I am deeply passionate about the role of product management and the intrinsic value good product management teams can provide to a company. However, I also have to accept the truth that product mangers as a group are not the game changers, nor the market makers, they could be.
In this post, I’m going to complete the story, and talk about how the system of record can be used for the “Go-to-Market” part of the product management process.
Product Portfolio management is one of those important but not urgent activities that we never seem to have time to do. It is often thought of as an academic exercise; however, good product managers and product team leaders know it should be done, but struggle to organize the effort. If they take the initiative, the activity can unravel very quickly into an over heated debate about which products should be in what quadrant and why.
Product managers often rely too heavily on very narrow views of market input to decide what features are built into a new product or new release. While the usual stakeholders, including executive and existing customers, deserve to be heard, product managers often over correct their input results in product releases that only satisfy a very small group of potential buyers.
Meanwhile, competitors seem to fluidly introduce new products, releases and ideas that gain acceptance immediately with higher adoption targets. It’s not luck.
The competition isn’t inherently smarter and it’s not because its product teams are smaller (or larger). They simply throw away more ideas than they build.
You can do the same with market discovery, a technique that provides a bigger and better pipeline of market problems, new market opportunities and a method to validate them.
Maybe you have read my post from a few weeks ago on a system of record for product management, and agree that not only does product management need one but there are no tools that provide one. What should you do? Can you “cobble together” an interim system of record solution, and should you?
A central system of record for product management provides three main benefits:
- There’s a single source of truth instead of multiple copies of the truth, of which most do not agree
- The information is an enterprise asset by virtue of being centrally accessible
- It reduces duplication of work since people can now find desired information in the repository rather than searching for it, or worse, recreating it.
Let’s start with the first goal—everything in its place; no duplication. How might we do that for all the artifacts that product managers create, such as interview notes, feature specifications, release descriptions and value propositions? You’ll need a database that supports documents and attachments as this becomes the well-known location for everything that product management produces. It’s very much like a wiki.
What about the other big piece of the system of record—the relationships between these items? For example, which customer needs drove which features. Luckily, a wiki can support this too, via linking.
Software companies of all sizes are relying on acquisitions to fuel growth as opposed to relying on organic growth. Consequently, product managers and product team leaders are being tasked with the role of product portfolio integrator. These teams must be mindful—even vigilant—about their existing product portfolio gaps since acquired products or companies rarely fit perfectly into the existing portfolio.
As these companies continue to rely on acquisitions to address increased growth demand and product gaps, product managers and team leaders must move the portfolio management and integration activities from an afterthought to on-going product management hygiene.
These days when I talk to product managers and product team leaders about their product strategy, a growing number of them understand that the principle engine for their sustained product growth and the most expedient way they will close gaps in the portfolio comes through an acquisition.
There is no denying that Apple equals innovation. For better or worse regarding product management, Apple is hugely successful in tapping into existing markets, creating new ones and introducing products we didn't even know we wanted, let alone needed. Try and tell me you don’t know someone with an Apple product.
Much of product management centers around talking to your customers and asking about their problems to hopefully provide solutions. All of these tasks are extremely valid and important, but have you ever stopped and took the time to listen internally and spend time with other departments, including sales?
A few months ago I wrote in an essay that business processes arrive in the modern age only when they have a system of record. This first started with accounting (centuries ago), which led (much more) recently to the back office and manufacturing with MRP, and then eventually ERP. The same occurred again with sales, beginning with contact managers before moving to sales force automation, and finally customer relationship management (CRM).