Month: July 2011

You’ve Created It…You’ve Measured It…Now Share It

Congratulations on creating the product marketing roadmap. Congratulations on discovering and creating metrics that show how you are progressing on that roadmap. But, now you have to communicate this information. The roadmap has no value if it is not shared.

The delivery of the roadmap is a critical element to illustrating the value that product marketing brings to the table. But, if you deliver this “document” by email, hoping that the various readers will a) take the time to read it thoroughly and b) understand the content without expectation, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Communicating your roadmap requires collaboration. Your roadmap first needs to be shared with the product management and marketing teams. If the product marketing roadmap is the bridge between the directions developed by these groups, start by sharing your guide here. Look to these teams to validate your information and challenge your metrics. If one team has made changes on their plans, this is when it may first surface to you and you should make the adjustments. These two teams are your friends, their approval and support will go far.

Once you have the support of product management and marketing, take it to your leaders. But, don’t send it over email. Email is not a good communication method for sharing and discussing strategy.  Since the concept of a product marketing roadmap is new and may require some background information presented, email is definitely not the right tool.

The best way to introduce this new item is to do so through a regularly scheduled leadership meeting, whatever it may be called. Ask to get on the agenda for 30 minutes. Request the time on the agenda so that you may “share the value of product marketing” with the leadership. Since this is not a typical item on the agenda you will most likely get the time requested – if not for any other reason than curiosity. Whatever the reason, when it is accepted, take the time!

During the meeting, start your leadership presentation by explaining what the product marketing roadmap is and how it was created (briefly and not in detail) through using the product roadmap and the marketing plans. Then proceed to show the dashboard you have created which illustrates the movement of the items on the roadmap. Finally, close with the commitment that you will update your dashboard on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly) and would like to come back to the meeting to share the updated information. Ask for feedback on the dashboard. Are these meaningful metrics? Any additional metrics that they would like tracked? By including them and asking for input, they are accepting your roadmap.

If product marketing doesn’t stand at the table and show strategic value, no one else will do it for us. Strategy is difficult enough for organizations to see and touch. Through developing a product marketing roadmap, you have delivered a strategic tool. If you don’t share this tool properly, disappointment will set in when you don’t have a successful adoption of what you shared. If that happens, your commitment to making this a strategic asset will fail.


(Please share this on Twitter, LinkedIn and even Google+:  “@jidoctor: Share your Product Marketing Roadmap, but Share Smartly #prodmktg #prodmgmt #marketing #roadmap #leadership”)

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Product Management, the new Executive of Influence?

I’ve practiced the discipline, art and science of product management for over twenty years and have personal experience with the good, the bad and the ugly. One of the good things emerging from the profession over the past five or so years has been its executive influence.

What is the Executive of Influence? My personal definition is the person(s) in your company owning or driving strategic influence and possessing certain ownership over its direction. It may be one or more persons and they may be highly visible or someone flying below the radar. No matter who they are or their role, product management and product marketing needs to know and understand these influences, their styles, how to adapt and how to build trust.

Where’s the Influence? – In a poll I conducted earlier this year, I asked a range of product management professionals, executive management (CxO’s) and others, “Who’s the Executive of Influence at Your Company?” The participants could choose from answers that included; CEO, CTO, VP of Engineering/Development, VP Product Management, or Other. The other group is general, but supports important influencers such as a co-founders, architects, board members, etc. While I didn’t ask how many executives of influence were in their organizations, hopefully, you recognize there’s always more than one.

71% of respondents said the CEO was most often identified as the executive of influence. The other 29% were key influences you work with each day including the VP of Product Management. I believe several contributing factors and drivers place product management and product marketing at the forefront of influence.

A Desire to Produce – In Patrick Lencioni’s Five Temptations of a CEO, the most important principle conveyed was “executives must embrace a desire to produce.” By default, CEO’s have the influence, often possess the desire (even a passion), diverse supporting leadership and the supporting cast to produce. How CEO’s manage or delegate this influence depends on their style, background, market-orientation and the trust built with members of the team. Throughout the past decade, the discipline of product management has grown from a contributing position into one of influence within many organizations. As a product professional, have you elevated your contribution and established yourself or your team as an influencer with the CEO?

In the Secrets to Market-Driven Leaders, co-authored by David Meerman Scott, we often see the influence shift. “Evidence shows that entrepreneurs who started the company and who understood buyer problems soon become occupied with the details of running their organization. They no longer focus on buyer problems and building products the market wants to buy, but rather they obsess about the details of managing an ongoing business.”

As product management and product marketing are you the influencing factor who understands buyer problems, can translate, articulate and own this on behalf of the CEO or executive of influence?

The Shift of Influence – Over the past 10 years, it’s become clear that product management has gained more visibility and influence within executive management. In its most recent Annual SurveyPragmatic Marketing reviewed a ten-year trend of where product management reported.

