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Top Reasons to have superb Product Management

Sridhar Ramanathan

By sridhar ramanathan
Posted on October 2010 in Product Marketing

I had a very nice lunch conversation last week with Chris Kenton, CEO/founder of SocialRep, a social media technology company, and his CTO, Terry Blankers. He’s leading his startup through hyper growth as he adds to his stable of high quality clients like Toyota, Wachovia, and CreativeLabs. One of our topics of discussion was the importance of product management. I was very impressed that Chris and Terry were already thinking about product management so early in their company’s history.

Here are red flags that tell us when product/solution management is most needed.

  • Sales is selling “future”, features that development and marketing say is not yet committed
  • Product Marketing is frustrated that product roadmaps (prioritization) are non-existent, changing weekly, or simply not rigorously managed.
  • Development team is worried that they may not necessarily be working on the most valuable feature set or what customers will buy now.
  • Support manager is urging proactive development to drive down helpdesk calls due to bugs.
  • Customers are beginning to lose confidence that the development process will meet their long term needs
  • .

So Chris and Terry are wisely thinking ahead of these issues and planning for product management now. So what are some of the key accountabilities of product or solution management?

  • Own the “Plan of Record” which is a prioritized list of features for development over the next 2 -3years.
  • Establish and lead a cross functional team to ensure the whole product meets customers needs (e.g. marketing, support, development, operations, finance, and manufacturing).
  • Manage milestone completions; ensure, for example, that a product is ready for launch only after having met all the exit criteria spanning the cross functional team.
  • Provide visibility to executive management of all scope, schedule, and risks affecting the success of the product launch.
  • Own the creation and updating of the “Market Requirements Document” (MRD) and “Product Requirements Document”
  • (PRD); note often Product Marketing is the owner of the MRD and Product Management owns the PRD.

Expect to see tension between Product Management and virtually every function head such as Product Marketing, Development, Support, etc. The best product managers I have ever seen tend to think of themselves (and be seen as) the “general manager” of the product by being able to own all aspects of the product that affect its financial performance and success in the marketplace. Please share with us your own stories about how product management has made a huge difference in your firm.