Introducing Product Management

I recently read an article focused on introducing Product Management into the firm and the advice was segmented by “Why”, “Prepare”, “Senior Sponsorship” and “Clarify your role & expectations” (article).  Where these are true on the surface but it is also assumes that Product Managers have rudimentary understanding and cognitive depth of a kiddie-pool.  It is similar to explaining purchasing a house is a three-step process of saving, identifying and purchasing.  The difficulties are beyond these obvious points.

A couple of years ago,  I was personally introducing Product Management into a Fortune 100 company.  Not the senior leader, but one of the “boots on the ground”.  To that end, I have developed and enhanced teams and processes, authored training and facilitated discussions all over the world.  In short, we are in ‘year two’ of a four-year journey.

Let’s not over-simplify the difficulty, politics, accountability and complexity in the introduction of Product Management within an IT organization.  The reality of introducing Product Management is like dating.  Thousands of books have great ideas, but only you know how to manage your organization.  Having said that, there are some basic deliverables and the value-proposition they serve.  These are in no particular order.

  • Imitate:  Refer to Disney, Apple, Microsoft, Ford, eBay, L.L. Bean, and on and on and on as those firms that have instituted Product Management with phenomenal success.
  • Start Small:  ID a small organization within the firm to demonstrate positive effects.
  • Determine Problem Statement:  i.e.  a>wildly variable forecasts, b>erratic costs, c>misleading or confusing communication, d>unable to retire technologies, e>unable to benchmark, etc…
  • Celebrate Success:  Although this is obvious, this is your key to marketing the expansion the Product Management construct.
  • Work with HR:  Work with HR to write the job description, roles, behaviors, skill sets, SMART (Specific, Manageable, Actionable, Realistic, Tangible) goals.
  • Lifecycle Management:  Establish a Product Lifecycle that ensures Introduction, Growth, Maturity and Decline activities.  Make sure that you have a “Tollgate” that ensures senior level contributions and feedback.
  • Pricing:  Establish common ways to price products that regardless of the Service/Product, the methodology remains the same.  For example:  Do you include support personal, project expenses, Occupancy costs, etc…?  Make sure that Product Managers have financial accountability for their portfolio.
  • Senior Governance:  Build a “Board” or “Forum” to update senior executives to demonstrate how they are in control and/or celebrate successes.
  • Train:  Train those that want to be Product Managers and those that works with Product Managers.

The role is one of a small business owner.  How many books tell you how to start and own your own business?  How many make it seem like it’s easy?  The point is this; you are small business owner in your own enterprise.  There is no cookie-cutter approach, no Rosetta Stone to translate the ambiguous to the linear.  My advice is to make the case by imitation and problem solving.  Talk to your peers and get the voice of what they define as success and chances are that Product Management will enable that goal.

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