about what product management does.
First, I hate the title product manager, it changes from company to company and frankly, is meaningless unless it means the person who ultimately feels accountable for getting the best answer to market with the best chance of success. However, because I feel about titles the way Feynmen felt about birds, let's talk about what the product manager is.
So, what is a product manager?
Under my definition, the fundamental job of a product manager is to ensure that the lines of communication are open between the business that is providing a service and the customer of that service. It is through that communication that the product manager ensures the business solves the real needs of the customers. Even, especially, the ones that the customers didn't know that they had.
The reason I focus on the line of communication is because: a) the product managers are human, so even if you correctly identify the problem, doesn't mean that you will come up with the right answer the first time. The only proof that the answer works is that it is being used; and b) needs change over time, the only way to know that you are still providing value (as opposed to charging a fee) is if you are listening to your customers.
But isn't Braintree a platform and not a product?
Platforms exist to make it easier to solve a problem that's common to multiple businesses or products. The problem that merchants need solved is very complex. Our job is to make it easy. Our job is to make running a direct-sales online business as easy as running an advertising- supported one. Doing this well will unleash the next phase in the growth of the internet economy, by enabling the most creative minds on the planet to focus on growing their businesses, not on managing the complex regulatory environment involved with taking money.
Why is there so much activity in payments right now?
Because it's a problem worth solving. And with a problem as important and complex as exchanging money, there will always be different ways to solve. I joined Braintree because I believe that we have a great solution and a team that is focused on continually making it better. It's always worth looking to see how other people have solved the problem in order to make sure you're using all available information to come up with the best solution. But that can't distract you from the core job of product management.
If you want to truly delight your customer (and by doing so, keep them and win others), you have to focus on creating value for them. My job as a product manager is to make sure that Braintree is the best enabler of e-commerce for the most innovative companies on the planet. And the most innovative companies on the planet share a few things in common:
- They pivot. They continue to experiment, learn and focus on providing value. That means that their customers may take them in new directions. When they listen to their customers, they don't want to be held up by the limitations of their payments platform.
- They grow. They have customers from all over the world and they start to branch out to other countries. They achieve huge volumes. They start to become targets. The greatest advice that I ever got about entrepreneurship was that everyone is much better prepared for failure than for success. I want to make sure we're prepared for every one of our customers to become a breakout success.
- They become ubiquitous. They understand that the world is becoming defined by the screens that a person interacts with over the course of a day, but that the way we interact with those screens is very different. So, they provide the best experience for the context.
Braintree started because there was a need to enable developers to become merchants without having to divert their focus from their core ambition of delivering great products or services. Every new company that wants to engage in e-commerce and believes they will succeed should come to Braintree. It's really the only choice to grow with right now.