The trend analysis indicates that product management has established influence and visibility and is five (5) times more likely to report directly to the CEO than ten years ago. Another point is product management is an established organization and does not report to sales, marketing or development as it has in the past. Additionally, product management continues to flourish within the organization, where in many situations, it has a seat at the executive table. In his article, “Where does Product Management belong in an organizationSteve Johnson shares, “Many CEOs realize that product management brings process and business savvy to the creation and delivery of products. Perhaps that’s why we’ve seen a shift over the years of where product managers report in the organization.” Has product management and product marketing finally established a level of executive influence? If so, how do we sustain and grow this influence?

Building Influence – During a conversation with a CEO and COO recently, the COO said, “To me product management is all about trust and validation.” He then said, “If product management will bring a strategy forward that’s founded on validated information, it creates trust. From that trust, credibility is established.” While we might know this, it’s great the hear it directly from two CxO’s.

How do product professionals capitalize on the opportunity to better influence the organization? You have to refine the way you think, act, adapt and build influence through credibility. If product management and product marketing has established credibility by using repeatable methods, communications and evidence found outside the building, the influence will come.

It’s product management and product marketing’s time to prove itself and stand as a new executive of influence. I welcome your comments, insights and experiences and how you’ve seen product professionals become a key influence.

If you like the post, please share it on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.  A new post “Product Management, the new Executive of Influence” by @jim_holland #prodmgmt #prodmktg


Why the “Backlog Manager” fits best for Scrum focused ISVs

by Saeed Khan

I’ve written a lot lately about the dissonance in the way Scrum defines the “Product Owner” role and responsibilities and the reality of what occurs in many companies, particularly Independent Software Vendors (ISVs).

These posts included:

John Peltier, at the Product Owner Vision blog, took note of these posts, and wrote one on topic as well. His post is entitled:

It’s a good post which you should read in it’s entirety. John discusses some differences between Scrum used custom software projects vs. ISVs.

The focus of all my writing on Scrum/Agile has always been on Scrum in ISVs and the organizational structures into which Scrum (a software development methodology) must play. Yes, Scrum is not an island unto itself. It must fit into an existing organization that DOESN’T view the Scrum team as the center of all activities.

John presents the following diagram showing where he sees the “Backlog Manager” as fitting best.

Where Backlog Manager fits best - ISV and subsequent releases

i.e. for custom projects – the use of “Product Owner” fits best, but in ISVs, the Backlog Manager fits best AFTER the first release (i.e. after release 1.0) of a product.

John’s reasons for this split in the ISV column are summarized (and paraphrased) below. Read his post for the full details:

  1. For and ISV, if a PM also acts as a PO, the PO role can occupy him/her to the point that it takes away from outward, more forward looking market sensing and requirement gathering activities
  2. Thus the role can be offloaded to someone else (e.g. a Technical PM), but only after the product’s initial release to market
  3. This is because, for that initial release,  the PM will need to spend significant time up front understanding the market, market problems, defining a vision, requirements etc. and then spending many months working with development team to bring that initial release to fruition
  4. Part of those months with development are spent performing backlog management, but the key for the PM is to have a clear vision of the product and ensure that first release is built correctly. i.e. the Scrum team needs first hand information from the PM vs. second hand information from an intermediary “backlog manager”.
  5. After version 1.0 of a new product is released, with the vision, business case etc. established, the PM, “looking for additional market segments and business opportunities” etc. and thus a separation of “responsibility between a Product Manager and Product Owner makes sense.”

Why I disagree with John :-)

Not to pick on John as I think he did a great job in his post in trying to reason through the roles and scenarios, but I do have to disagree with John’s conclusion that the best fit for the Backlog Manager ROLE in ISVs excludes the v1.0 release of products.

1. Research is not a solitary process

First let me say that John’s description of the basic process of researching, defining and building a new product is fundamentally correct.

It doesn’t matter whether the company uses Agile/Scrum/Waterfall or other methodology. A fair bit of up front research and market/customer/prospect validation is needed to identify a new product opportunity. But, in my experience over many new products, and I’d say as a best practice, this work is not, and should not, be done in isolation by a lone PM or even a small PM team. It must include key members of the Development (and ideally Product Marketing) organization.

A major goal of the initial research is developing a common understanding of the market opportunity, and this cannot be done by excluding key team members. Conveying the findings and getting full buy-in on the results of weeks (or months) of external research is very difficult.

By including members of the development team (even 1 or 2 people if your company is small), in a number of customer/prospect/partner meetings and discussions, not only can a joint vision of the problem space be developed early on, but that first hand exposure helps ensure Development buy-in when solutions are being proposed and defined.

2. The first release is not that different from other releases

John’s view of the first (v1.0) release, that it is significantly different from successive releases (e.g. 1.1, 2.0 etc.) and thus requires different focus from the PM (team) does not change the need or scope of “backlog management”.

If a clear vision of the product-to-be is understood by the team, the sprint planning, story definition and backlog prioritization are not different than in any other release. Perhaps there is more oversight needed to get early development efforts right, but that’s true regardless of whether the methodology is Agile or not.

i.e. The “Backlog Manager” is simply a formal definition of the interface role that is needed in a Scrum environment. The vision, business context etc. are still there — provided by Product Management — but the tactical activities specific to Scrum processes are defined in the Backlog Manager role.

