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How would you describe the core difference in skills between platform and consumer PMs?
Question from Shubhi
How would you describe the core difference in skills between platform and consumer PMs?
Answered by Shivansh Chaudhary
Chief Product & Technology Officer @ Fabric | Previously Product Lead @ AWS and Amazon, Engineer @ National Instruments

The role of a platform PM has emerged from the rise in the importance of economies of scale, subscription based products and cloud based applications for both consumer and enterprise applications. While a consumer PM mainly focuses on a single consumer-facing product, a platform PM focuses on a wide array of products with shared components in it. A  platform PM also focuses on the infrastructure, tooling, technology and database that enables the development of the products. As a platform PM, one must focus on the following three areas -

1. User Research:

The user research methodologies for Platform PMs can be quite different from consumer PMs. Typically, the variance in demography is higher with the latter and the ease of access to the right customer is also more complex with the latter. For example, UX research methods like large-scale focus groups, user studies and A/B testing are far more effective for consumer products, whereas individual customer calls and 1:1 user research interviews turn out to be more effective for platform PMs. Additionally, sometimes with platform based products you can have much deeper access to user needs and requirements, especially when working with internal stakeholders (i.e. developers or internal teams).

2. Managing multiple stakeholders:

Typically, a platform PM is expected to engage and balance needs between multiple stakeholders, ranging from external customers to internal team and developers, and 3rd party system integrators. This requires the PM to create a clear framework of prioritization and clear communication of goals and priorities between all stakeholders. In addition to managing the needs of multiple stakeholders, a platform PM is also required to manage dependencies and blockages from multiple teams, to ensure the success and smooth execution of a platform. From my experience as platform PM, it really helps to hire a dedicated technical project manager to drive stakeholder management.

3. Long term product roadmap:

It is critical for platform PM to build a long term (multi-year) product roadmap with a clear framework for prioritization. Typically, platform-level investments like database architecture, backend infrastructure, cloud deployment strategy or API development are big bets and multi-year initiatives. For such initiatives, the ROI can be successfully measured only over longer periods of time because the economies of scale requires a minimum level of adoption to be satisfied. Additionally, the same metric evaluation strategy doesn’t scale over consumer and platform products. Typically, platform products are more focused on usage, performance and conversion metrics, such as, #API calls, latency, speed and recurring revenue. However, consumer products are focused more on engagement and conversion metrics such as active users, reach, session length, and churn. As a platform PM one has to apply a different lens to the problem of identifying the right set of metrics that indicate both customer satisfaction and scale of business.

In summary, to succeed as a platform PM, one must focus on:

1/ identifying the most relevant user research methodologies to understand the needs of their target personas

2/ creating effective processes for stakeholder management

3/ creating long term roadmap with a clear framework of prioritization.

About the author
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Shivansh Chaudhary
Chief Product & Technology Officer @ Fabric | Previously Product Lead @ AWS and Amazon, Engineer @ National Instruments

Shivansh is the Chief Product & Technology Officer at Fabric, a venture-backed startup at the intersection of augmented reality, sports and web3.


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