- IN THIS CHAPTER
- Grasping the vital part the product manager plays in product success
- Previewing typical product management responsibilities
As a product manager , you have one of the most rewarding, challenging, interesting,
difficult, and important jobs in the business industry . You get to step up and be a product leader for everyone on your team and throughout your company while learning how to influence and lead usually without any formal authority or people reporting to you directly .You get to be responsible for every aspect of the product offering and for the overall success and failure of your product. This position provides one of the best training grounds for moving onward and upward into roles like vice president, general manager , and CEO.And if you’re lucky and choose carefully , you get to work with some pretty talented engineering and development teams to create products that delight your customers, make a huge difference in your customers’ lives, and help achieve profits and strategic objectives that propel your company to success.
Understanding the Need for Product
- Delivering products that better meet customer needs
- Increasing revenues and profitability
- Creating delighted customers who generate positive word-of -mouth referrals
- Capturing and owning markets long-term as a result of solid product strategy which drives overall company efforts
These are just a few of the benefits. No other group in the company understands all
aspects of the business the way that product managers do, and thus they become the
central point of responsibility for product success or failure.
YOU’RE IN GOOD COMPANY
Many CEOs started in product management as their training ground. Some notable examples include Marissa Mayer (who started at Google, moved into product management, and became CEO of Yahoo!),Steve Ballmer (who started as a product manager at Proctor & Gamble and became CEO of Microsoft),
and Scott Cook (who started as a product and brand manager at Proctor & Gamble and later founded Intuit, the maker of Quicken, Mint, QuickBooks, and Turbo T ax). In fact, the last seven CEOs at Proctor & Gamble started as product managers or brand managers, as they are known in the packaged goods industry .
Recognizing the Critical Role of
Companies with great product management have a much higher degree of success. But
what is product management? The following sections shed some light on what a product
manager actually does.
Defining product management
You can think of product management as the function in a company that is ultimately
responsible for making sure that every product the company offers to the market is as
successful as possible both short-term tactically and long-term strategically . In other
words, the buck stops here. Y ou, as a product manager , must own everything about
product success. Product managers rarely , if ever , have any formal authority or people
reporting to them, so they must lead and influence in subtle yet effective ways.
Serving as a strategic driver for business
In a company each functional group has expertise and strives to be the best it can possibly be at what it’s responsible for . Engineers, also known as developers, build great solutions for customers. Marketing maximizes awareness and interest in products and services. The marketing folks ensure that the market knows the product differentiation and is enticed to consider purchasing. Sales is responsible for closing the sale with customers that are already enticed. Operations makes sure that the solution is delivered efficiently and at a low cost and that the company is operating as cost effectively as possible. Technical and customer support ensure the customer’s problems, if any , are resolved.
The role of product management
So how does product management fit in? One way to think about it is that product
management is in the center of all company departments, as shown in Figure 1-1 , as well as external entities such as customers, press, analysts, and partners. Although each of the other groups understands its role in making the company successful, product management is the only group that has a holistic point of view and understands how all the pieces fit together .
Without great product management, no one can take responsibility for all aspects of
customer success. After all, someone has to make sure that the short-term tactical work
gets done to make the product successful. Someone also has to set out and drive the
product strategy so that success is ensured longer-term. This is the role of product
management (see Chapter 2 for more on what the product manager role covers).
Owning the whole product
When customers think about your product, they have a mental pro and con list that
includes items that have nothing to do with product and feature benefits. Does it meet
industry standards? Who will install it? Do I trust them? Who do I call if I have a problem
with it after I buy it? Will they pick up the phone? Can I purchase it in a way that is
convenient and familiar to me? Can I finance it? If the product lasts many years, who is
going to support it for all that time? These additional aspects of your product are called the augmented product . You can see how the core product, actual product and augmented product are related to each other in Figure 1-2 .
The augmented product is the additional parts of your overall solution that support the
customer’s experience with your product, such as warranty , support, purchase process,
and many other factors beyond just the product and its features. A product promise is the implied guarantee of what kind of experience you’re offering to customers through your marketing, sales, brand, and other activities. This concept is covered further in Chapter 10.
If you’ve ever purchased a product that seemed to have great features and
everything else you needed, yet you were disappointed with support or some other
aspect of the experience, then you’ve experienced a broken product promise.
