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Keeping Your Product Management Job


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“Keeping Your Product Management Job: Understanding what your internal counterparts really want from you.”
Product management is a complex role which varies widely from company to company. It’s hard enough to figure out what your priorities and boundaries are. Even harder is to get recognition for your contributions from your peers/constituents in Engineering and Sales.

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Keeping Your Product Management Job

  1. 1. Keeping Your Product Management Job – or – Understanding what your internal counterparts really want from you Norcal PDMA, 21 Oct 09 Rich Mironov [email_address]
  2. 2. An Unapologetic Product Guy <ul><li>Entrepreneur and long-time product manager </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Business models, pricing, segmentation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CMO at Enthiosys and interim PM executive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Repeat offender at software prod mgmt </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ The Art of Product Management” </li></ul><ul><li>Founded P-Camp/Product Camp </li></ul><ul><li>Chair of Agile ‘09 PM/PO track </li></ul>
  3. 3. Agenda <ul><li>How do key constituents see product management? </li></ul><ul><li>What does a product manager do? </li></ul><ul><li>Highlighting strategic value for key constituents </li></ul>
  4. 4. I Contend that… <ul><li>Product managers tend to lose their jobs when </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They don’t understand or highlight their value </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Key stakeholders don’t understand their value </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Individual PMs lack organizational support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PMs focus on deliverables rather than substance </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Just for fun, let’s oversimplify.
  6. 6. Three Key Internal Constituents <ul><li>Engineering </li></ul><ul><li>Sales </li></ul><ul><li>Executives </li></ul>
  7. 7. Engineering <ul><li>Assumptions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Customers are rational and will agree that our product is the best </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Markets are identified, not designed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PMs must be as technical as we are </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engineering does most of the work </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hungry for… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interesting problems to solve </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Customer stories and use cases </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Sales <ul><li>Assumptions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Salesmanship wins deals, pricing and features lose deals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engineering could fix this in 3 weeks if they wanted to </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PM provides just-in-time info </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sales does most of the work </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hungry for… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stories about recent wins </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Competitive sound bytes </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Executives <ul><li>Assumptions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Strategy leads to execution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Our priorities are clear </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We get lots of customer input </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We need to do more with less </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leadership is the hard work </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hungry for </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Market scenarios with clear P&L </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Great execution </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. What Does Product Management Do? Mktg & Sales market information , priorities, requirements, roadmaps, MRDs, personas, user stories… software strategy, forecasts, commitments, roadmaps, competitive intelligence budgets, staff, targets Field input, Market feedback Segmentation, messages, benefits/features, pricing, qualification, demos… Markets & Customers Development Executives Product Management
  11. 11. More Than Simultaneous Translation <ul><li>Thoughtfully evaluating and organizing individual customer input </li></ul><ul><ul><li>… to share with engineers and executives </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Focusing the market’s attention on a few dramatic stories </li></ul><ul><ul><li>… when awash with features and benefits </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sensibly aligning product roadmaps with corporate strategy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>… knowing that some details will never fit </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. More Than Stacks of Documents <ul><li>Great product managers provide </li></ul><ul><li>Vision </li></ul><ul><li>Context </li></ul><ul><li>Consistent steering </li></ul><ul><li>Counter-arguments </li></ul><ul><li>Market realities </li></ul>
  13. 13. Product Management is a really hard job. Not for the faint of heart.
  14. 15. PM Form vs. PM Substance <ul><li>It’s hard for outsiders to judge quality </li></ul><ul><li>An MRD or product vision describes some future product </li></ul><ul><ul><li>An insightful MRD tells why some segment will pay a premium </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A roadmap shows some sequence of releases </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A strategic roadmap captures and explains hard choices </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A price list shows what your product will cost </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A clever pricing strategy makes economic sense for customers and accelerates the selling process </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A backlog is any list of tasks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A well-prioritized backlog delivers revenue sooner </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Competitive analysis lists what some competitors have </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Smart competitive analysis exposes competitor weaknesses </li></ul></ul>
  15. 16. Order Takers <ul><li>Are We Order Takers? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Product plans without a vision of evolving markets </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Requirements without segments, personas, problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Roadmaps without hard choices </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Positioning without competitive intelligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pricing without ROI, win/loss or market data </li></ul></ul><ul><li>PM work can crowd out thinking and research </li></ul><ul><li>It’s easier to be an order taker </li></ul><ul><li>Less perceptive consumers can’t tell the difference </li></ul>
  16. 17. How Do We Highlight Value? <ul><li>Relentless facts about segments and customers </li></ul><ul><li>Keep your roadmap handy </li></ul><ul><li>Schedule regular time to brief teams on “ what ” and “ why ” </li></ul><ul><li>Put dollars against projects/epics </li></ul><ul><li>Look for teachable moments </li></ul>
  17. 18. Helping Engineering See Value <ul><li>Bring information to the team </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Problems, scenarios, segments, sales results </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Requirements are not magic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Explain “how” and “why” and “who this is for” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Information + analysis + insight > opinion </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Good developers want to engage </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Can’t users just grep the logfile?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Why are these segments different? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I have another way to solve that problem!” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Big win: someone forwards your update to all-dev@ </li></ul>
  18. 19. Helping Sales See Value <ul><li>Ship products that work </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on a few good tools </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Qualification checklist </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Three representative case studies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Well-designed ROI calculator </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Answer your phone when you can </li></ul><ul><li>Always know what’s on the roadmap </li></ul><ul><li>Find, support, love and listen to your SEs </li></ul><ul><li>On the big deals, help without complaining </li></ul><ul><li>Big win: allowed to talk directly with prospects </li></ul>
  19. 20. Helping Executives See Value <ul><li>Offer market scenarios </li></ul><ul><li>Quote customers and competitors </li></ul><ul><li>Quantify recommendations </li></ul><ul><li>Always know what’s on the roadmap </li></ul><ul><ul><li>… that execs recently asked for </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t dive into the details </li></ul><ul><li>Big win: added to portfolio planning team </li></ul>
  20. 21. Don’t Be Put Into a Box <ul><li>There’s always a theory why </li></ul><ul><li>PM isn’t important… </li></ul><ul><li>Agile Product Owners (must be telepathic) </li></ul><ul><li>“ SaaS companies don’t need product management” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Successful PMs don’t need domain expertise” </li></ul><ul><li>“ We have a stage-gate process” </li></ul>
  21. 22. Not A Solo Effort <ul><li>If you are a VP or Director of Product Management, this needs to be on your agenda </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Create forums for sharing and learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reward substance over form </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Celebrate, and invite the neighbors </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It takes long-term effort investment to shape behavior </li></ul>
  22. 23. Take-Aways <ul><li>Product managers want to focus on their products, not their peers </li></ul><ul><li>Internal constituents don’t understand PM or know how to judge quality </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing what we know – and what we do – builds support for good products and good PMs </li></ul><ul><li>You job is worth keeping </li></ul>
  23. 24. Keeping Your Product Management Job – or – Understanding what your internal counterparts really want from you Norcal PDMA, 21 Oct 09 Rich Mironov [email_address]