Peter Yang, currently Product Lead at Roblox who also runs a popular newsletter covering product management topics, recently had an interesting LinkedIn post on product quality that caught my eye.

After watching the video with Steve Jobs and reading Peter’s blog post, I realized that there are many aspects that I totally agree with as I had unknowingly used similar analogies when creating EHANDBOOK with my team at ETAS.

What is Product Quality?

Peter Yang on product quality

Peter Yang on product quality

Creating products that users love is not only hard and a ton of work, but also reflects the quality of a product.

On focus when creating EHANDBOOK

With EHANDBOOK, our mission was to make ECU software understandable, and the value prosition for its users was to “1. find information quickly 2. understand complex dependencies easily and 3. get calibration-specific tasks done more efficiently”.

On delight

When creating EHANDBOOK, it was very much clear that we have to win the hearts of its users in order to succeed with selling a product that competes with a free-of-cost alternative1. This is especially true as we are operating in the automotive B2B market which is typically very cost sensitive. Also, there are many tools with bad and inconsistent user experience.

On being emotional

Most automotive B2B products are boring and strongly focus on the functional jobs-to-be-done.

  • Provide an interface to make a configuration
  • Generate code
  • etc.

But also B2B products can be joyful.

  • Interactive models in EHANDBOOK are actually fun to work with. Much like Google maps, they even invite users to wander around in ECU software specification.
  • Informing users about new features can be joyful by embedding What’s New videos directly into the new release.

Making quality a priority as product manager

I have experienced first hand that product managers can make quality a priority.

“Feel the user’s pain”

Innovating or even “only” developing on behalf of the customer is difficult when you do not come from the target user group yourself. A way to continuously feel the users’ pain for us was to work with real world data and constantly seek qualitative feedback through customer interaction.

  • How are they using the feature?
  • Is the product we are shipping really helping them?
  • Where are blind spots that we missed?

Engineers in our team regularly questioned the workflows and if features are good enough to be shipped. A colleague of mine called this “polishing the hood”, meaning getting rid of scratches on the surface that cause friction in user workflows and ultimately their experience with the product.

“We will go the extra mile to ship a delightful experience.”

When defining the problem scope of a product, there can be areas where engineers tend to say that it is “not our job” to solve problem X or Y as this is part of another component or even product in the value stream.

However, it sometimes is necessary to go the extra mile and even do unpleasant work to ship a truely delightful experience. Sharing such feedback with the team is the job of a good product manager.

“Life is too short to ship subpar products”

I have seen too many products fail, mostly by not gaining sufficient traction in time. While the ideas where large and bold, “shaping product” takes lot’s of hard work and iterations.

Quality in the eye of users is also how well a product or solution solves their problems and how frictionless they can do their jobs.

  1. PDF-based ECU software documentation was and still is widely spread. PDF readers such as Adobe Acrobat Reader are free of cost, and ECU software documentation in PDF format is often shipped free of cost as well.