Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Adopting Product Mangement

I found this question on one of the Ask a Good Product Manager blog. If you are interested in Product Mangement this is a good one to keep up on.

I thought it would be a good fit here since the adoption can be a challenge. I am only posting the question and my response to it but the thread is definitely worth the read.

Question: How do I start a product management role within a company that has never had one?
I’ve been hired by a software company to be their first Product Manager. There is no product manager today, and each part of the job is done either by engineers, sales, marketing, QA, etc.

What would be the first steps to establish the product manager role within the company and bring value while learning products and context?

My Response:
There are many excellent suggestions. I think Derek and Nishant are particularly on target.

Since this is your company’s first effort at formal Product Management you might also choose to take a slightly different perspective for a while as you drive the cultural change that must come with Product Management.

Try this:
You, the product manager and the services you provide are the product.

Just like you would for any product find out what your customers need and move to fill that need. Act as the proxy for your customers. Derek lists a number of roles that will have expectations/assumptions of what you are or should be doing. I would meet with each and identify in explicit terms what those expectations and assumptions are. Uncover what it is that they think about your position. Your master discovery skills will come in handy.

Make sure you identify who in the company drove the PM decision and engage him or her as an ally. It is likely that this person is very senior and very capable of helping to drive the needed changes. They are likely to have substantial political capital invested as well and need you to succeed, leverage this.

Once you have done your market research you can pull it together, vet it against something like the Pragmatic Framework. Put together a vision and a specific task set that makes sense for the company, your stakeholders and to you as a Product Manager. Do make sure you lean heavily on the strategic end of the spectrum; the tactical will come to you.

Doing this leg work will give you tremendous credibility and you will have a level of buy-in that makes it easy for your co-workers to understand and accept.

Just like the products you manage be prepared to make changes to the Product Management Product as you learn and your company begins to adopt.

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