An Initial Tour Around The Product World

January 7, 2022 by

The world of Product is enormous, diverse, and wide-ranging of philosophies, methodologies, best practices, processes and applications. No wonder the literature on the subject is vast ! 

Given that this is an initial tour, we will not concern ourselves with digging into literature or doing a lit review. Instead we’ll go looking for use cases intended to ease the understanding of the topic to newcomers.

One of the best product analytics illustrations I came across when researching this article, is the one presented by AstroLabs (could be found on their Youtube channel). I thought it might be practical to start the tour with it as it surrounds multiple facets of product analytics: definition, positioning, properties, illustrations, and potential added value to a business.

Perhaps we should take a detour and go look at definitions !

The definition offered by the PMBOK seems to be the most agreed upon generic definition (maybe because of its straightforwardness). It defines product analysis as the processes of asking questions about a product or service and forming answers to describe the use, characteristics, and other relevant aspects. 

It [PMBOK] subsequently cites some examples of product analysis techniques like :

  • Product breakdown
  • Requirements analysis
  • Systems analysis
  • Systems engineering
  • Value analysis and
  • Value engineering.

So now that we have a sense of what product analytics are, we may start asking why they are needed. 

Product management can find its origins in the 1930s when a marketing manager [Neil H. McElroy] at Procter and Gamble wrote a memo to argue for the creation of a new job post: the “brand man”. This so-called brand man’s mission was to manage specific products - which, in the context of how to conduct business at the time, was revolutionary !

McElroy’s motivation was to hire people whose job is to closely understand the clients in order to improve the company’s products.

Throughout the 30s, 40s and 50s companies like Hewlett-Packard and Toyota pioneered product management innovation by creating and developing philosophies such as “the brand management ethos” and the ”division structure” at HP and the “JIT manufacturing principles” and “Kanban” at Toyota. 

A new way of thinking - lean manufacturing, customer centricity, product management, brand management - was developed and was increasingly being adopted by multiple industries.

With the 80s-90s tech boom, improvements to this thinking sprouted: marketing 2.0, separating product management and marketing management, design thinking and of course the agile manifesto.

By the 2010s, product management was becoming mainstay and saw huge changes and implementations (examples include lean startup, lean enterprise, user experience research). Nonetheless, the core idea that didn’t change is that product design, development, and management should stay customer focused. 

Today, product management and product analytics continue to prove their competitive advantage and the discussions around them are still evolving along the ever-changing complexities within diverse industries and companies.


[1] An Introduction to Product Analytics by AstroLabs. A high level introduction to product analytics for mobile apps. Jul 26, 2020.

[2] A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide) (6th ed.). Project Management Institute 2017.

[3] The “51331 memo” and the origins of product management

[4] Agile Product Management. Atlassian

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