Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Three Keys to Product Management Success

As product managers you have a significant responsibility for the success of your company. It’s easy to get bogged down in the countless tasks that are thrown your way every day. With all the meetings, floods of email, and requirements to manage, the thought of spending time on areas of strategic focus can seem overwhelming. However, with planning and a little effort you can make the difference. Start by focusing on three simple, yet powerful, keys to success:

  1. Know your market: Get a clear understanding of the market where your products compete, and work diligently to stay out in front of new trends and technologies. Make customer calls and customer visits often. Work with the sales team; understand how they sell your products. Know what works. Know the weaknesses of the products (and take action to correct them). Understand why people pay (or don’t pay) for your products. Be the voice of the customer to your company.
  1. Provide clear direction: One of your key directives as a product manager is to provide clear direction to the engineering/development teams. Spend the time to write understandable and timely requirements and prioritize them effectively. Provide solid product design (with the help of good designers). Give clear direction and project confidence and your full support to the work the engineering is doing. Earn their trust. Inspire them to do great things. “Have their backs” with the rest of the company (i.e. be their outspoken supporter).
  1. Launch successfully: You are in a unique position to facilitate successful product launches. Start with a tight, focused beta program; learn from the testers and change accordingly. Help product marketing set the proper tone for the launch by understanding the new product’s strengths. Work in tandem with the customer support teams to monitor product acceptance and make changes where necessary. Work with the sales team to make sure they understand the new product and hit the ground running when it releases. After a successful launch, monitor the product’s uptake and financials and make sure it continues to succeed. This, of course, loops back to knowing your market and making sure your product meets the needs of the people in your market.

These three practices cover the most important bases for creating successful products. You should plan time to focus on these elements on a daily and weekly basis. If you are in a leadership position in product management, take time to evaluate your team and make sure they are focusing on these key practices that will lead to product success.


The Product Management Perspective: see above


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Three practices of successful product managers

At the most basic level, a product’s success is measured by how well it sells in the market and the profit it brings to the company. A company’s success is ultimately a roll-up of all products and services selling for a profit. This seems straight forward, and yet in my experience company leaders too often lose track of this important goal. They focus on this marketing campaign or that new technology, and lose track of what’s most important. Granted, sometimes they focus too much on profit at the expense of other important directives, but that’s a topic for another post.

In most companies product managers have a lot of products and significant responsibilities. It’s easy for them to get bogged down in the countless tasks that are thrown their way every day. With all the meetings, floods of email, and requirements to manage, the thought of focusing on a product’s profitability can be illusive. It’s not impossible, however. By focusing on three simple, yet powerful, practices, product managers can channel their products toward profitability:

  1. Know your market: Get a clear understanding of the market where your products compete, and work diligently to stay in front of new trends and technologies. Make customer calls and customer visits often. Work with the sales team; understand how they sell your products. Know what works. Know the weaknesses of the products (and take action to correct them). Understand why people pay (or don’t pay) for your products. Be the voice of the customer to your company.
  2. Provide clear direction: One of the key directives for products managers is to provide clear direction to the engineering/development teams. Good product managers write understandable and timely requirements and prioritize them effectively. They provide solid product design (most effectively with the help of good designers). A key to giving clear direction is for product managers to project their confidence and full support to the work engineering is doing. Earn their trust. Inspire them to do great things, especially when developing your products.
  3. Launch successfully: A successful product launch depends on a coordinated launch plan involving many different groups. Product managers are in a unique position to facilitate successful product launches. Start with a tight, focused beta program; learn from the testers and change accordingly. Help product marketing set the proper tone for the launch by understanding the new product’s strengths. Work in tandem with the customer support teams to monitor product acceptance and make changes where necessary. Work with the sales team to make sure they understand the new product and hit the ground running when it releases. After a successful launch, monitor the product’s uptake and financials and make sure it continues to succeed. This, of course, loops back to knowing your market and making sure your product meets the needs of the people in your market.

These three practices cover the most important bases for creating successful products. You should plan time to focus on these elements on a daily and weekly basis. If you are in a leadership position in product management, take time to evaluate your team and make sure they are focusing on these key practices that will lead to profitable products.


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Launching a new product

One of the more difficult tasks for a company is launching new products. Quite often much emphasis is placed on designing and developing products, and the actual launch goes unplanned (or under-planned) until it’s too late.

What problems have you faced when trying to launch a new product? What effect did it have on the product launch? I recently learned about a new System Design program at Cornell University structured to help you master the skills to take your products to a successful launch. I’ve teamed up with Caridan Marketing on the following offer for Lead on Purpose readers:

Caridan Marketing Labs is an interactive and social media marketing firm based in New York City. As eCornell’s marketing agency, we partnered with them to launch a new Systems Design program. Their newest online certificate, A Systems Approach to Product and Service Design is authored by Professor Peter Jackson, Director of Systems Engineering at Cornell University. In six two-week courses, leaders will master a proven eight-step methodology and structured process that can be used to take an idea to the point where it can be handed off for completion.

In working and talking with driven leaders it has been shown that the projects that are most difficult to manage are usually related to new product and service launches.  Scope creep, unclear requirements, and inter/intra team miscommunication can become a recipe for disaster! What some leaders are missing is a proven methodology that will help them to understand how to design and develop products and services the right way from the beginning- and avoid common pitfalls in the process.

In this program, leaders will:

  • Learn a structured methodology for designing products/services the right way
  • Avoid the pitfalls that can lead to “designs gone wrong”
  • Earn a certificate from Cornell University in under three months

We’d like to offer a contest to you, the readers, where you can post your biggest challenge you when launching a new product/service. We will give all entrants a $100 discount on the tuition for eCornell’s program. We will also select the best ‘story’ and provide that winner with a 10% discount on our program when they enroll. We will also share the winning story on our website at www.ecornell.com. The deadline for all entries is August 15th, 2009.

You can find more information about our program at www.ecornell.com or please take a look at our recent press release eCornell Press Release.

Please share your story as a comment to this post by August 15, 2009 and you’re entered to win!

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