"Mastering Product Development: Unveiling the Power of Amazon's 'Working Backwards' Approach and Engineering Considerations for Product Managers"

Aviral Vaid

Aviral Vaid

Jul 04, 20234 min read

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"Mastering Product Development: Unveiling the Power of Amazon's 'Working Backwards' Approach and Engineering Considerations for Product Managers"

Introduction:

In the fast-paced world of product development, companies are constantly seeking new strategies to stay ahead of the curve. Amazon, one of the most successful tech giants, has a secret weapon known as "Working Backwards" that has revolutionized the way they work. By starting with an internal press release announcing a finished product, Amazon's product managers have found a unique approach to ensure customer-centricity and innovation. In this article, we will explore the key principles of "Working Backwards" and its transformative effects on the product development process. Additionally, we will delve into the engineering considerations that product managers should watch out for, highlighting the importance of real-time requirements, data and model dependencies, and data collection methods.

The Power of "Working Backwards":

The "Working Backwards" approach at Amazon begins with a crucial task for product managers - writing an internal press release that captures the essence of a finished product. This press release focuses on the customer problem, the shortcomings of existing solutions, and how the new product will surpass them. By following a structured outline, product managers are able to clearly define the market, summarize the product's benefits, describe the problem it solves, and present an elegant solution. This process forces product managers to think critically about the viability and value proposition of their ideas, enabling them to prioritize and concentrate on exceptional concepts.

Avoiding Scope Creep:

In the realm of product management, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of "scope creep," where a project expands beyond its initial objectives. However, through the "Working Backwards" approach, Amazon tackles this issue head-on. By fleshing out ideas and subjecting them to intense scrutiny, product managers are able to determine whether an idea is truly worth pursuing. This clarity allows them to let go of mediocre ideas and focus on the ones with great potential. Ultimately, this prevents wasted time and resources on projects that may not align with the company's vision or customer needs.

Engineering Considerations for Product Managers:

While the "Working Backwards" approach primarily focuses on the customer and market aspects, product managers must also be mindful of the engineering considerations that underpin successful product development. Here are three key areas they should pay attention to:

1. Real-Time Requirements:

Understanding whether your algorithms can be pre-calculated or need to be calculated in real-time is crucial. Real-time requirements introduce complexities that must be addressed, such as ensuring timely updates and meeting acceptable service level agreements (SLAs). By considering these factors from the outset, product managers can design efficient systems that deliver optimal performance.

2. Data and Model Dependencies:

As data is added or modified, it is essential to identify the models that need to be re-run or re-trained. This ensures that the product remains up-to-date and accurate. Determining the speed at which updates should occur is also vital. By carefully managing data and model dependencies, product managers can maintain a seamless user experience and prevent potential issues arising from outdated information.

3. Data Collection Methods:

The method of data collection is a critical decision for product managers. They must consider whether data is collected in batches or streamed continuously, and whether it is pushed or pulled. Real-time requirements further complicate this decision-making process. By selecting the most appropriate data collection method, product managers can optimize their pipelines and choose the most suitable storage method for their needs.

Conclusion:

The "Working Backwards" approach pioneered by Amazon has proven to be a game-changer in the world of product development. By starting with an internal press release and focusing on customer-centricity, product managers can ensure that their ideas are truly innovative and valuable. Additionally, by considering engineering considerations such as real-time requirements, data and model dependencies, and data collection methods, product managers can create successful and efficient products. To excel in the ever-evolving landscape of product development, remember these three actionable pieces of advice:

1. Embrace the "Working Backwards" approach to prioritize exceptional ideas and let go of mediocre ones.

2. Always consider the engineering aspects of your product, including real-time requirements, data dependencies, and data collection methods.

3. Continuously iterate and refine your ideas to ensure their viability and alignment with customer needs.

By integrating these principles into your product development process, you can elevate your work to new heights and achieve remarkable success.

Resource:

  1. "Amazon Has a Secret Weapon Known as "Working Backwards"--and It Will Transform the Way You Work", https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/amazon-uses-a-secret-process-for-launching-new-ideas-and-it-can-transform-way-you-work.html (Glasp)
  2. "#6: Engineering Considerations That Product Managers Should Watch out For", https://medium.com/@yaelg/product-manager-guide-part-6-engineering-considerations-machine-learning-system-architecture-246b80a052ae (Glasp)

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