The Detective Hat of a Product Manager and the Art of Deduction – Going Sherlock

product management

X: I’ve heard a lot about Product Management. What do you do as a Product Manager?

PM: Identify the problem and come up with solutions to tackle the problem.

X: Every PM I ask tells me that, they identify the problem but they do not tell me how to do it. So, how do you do it?

PM: I observe the data, try to link the data to the business value and then decide what needs to be done accordingly. Data plays a key role in identification of the problem.

X: Everyone in the organization has access to the same data. What do you do differently?

PM: Most of them look at the data, while I observe the data. It’s more important to observe the data and deduce the issues – That’s where you play a key role from everyone else around you.

X: So, Essentially – Be ‘Sherlock’

Product Management says, “Identify the problem”

It is almost always the first answer that a PM would give when asked what does he/ she do and it is a no brainer that data plays a key role. It is you as a PM who has to make  observations based on a particular data, figure out the impact and come up with a solution or a feature. The job doesn’t end with devising a solution, you have to go through a continuous improvement process to figure out the most optimum solution. Remember that no solution is perfect but it can be continuously improved based on the data that you collect.

product management and problem solving

Example of a specific use-case

Let’s take the example of an e-commerce company to demonstrate how this process works for a company that is in a phase to build a brand recognition and trust among its users.

The e-commerce company (Z) has multiple categories of products, has been in the industry for more than 5 years, has a strong network of merchants and efficient delivery system. The Customer Service team has taken care of multiple customer cases. Majority of them have been around the quality of the products, their specifications, and guarantees that the merchants provide.

Let’s say the data gives a number, which is 10,000 requests/day.

As a PM when you look at this number, these 10,000 calls/day put an enormous operational burden on the company. You deduce that the reason the customers are calling is to figure out these details because they are interested in the product and they would want to know if “Z” can be trusted before the customer places an order.  

Now the PM has to develop the features to reduce the number of calls without compromising on the trust factor. Let’s say the PM comes up with an idea of creating a platform for the customers to post questions and other customers, and other merchants and customers respond to the queries instead of the customers calling the customer care.

Next, product management suggests the PM to set the KPIs to be measured when this feature goes live in order to check if the feature has solved the problem. Let’s say the KPIs are:

  1. The no. of requests/ day
  2. The conversion rate of the users (Customer buying the product/ Customers coming to Z)

How does a Product Manager proceed?

The PM takes the feature live and checks the data. Let’s say the no. of requests have come down to 2,000/ day without affecting the conversion. Looks like the PM has achieved the goal but on further investigation, checking customer queries and responses, the PM notices that there are multiple spam messages where the merchants poach the users to directly contact them for deeper discounts. The PM might have reached the objective by introducing the feature but it has opened up a few unforeseen issues which directly impacts the business of “Z”. Now, the PM has to come up with a feature to curb the spam without impacting the trust in “Z” and the business.


No solution is perfect but as Product Managers we have to keep improving. We device a plan, execute it to measure the output, figure out the flaws and keep improving. Exciting and engaging, isn’t it? (If you find a more efficient solution, please feel free to share it with me in the comments section!)


sherlock is a detective for problem solving

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Read our blog on Supply Chain Product Management

Blog Cover Photo by João Silas on Unsplash