To further grasp the concept of product promise, check out this example: Say your product is a car and your company doesn’t have adequate infrastructure in place to ensure that customers can have it repaired locally . The market may love your car , but few potential customers may buy; they’re too worried that if the car breaks they’ll have to go hundreds of miles away to get it repaired. Do you as a product manager have full control over the company’s strategy and execution for making sure local repair centers are readily available? No. But you do have the ability to influence the people in your company who are responsible for this strategy and to hold them accountable for delivering this part of the solution. Y ou also have the ability to tell the company not to proceed with making the car available if any part of the whole product offering will stop it from succeeding. Head for Chapter 18 to learn more about influencing without authority .
Keeping the product promise
As a product manager , you need to be aware of your product promise and how the
augmented product delivers in a way that customers expect. Y our responsibility is to try to do whatever you can to influence the other parts of the company to resolve any
disconnects between customer experience and the product promise. Table 1-1 can help you to clarify how your product delivers (or doesn’t) what is promised.
TABLE 1-1 Delivering on Product Promise
What are the product’s core benefits?
What are key features that support the benefits?
What does my brand represent to my customer?
Outside of the intrinsic properties of my product, what else is involved in a customer’s decision to Choose my product?
How do these augmented product elements add to or detract from my product?
How can I influence this augmented product offering to better fit my product?
Product Management in a Nutshell:
Checking Out Y our Day-to-Day Life
A product manager’s job is varied and interesting; just look at Figure 1-1 ! In fact, there’s
much too much of it to do. The question really becomes, “What is important to do right
now?” The following sections offer a glimpse into the daily duties of a product manager.
Managing a product during every phase of its life
In Chapter 3 , we discuss the Optimal Product Process, which is a seven-phase model that describes everything that happens in product management, from coming up with a great idea to officially retiring the product. As your product goes through its life cycle, you can expect to do the following as a product manager:
- Generate and prioritize great new ideas for products or features by collaborating with a team, researching the customer , and analyzing the market (Chapters 4 , 5 , 6 , and 7 ).
- After an idea is chosen, perform in-depth planning around concepts such as the market strategy (see Chapter 10 ), customer needs (Chapters 5 and 11 ), business case (Chapter9 ), and other areas to ensure the plans are well thought out and support the strategic and financial goals of the company .
- Communicate market needs to the engineering team and ensure that the product it’s producing delivers in a way that solves the problems of your customers (Chapter 11 ).
- Negotiate with engineering to ensure that changes made to the plans keep the product on track (Chapters 12 and 18 ).
- Work with external customers to validate whether the product is ready to officially launch in the marketplace (see Chapter 13 ).
- Plan and execute highly effective product launches that ensure the company can meet the revenue, profitability , and strategic objectives of the company (Chapter 14 ).
- Maximize revenues and profitability after the product is available (Chapter 15 ).
- Determine whether and when to retire or replace the product and plan and execute a successful end-of -life campaign (Chapter 16 ).
Don’t worry; you’ll have plenty to do.
Reaching in to your bag of tricks
As you perform all your daily tasks, you need to draw upon a range of skills. Y ou have to
get executives and other key team members to buy in and support your plans. Y ou’ve got to learn to say no to feature and schedule requests that don’t support your strategy and plans. Y ou need to become perceived as the de facto leader of the team — the expert on the market and the voice of the customer . And you need to execute all of that with passion,persistence, and a drive to do everything possible to make sure your product succeeds.
Product managers succeed because they have skills in the following areas:
- Communication: Product managers communicate when times are good and handle thetough situations as they come up.
- Influence: Product managers use their communications skills and more to influence and negotiate with the many stakeholders they meet in their work.
- Analysis: Product managers request, create, and absorb quantitative and qualitative data and communicate what it means effectively .
- Empathy: Product managers have great empathy for their customers and all their stakeholders. They are interested in what makes people tick and how they can help others succeed.
- Forward driving and thinking: Product managers can see into an ideal future and create almost tangible visions of what the world should look like once the rest of the world catches up to them. They want to bring others along with them in this amazing journey as they create valuable products and experiences.
NEVER STOP LEARNING
Although this book offers a boatload of information, you may want to consider some outside sources to further your skills and knowledge about product management. Consider attending an in-depth course that covers the entire product life cycle and allows you to practice what you’ve learned. Check out 280group.com for a schedule of our classes, such as Optimal Product Management and Product Marketing. If available, join your local product management association; you can find a nearby one
online. Join the online Association of International Product Marketing and Management ( http://www.aipmm.com), and attend and volunteer in a local product management meetup. Work to build your product management network.