A perennial problem for Product Management (PM) is finding the right organizational home. In companies large enough to have a PM department, it has a tendency to oscillate between Marketing and Engineering. Two root causes for this are role confusion and organizational distance. Let’s walk through each in turn, while trying to map a PM’s place in the grand scheme.
The ‘poop’ on product management: being a product champion is a lot like being a parent. We love our products, make multi-year commitments to their development, hide their shortcomings, and look out for their best long-term interests while other organizations live in the moment.
Every tech start-up struggles to create a roadmap: that short set of PowerPoint slides which defines the next six quarters of updates, minor releases and important advances. Since product managers strive for clarity, having a product roadmap is a critical communications tool. However…
Established companies in established markets generally have some standard ways to package and price their new offerings. Product extensions are benchmarked against the existing product line or the other guy’s features and prices. This leaves product managers focusing on “faster, cheaper, better, more.” In a brand-new market, though, there are fewer guideposts. Close competitors may not exist. Even before final products are ready, you need to define initial packaging and pricing for your fledgling sales force and prospects. Otherwise, the sales team will invent it haphazardly, one visit at a time. Here’s a starter approach that I’ve called “Goldilocks” packaging.
How can we get inside our prospects’ heads early in the product cycle so that our “next new thing” meets their needs and desires? Or… paraphrasing Freud’s famous question about women, “What do customers want?”