Thursday, August 27, 2009

Prodject part three - Managing product management

As I was getting ready to listen to Donald McNaughton's webinar, I happened to see this Val Workman tweet:

Posted comment on @ms5 blog post about Integrated Product Management, Today's #PMV webinar also addresses #prodmgmt

The link redirects to a post by Michael Shrivathsan entitled Product Management vs. Product Marketing - 2 Departments or 1? Two of Shrivathsan's four recommendations are as follows:

1. Have one department play both “Product Management” and “Product Marketing” roles. You can call the department either name - the specific choice doesn’t matter much.

2. We should stop believing the incorrect notion that one person cannot play both roles. In their popular book Built to Last Collins & Porras say the following: The “Tyranny of the OR” pushes people to believe that things must be either A or B, but not both. I believe the vast majority of our industry suffers from this flawed notion that one person cannot play both roles. Instead, we must embrace what Collins & Porras call “The Genius of the AND”.

When I'm not taking pictures of trash cans, or whatever it is that I do in the Empoprises blogs, I work as a product manager. I have worked in relatively small organizations (which were part of big organizations, but my groups themselves have been relatively small), and have been exposed to both the unified organization (in which product management and product marketing report to one person) and the separated organization (in which different department heads lead product management and product marketing). Specifically, I've been in two separated organizations. However, I can't tell you whether separated organizations work or don't work, because in both cases, there were external factors that affected departmental performance:

  1. In the first case, we had one person heading product management and another person heading product marketing. The two groups worked well together, from my recollection. Then the product marketing director suddenly quit, and the product management director ended up heading both groups.

  2. Subsequently, product management and product marketing were separated again, and the product marketing't exactly inspire the direct reports. Two of them found new opportunities, one of them quit, one of them was fired (wrongfully), and one of them was transferred to the product management organization. That product marketing director eventually left the company, but I never did officially hear the exact means of departure.
Under these turbulent circumstances, I can't say whether separating product marketing from product management really hurt us. I worked well with the senior product marketing expert...who eventually was drafted into a product management position for a critical new product.

But even when product management and product marketing were segregated, we still have to divvy up some of the product management work. I don't want to go into great detail on this, but one of our products has a number of components, so we have often thought it best to have one product manager look at the server side of the product (use of Oracle database, use of Linux, etc.) while another product manager concentrated on the workstation side (use of Windows, the entire user experience, etc.).

So if you don't perform a product management vs. product marketing split, you may have to do a product management vs. product management split. I noted that there may be issues with this. Let me illustrate one of those issues, while noting that the example described below did NOT happen. As far as I know.

WidgetCorp produced a product called the OmniWidget. Because WidgetCorp strongly believed that one person should perform both product management and product marketing, the tasks were not segregated. However, because OmniWidget was, two product managers/marketers were needed to do the job.

Robert was assigned to product manage/market the user experience. Because of the people that Robert talked to, he decided that his purpose in life was to make sure that everything was shiny, new, and information-rich. (Not data-rich; information-rich. There's a difference.)

Alex, on the other hand, was assigned to product manage/market the background functions that would make everything work. Because of the people that Alex talked to, he decided that his purpose in life was to provide superior hardware and software that would provide a stable, predictable experience.

Then WidgetCorp received a bid from a company that needed an internal information system.

Alex immediately went to work, reading the bid documents, questioning the stakeholders on present workload needs, looking at their estimates of future needs, and designing a server subsystem with the required reliability, using well-designed hardware and software components.

Robert also went to work, reading the bid documents, questioning the stakeholders on underlying needs, and also researching some of the offerings that were on the horizon, about to be released.

Robert had a lot of friends, and one of them told him about some 3-D goggles with voice recognition and community interaction. Robert immediately determined that this product would provide the customer with an excellent solution.

As the time came up put the bid response together, Robert ran into the war room, waving the v0.9 specs for Goggle, and proclaiming, "We've got it!"

Alex ignored him and continued his presentation: "During the timeframe of the bid, it may be too risky to introduce Oracle Database 11gR2, so my preliminary recommendation is to stick with Oracle Database 11gR1. If 11gR2 is released and appears stable, we can consider a database change during the stage 7 review."

"Who needs Oracle?" asked Robert. "Goggle has its own built-in database!"

"But can it support 200 inquiries per hour from 8 am to 5 pm, with a possible peak hour workload of 300 inquiries per hour?" asked Alex.

"Hey, once people try Goggle out, they'll be launching 1,000 inquiries per hour at midnight!"

"But how will they launch inquiries at midnight when they're outside the firewall?"

"Goggle has its own built-in VPN tunnel!"

In essence, there's no one way to divide up the work that's better than any other way. Dividing between product management and product marketing requires coordination. Dividing by any other method also requires coordination. And if you have a huge product line, it may not be possible to have all the parties report to a single manager.

The important thing is that IF product management and product marketing are in separate organizations, steps have to be taken to make sure that they work together. Then again, the same steps have to be taken between product management and product development, and between product management and product test, and so forth.

OK, that was a bit of a digression. Let's get back on track and see what Donald McNaughton had to say. Let's start with the question: what is product management?
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