The definition of a product

New Thinking 19 March 2018 David Jeames

In my first article, I explained that a good product is a product that is Useful, Usable and Used. This gives four dimensions to focus on – Technical, Business, Customer Experience and Sales and Marketing.

The Technical dimension implies that a product is the result of some engineering. But are we all in the business of building products? What is the definition of a product? Do all products require product management?

The origin of product

Since the Homo Habilis period, we’ve built items from our environment to improve our lives. At the very beginning, these tools were primitive, based on stone and clay and originating from our ancestors’ environments. They then applied some effort, energy and knowledge to these raw materials to transform them into tools. These tools gave a technological advantage to Homo Habilis and became the first products in history.

Today's products

Fast track to today and our surrounding environment has increased in size and scope. In the Digital Age, the raw materials we’re using are the result of thousands of years of human ingenuity. We can access other's products and ideas, with our knowledge base exponentially increased. Our mastery of effort and energy is without comparison. All these lead to an increasing speed in innovation, resulting in new ways of working or modernised technologies.

A recurring pattern

If we apply energy and effort to today’s products, we transform them into products of the future. This recurring pattern provides a very broad definition of what a product is. It's the result of some knowledge and some energy applied to some things.

Therefore, based on this definition, a marketing campaign is a product... as well as the latest iPhone or even this article. In short, we should consider everything that is not extracted from nature as a product. Every human activity ends up creating a product that could be used by others to create another product. This infinite loop of collaboration and added value is called progress.

Does that mean you should have a Product Manager for each product? Probably not. But organisations consciously applying product management see a significant improvement in the outcome.

Is there something you build that you could apply product management principles to? If so, let me know what you would change.