If you’ve ever wondered why some athletes are great with one team but not so great with another, the difference is usually in their supporting cast. The same philosophy applies to the product management function. Here are three steps to help you get more product management from your product managers. The Playbook:
When your product management function isn’t quite hitting the mark, it’s rarely a people issue. In most cases, it comes down to how the supporting cast is structured.
Here’s a typical scenario and an easy fix that doesn’t require additional headcount.
You have five product managers, each responsible for product planning, functional design, rollout, marketing and sales support. In most cases, each product manager is spending 80% of their time in the weeds doing functional specifications to keep product development moving and managing the crisis of the hour.
The result is no vision of where the market is going, too much focus on the next set of tactical features, and a poor or non-existent rollout effort that buries the product managers further in the weeds to support sales, marketing and client services. You can feel the wheels of progress slowing with each major release.
The 3-Step Fix
- Create a product line manager or portfolio manager position responsible for the direction of your portfolio. This will allow more focus on emerging market trends and product plans that balance existing customer needs with new and more strategic growth-minded solutions. Think of the product line/portfolio manager as the market expert responsible for determining “what” target customers are trying to accomplish (business goals) and “why” those goals are important to their success, and the market opportunity for each proposed solution.
- Complement the product line/portfolio manager with three business analysts/product owners who are the product and user process experts responsible for defining “how” product requirements should work to make users quantifiably better at their job. This role is vital to product usability and requires detailed knowledge of how users will interact with the products. It’s also vital to knowledge transfer and internal training of customer service and support personnel so they can be self-sufficient and focus on making customers successful.
- Complement the product line/portfolio manager and business analysts/product owners with a product marketing manager responsible for messaging business value to each market segment and making sure the sales force can talk the talk. The #1 priority of product marketing is to make sure the sales force is proficient at selling the strategic value of existing solutions to maximize short-term revenue.
If everything works according to plan you’ll have higher-value solutions, happier customers, marketing messages that speak to the agendas of buyers, and a sales and services team that can succeed with existing solutions.
More revenue, customer references and a fat sales pipeline make for a fun business.