Every B2B product management & marketing team needs a balance of problem finders (people who uncover needs) and problem solvers (people who determine how to best meet those needs) to effectively steer the product portfolio and deliver higher value solutions. But what’s the right ratio for your organization?
Before diving into this issue, let’s cover some basic role definitions to frame the discussion.
- Business Problem Finder
The focus of a business problem finder is high and wide – focusing mostly on the top layers of the target customer organization. Business problem finders identify common business goals and strategic initiatives of organizations in your target markets; the obstacles that make those goals challenging; and initiatives those organizations are implementing to eliminate the obstacles.In customer organizations, these directives are typically set in motion by senior executives and senior managers (department heads) to ensure their business stays aligned to their markets. Contrary to what you might think, the less product knowledge problem finders have, the better, as it allows them to uncover pure business needs and opportunities without any product bias.
- User Problem Finder
The focus of a user problem finder is more narrow and deep than a business problem finder. User problem finders are generally experts at the job roles of people using their products – tasks, workflows, performance metrics, etc. Their focus is to identify inefficiencies and opportunities in those tasks and workflows that have the biggest impact on the customer’s higher level business goals (identified by the business problem finders).
The first order of business for problem solvers is to define the procedural solution to a business goal. For example, “In order to help service & repair companies grow their overall volume without hiring additional field technicians (the business goal), we need to help them do the following:
- Get notified when a potential customer is requesting service near the location of one of their field technicians.
- Allow the company to give that potential customer a quote for the work.
- If the customer accepts, dispatch the technician to the new customer before leaving the area.
- Collect payment at the jobsite when the job is complete.”
The second order of business for problem solvers is to map out the customer workflows to be supported; determine which products/services are relevant to creating the solution; and then determine the capabilities required across products/services to create and deliver the solution.
Determining Your Balance
The 80/20 rule is a good starting point in terms of headcount.
- Dedicate 10-20% of your headcount to uncovering higher-level business problems/needs and opportunities that are strategic to your target customers.
- Dedicate 80-90% of your headcount to defining solutions to the business needs, uncovering user problems and delivering the solutions.
The biggest gap in most B2B organizations is the lack of a dedicated business problem finder role. It’s not for a lack of skill or talent. It’s simply a lack of focus; not assigning dedicated headcount to take on the primary responsibility of uncovering those higher-level business needs and driving that knowledge through the organization to improve relevance on all fronts.
Business problem finders and problem solvers are equally important in shaping your portfolio strategy as well as the subsequent execution of product development, marketing and sales enablement activities. Long gone are the days of strategy roles that get paid big bucks to come up with grandiose ideas but have no accountability for the execution!
Here’s the unfortunate reality. The traditional product management and product marketing roles alone simply won’t cut it. Most B2B companies have been trying to make it work for years with limited success. And there’s a ton of frustration because executives can’t figure out why product managers can’t do it all.
You might have a Jack-of-all-trades team but the simple fact of the matter is that people who have day-to-day product responsibilities don’t have the time or the focus to uncover higher-level business needs at the level your organization consistently requires to stay on top of the market.
So, if traditional product managers and marketers aren’t an option to fulfill the business problem finder role, perhaps it’s time for a non-traditional product manager/marketer role. You’ll have the balance to uncover needs that are more strategic to your target customers (which are more strategic for your organization) and deliver higher value solutions, consistently.
If you want to know more about how your organization can implement this structure successfully, contact Profcientz. It rarely requires additional headcount!