The Ugly of Product Management
For this post, the specific question asked was:
If you could change aspects of your job to make it a more effective role, what would those things be? (The UGLY)
NOTE: As in previous posts, I’ve categorized the responses into high level categories and tabulated those. I’ve tried to keep a bit of consistency (where possible) with the categories used in previous survey result posts.
And with that, here are the results:
Lack of Authority
This was by far the most common answer with a lot of consistency in the comments provided by people. Not surprisingly, lack of authority was a common answer in the BAD of Product Management results. Some of the comments:
- More decision making power
- More control over the development process (we’re an ASP)
- Ownership of the product in reality and not just on paper
- More “voice” over development priorities
- Resource management (control/greater influence over dev and /or marketing priorities)
- Give PM full ownership over the product – i.e. don’t promise anything without checking with her first, trust in her
- Management of complete portfolio
- Product Management participation in strategic planning
- P/L ownership
- Ownership of product roadmap; move it from the CEO to Product Management
Looking at these, I’m going to make an assumption that Product Management is being defined as a silo (along with other departmental silos) in companies. The last two points about P/L and roadmap ownership attest to that.
This was also a frequent response in the BAD results. I see a clear relationship between the Authority comments above and the Culture comments below. In some ways they are flip-sides of the same issue.
- A culture that believes in good product management
- Get people to understand the importance of product management
- Clear accountability of teams to each other
- Cooperation with R&D
- Eliminate the micromanagement by empower the Product Managers to own their business
- Having enough time to attempt to do things right from the start rather than always rushing through each process
- Product Management shouldn’t be defining product architecture; Engineering should!
- More accurate LOEs (level of effort) and schedules from engineering
- Be given clearer objectives from Management
I think most of us have heard these comments before, or probably lived them in companies we’ve worked at. The question to answer is HOW can we affect the change needed to address these issues. If they are so common, there must be common reasons why and certainly means to start addressing them, either bottom up or top down.
There was one comment that I want to pull out specifically as I think it’s a great one:
- Get resources and time to celebrate more. Too many project teams seem to see the reward of their hard work as more work in the next project. We should be taking the lead to celebrate wins and rewarding eh people that made it happen. this is especially important in the age of Agile when projects continue for long stretches
I really think every company should take this comment to heart and address it in whatever ways are appropriate.
When I worked in California – after a LONG effort on a major release — all of the PM and Engineering staff were treated to a 3 day trip: Hawaii for those in California and Thailand for those in India. It was a very nice way for the company to show their appreciation.
These kinds of celebration and rewards can do wonders for staff morale, productivity and loyalty. Hey, if the sales teams can go to Club for their efforts, why not the people who build the product that the Sales teams sell?
Another common issue in most Product Management teams is around staffing. I’ve never heard anyone say, “We have way too many Product Managers!”. And given the cross-functional nature of the job, as well as the general lack of clear definition of the PM roles, it’s not surprising the PMs feel overloaded.
- Have a staff of evangelists on hand to drive feature adoption
- Hire a Project Manager to run projects
- Have a project/program manager working with Product Management
- Have a dedicated team of developers and project managers
- Need more staff; business doesn’t comprehend the importance of activities, so understaffs
- Have more product experts in house, allowing me to be a market expert
Restricted Customer Contact
It was surprising how many times people indicated that they are blocked from direct customer contact.
I’ve listed this high because it is such a glaringly obvious issue that companies need to change. I think it also goes back to earlier comments about companies that don’t understand how to define and implement Product Management. It also ties into the next heading of Job Definition and Process. Some of the customer related comments were:
- Be allowed to interact with customers more often
- Have more time to spend speaking 1:1 with customers
- Getting to speak more openly with strategic customers
- More customer visits
- More time with customers/prospects outside the sales cycle
Poor Job Definition and Process
This category combines two related items that seemed intertwined in the comments. Anyone who has worked in Product Management for any length of time has encountered these problems in at least one company.
- Define the role more clearly
- The job requirements for the role are too broad
- Better definition around the scope of Product Management
- Real roadmap process
- Less day-to-day support of other functional areas
- Have a good process where Product Management can have sufficient influence
- Improve the organizations ability to handle changes coming in from the market
- Have bottom up strategy and budget planning
- Don’t be “too Agile” and change the concept of Agile
Inefficient Organizational Structure
Another common thread when talking about changes that need to be made. This is often related to the staffing issue described earlier.
- Hire pre-sales people in each region globally who are specific to my product
- Restructure the company to product-centric P&L teams
- Eliminate expectation for sales support
- Create a PM support later to handle day-to-day issues
There were a number of other comments that didn’t get a broad coverage in the responses. These included:
- Strategy - 5 responses – e.g. strategic planning, clear corporate goals
- Metrics – 5 responses – e.g. create clear measures of PM success
- Issues with Sales – 4 responses – e.g. hire better qualified sales people
- Budgets – 3 responses – e.g. larger travel. Let me experience the market directly
- Tools - 2 responses – e.g. need better tools for requirements tracking, customer summaries, sales data etc.
I’m quite surprised the Metrics didn’t get mentioned more often. It’s clear that few companies have well defined metrics for Product Management, and this causes problems in role definition and staffing.
Tools was another one that surprised me by how few mentions it received. Maybe people are actually using real tools, or may be most respondents have just given up, or maybe lack of tools isn’t one of the 3 biggest problems people face in their roles.
So there you have it, the final installment – What people want to see changed in their roles and companies.
Does you see issues that apply to you or your company?
Are there other issues that were missed by the survey respondents?
I want to hear from you.