Monday, February 02, 2009

Practical Product Management

Product Management is an interesting field. It is a profession that people generally end up in by accident and then figure it out on the job (or not...). I don't know many children who say: "I want to be a product manager when I grow up."

I definitely belong to the category of accidental product managers. I was introduced to product management almost five years ago when I went to our then SVP of Engineering to ask for a software engineering job. He talked to me for a little while and then said: "What I really need right now is a product analyst. You seem to have people skills. I think you would be great at it!" I didn't know at all what a product analyst was or did, but I decided to go for it. I learned a lot along the way (and even taught some people about product management along the way), but I also felt that there was still more to learn (isn't there always?).

In order to make sure that I immersed myself into the most current thought-leadership as it relates to product management (and didn't miss anything), I decided to attend a Pragmatic Marketing(R) seminar called "Practical Product Management." I was lucky enough to have as my instructor Steve Johnson, a "recognized thought-leader on the strategic role of product management." He was extremely funny in a very sarcastic way and definitely understood the plights of your average product manager.

Steve introduced the group to the "Pragmatic Marketing Framework" which systematically walks through 37 aspects of product management from the strategic, to the "geeky," to the "fluffy." I won't get into the details here, because if you're interested, you should attend the seminar. However, I will give you the highlights of my experience:
  • Determine and focus on distinctive competence.
  • Make sure to ask the question: "Who are we not?"
  • Product managers should be experts on the market, not the product.
  • You have to understand the "day in the life" of your customers and potential buyers/users.
  • Nothing Interesting Happens In The Office (NIHITO).

As a fanatic of productivity tips and practice, I also appreciated that Steve provided some techniques around email management and my favorite tip: "Thursday is National Product Management Productivity Day." For me it's Tuesday, but the important point is that product managers need time away from the office to get their product management work done every week. More than any role, we get pulled in a million directions every minute of the day and need the block of focused time to work on white papers, market research, or any number of other activities which require space and time for thought.

I highly recommend this seminar to anyone who is in product management or product marketing. There are other seminars available on the Pragmatic Marketing website as well.

"Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant..."
Pragmatic Marketing

3 comments:

Steve said...

I'm so delighted that you enjoyed the class. As you indicated, I find that product managers need to know more about the market problems and less about the product. They still need to know the product, of course, but the market knowledge is what it takes to know which features to omit or include and how to communicate the product to the market.

Thanks for your kind remarks.

Steve

Tabita said...

It's exciting to think about how much money we might save at a global scale if all companies applied the strategic product management principles at the core of their business. No more months/years of wasted development hours and marketing campaigns to try to sell something that does not solve a problem in the market. It's staggering!

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