Your research has uncovered a market problem that your company may be able to solve. Congratulations! It’s worth celebrating, but keep in mind that your work is about 30% done. Just like you wouldn’t run off and marry someone you just met, your decision to move ahead with committing company resources to this particular problem must be based on more than just recognizing its existence. You must see if there is a fit – a true opportunity for your company to make money – validation that this market problem is a keeper.
Every product and service we have today was once an idea. Even the most basic creations did not exist before someone came up with an impression for a better outcome that would be useful in some way.
When you stop and think about it, the number of incredible products and services available today is truly amazing. In many cases, these great products have developed into product lines, companies and even industries. And it all started with an idea.
We all know that finding and validating market problems are the most important activities for a product manager.
Yet, many Product Managers struggle to consistently engage in this best practice. The reasons for this challenge may vary, however what we hear most often is that Product Managers collect ample data from customers and potentials but find it difficult to aggregate into meaningful information.
Organizations eager to do a better job building and launching products that win in the market are smart to look to product management frameworks. Who wants to waste time reinventing the wheel when market opportunities require speed and stakeholders are obsessed with agility? The tested, refined, and re-refined product management best practices from the industry’s thought leaders have done all the hard work, so why not just “paste and go?”
Not so fast! As we outlined in our previous post, training your product teams is an important step, but just that – a step – in transforming your group into a well-oiled product management machine. To truly leverage the product management framework, an organization needs to understand its objectives, identify strengths and weaknesses, and tailor the implementation.
In our years of helping companies adopt the most valuable elements of industry standard frameworks based on agile, lean product management and market-driven models, we’ve taken note of the key “ingredients” to a rapid, complete, and successful implementation.
Getting a product management team up to speed is a big commitment and investment. Training is an essential part of their journey to high-performance, but multiple studies show us that overall retention of training material is very low – about 10%, according to most experts. Furthermore, if team members don’t get to put that new information into practice, they will struggle to retain even that small fraction.
This isn’t the fault of the product managers or product team leaders. The many high quality training courses available for product teams simply aren’t sufficient. Such training programs are the foundation of what is required to transform your group into a high-performing product management organization.
Perhaps your VP of Products has decided to join a hot startup or you just realized that it’s time for your product management group to have its own seat at the leadership table. Regardless of the circumstance, you find yourself in need of a product management leader.
You can picture who you want to step into this role:
- someone in sync with the company vision and goals
- an effective leader who will focus the product management team
- someone who can earn the respect of development
- a professional who really gets product management
- they know it is also a market facing role and won’t let the team get bogged down in countless meetings
So how do you get from here to there?
Should you hire or “grow” your next product management leader?
As we discussed in our recent post How to Quantify the Return on Product Management, it’s essential for product management teams to focus on market-sensing activities. How do customers and prospects view your solutions relative to the competition? What are the most important factors in their decision? Who is involved?
A golden opportunity to gain insight is right after a customer or prospect chooses to buy or not buy. But it’s not as simple as just asking a new customer why your company won, or asking the sales rep why you lost. To pan the gold out of the wins and losses happening every day, you’ll need a carefully planned and executed win-loss analysis program.
Maximizing the Benefits of Your Win/Loss Analysis Program
Your program should consist of 4 main steps – prepare, survey, interview, and analyze. Because your sales team won’t be excited about this (you know it’s true) and not every customer/prospect will take part, your approach needs to maximize participation and extract the most value from each interview. Here is how to do that.
Do you ever feel like you have a target on your back? If you’re a product executive, especially with product management responsibility, you’ve felt the pressure to justify the existence of you and your team at some point. Sure, you can talk to the executive team about efforts underway to define the MVP, groom the product backlog and prioritize features for the next release. But they want something more concrete from you – a clear connection between the investment in your team and the top line or the bottom line results.
It may be tempting to jump to your product or product line profit and loss to justify staffing compensation, return on investment, contribution margin and productivity… However, this can be a big mistake if you haven’t laid the proper foundation and set expectations with your co-leaders and your team.
The software market is constantly evolving. Want proof? In the span of a single week technology website Network World reviews an average of more than 20 software and hardware products. For executives at software development companies, the challenge is one of balance — too many products and you get lost in the noise; too few, and you're not taking best advantage of your market niche. Here's a top-level guide to help ensure your product portfolio is in good health.
Product managers always feel the pressure to grow their business through innovation. When they can successfully create competitive differentiation, fill a gap in product technology or offer a more complete solution, they can drive business growth and gain market share.
While innovation is key to business growth, so is time-to-market. That's why smart product managers consider all their options for their innovation strategy. Should they develop the solution in-house? Buy it? or would it be best to partner with another company?
Choosing the right product management strategy is difficult. Making the decision to build, buy or partner will test every strand of your company’s fabric. Each avenue has ample benefits and risks, so the decision must take into account all aspects of your company and its strengths and weaknesses.
The decision requires a thorough understanding of your market, your competition, your current customers and, most importantly, those who have not chosen to be your customer.