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 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 and market-driven models, we’ve taken note of the key “ingredients” to a rapid, complete, and successful implementation.
We’re taking a bit of a risk sharing these with you, because our consulting work often involves parachuting in to fix implementation challenges. Nevertheless, we feel there are plenty of opportunities to help companies “get it right” the first time vs. endure the pain of frustration.
Key #1: Appreciate the difference between “framework” and “process.” Companies that adopt product management best practices without squashing speed and agility recognize that adapting a framework to their unique business is NOT an exercise of translating it into detailed processes. To the contrary, adapting a framework is more likely to entail picking and choosing facets of its structure so that the result is a lean set of guidelines that establish a common language, clarify handoffs, and define accountability and responsibility.
Key #2: Set clear objectives. Properly preparing for, implementing and “living” a product management framework is a major undertaking. As with any sizable initiative, it’s critical that you set clear objectives at the organization, team, and individual levels.
Key #3: Embrace systems thinking. Enterprise firms and high growth companies with multiple products (especially when accumulated through acquisition) must ingrain a solutions model that consistently delivers value to customers. Good companies replace silo-d thinking by adopting methods that reduce the time it takes to go from concept to cash. Best in class companies apply these principles based on customer/market-centric factors across the product portfolio. A relevant product management framework allows them to “rinse and repeat” as the business requires.
Key #4: Align with company objectives. An extension of key #3, a market-driven solutions approach is particularly hard to get in place if other functions or business units have goals and objectives that are not aligned with the framework implementation goals. Establishing shared goals and common incentives that integrate market-facing measures like speed to market, product adoption, and customer loyalty will encourage adoption of framework principles and ensure the overall business goals are achieved. For more on aligning metrics and measures, read How to Quantify the Return on Product Management.
Key #5: Understand product management at executive levels. When product responsibility falls under a C-level executive who has a thorough understanding of product management, its priorities will get sufficient “air time” and are more likely to get worked into cross-company initiatives. Companies that are not primarily product companies may need to educate some executives about product management and its role in the organization.
Key #6: Address cultural inertia. If the culture is not ready to embrace and drive change, then any attempts to change (product management or otherwise) will stall. In these cases, it is especially important to assign a high-level sponsor with the accountability and responsibility to communicate the value and benefits of the transition. The sponsor should have a mandate to sustain the new practices through continuous investment in learning labs and other activities to help product teams adapt.
Key #7: Ensure the right talent is in place. As much as it would be nice to easily populate your product management organization with marketers or engineers who have experienced success in those disciplines, the profession requires some unique knowledge and skills. It starts at the top (see #5) and may require that you assess your product team before embarking on your framework implementation.
Key #8: Carry out your implementation thoroughly. A framework like Pragmatic Marketing’s is vital, but its implementation will be unique in each circumstance. Your organization needs to hammer out who owns which pieces, the terminology that will be used, approval loops required, and more. For more information about what is required pre, during, and post product management training see “Our team has been through product management training… now what?”
Our insight into these 8 keys to a successful product management framework implementation is the result of conversations with clients and partners. A recurring theme from these conversations is that implementing a framework affects many parts of a company. Achieving a meaningful return on the effort requires planning and rigor. “When implementing a framework, an organization needs to thoroughly plan for it and diligently put it into operation. This affects many parts of the company. Without a comprehensive approach, it becomes difficult to deliver a coherent solution to the customer,” explained Hursh Juneja, an executive who has been driving change for better integrated solutions at Fortune 500 companies.
Whether you are part of an enterprise firm or a mid-market company. Address these 8 keys as you plan your implementation and it will go more smoothly and deliver a higher return on investment. Want to know how your existing product management team and practice measures up? Follow the link below to download the assessment and find out within minutes.