3. The tactical vs. strategic balance is always an issue for (understaffed) Product Management teams

This problem that John describes is very real, but is not specific to Agile or Scrum. Understaffed PM teams are rampant across high-technology companies. Far too many companies view “the Product Manager” as the lone individual at the center of the storm.  No other team — whether marketing, sales, engineering, finance etc. — is viewed this way. If Product Management is so strategic, staff it for success.

If you believe that Scrum requires a dedicated role to work with the Scrum team to give them business context, then add that headcount to your plan. Don’t over burden a single individual with that responsibility. It’s a recipe for failure — or perhaps mediocrity at best.

In Summary

I agree with John that for custom software development, a “Product Owner” can be the right term to use given the 1:1 relationship between the (solitary) customer (in most cases) and the Scrum team.  But for ISVs, even in small startups, the reality is that a very different organizational model exists. They key need that the Scrum processes impose and that must be filled is that of backlog grooming, sprint/backlog management and the communication/facilitation required during the development cycle.

This new, tactical ROLE is not about “Product Ownership” but about facilitating product development over successive releases and ensuring appropriate business context is inserted into that process. It may be part of a larger job description or a dedicated role. But, in short, whether as a v1.0 release, or any subsequent release, that ROLE is “Backlog Manager”.


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Measurement, Validation and Numbers, Oh My!

In my recent post on product marketing roadmaps, we discussed how to get started creating your road map and how it serves nicely as a bridge between other department plans and efforts such as marketing, sales and product management. Once you’ve created your product marketing roadmap, you have to actually use it as a guide to strategic activities. And, if you are going to use it, you need to know that the efforts are moving toward success. You have to look at measurements which gauge the progress of the movement.

How? Put the measurements for each of the elements on the roadmap in one place, a visual representation that tells you everything is working together the way it is intended. Create a dashboard.

The key to success with this is two-fold. First, you shouldn’t be engaging in efforts that you can’t measure. Second, you need a tool to validate your team’s efforts and ensure that they are heading in the right direction. The dashboard becomes a great communication tool for you to share with the leadership team, proving the value of product marketing. So how do you get to these metrics?

What are the metrics you should be looking at?

The answer is “depends.” You need to look at what is relevant and meaningful to tell your story and support your efforts. If you have an element of your new roadmap with a focus on planned strategic initiatives you could look at milestones, leadership acceptance and engagement of team. Know that strategic initiatives are longer term commitments and your metrics will probably not show amazing results until you are at the end of that implementation cycle and you look backwards. If your roadmap has a focus area that includes market segmentation or engagement, you could include the number of market visits, number of win loss analyses completed, number of customer stories complete, efforts that support the brand awareness, which may already be measured through marketing activities.

The metrics will be different for each initiative and will be different for each product marketing roadmap created. For example, you may include success stories – how many do we have now, how many do we need and how many did we create? How old are the success stories? And, the other product marketing team in your company may already have success stories well in control so they did not include that on their roadmap. There is no one size fits all.

There are only two hard rules which apply to any roadmap you create:

  1. Don’t include an item if you don’t apply a measurement
  2. Don’t try to create all new metrics! Look around the company for what numbers may already exist and repurpose the communication of these numbers to support your efforts. Bring information from your product management team, development team, sales teams, the marketing team and even the leadership group to the table.

Include what is relevant, even if the numbers come from another team. If they support your roadmap plan, make them visible on your dashboard. It’s not about the quantity of measurements you include. It’s not about the origin of the measurement. It is about the quality of what you are communicating.

You’ve spent the time on putting together a roadmap, now spend the time to find the right metrics, and put this all together in a way to bring visibility to how you are progressing … and how product marketing adds value to the product and organization.


(Please share this on Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Google+:  “@jidoctor: Measurement, Validation & Numbers #prodmktg #prodmgmt #marketing #roadmap #leadership”)


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Managing Product Management Distractions…

Last week while reading email, answering IM, viewing Twitter stream, looking at a text message from my son, reviewing a clients LinkedIn profile, answering a call and trying to focus on product management tasks, Bob Corrigan, sent a response to an earlier tweet I had posted. “Does technology distract (#prodmgmt & #prodmktg) from being effective? via @BrightInnovate #business #success,”

Bob responded with the following: “There’s not enough characters in a tweet to document the distractions that plague product management. Twitter is one.”

In thinking about his response, How can product management and product marketing manage distractions?

Information Overload – in their recent post The Age of Distraction, by Bright Innovations, Cathy Davidson, a professor at Duke University was highlighted. Watch the video in the post, then link to her interview in Fast Company.  Dr. Davidson shares, “Going all the way back to Socrates, attention is the problem people most become aware of when a new technology arises. There’s no such thing as lack of distraction — we’ve always been filtering. But new technology puts stress on our old, automatic ways of paying attention.”

Placing your smart device aside for a minute, product professionals must find new ways to learn or re-learn how to pay attention, cope and deflect the onslaught of new technologies and information that distract us. As “product” oriented creatures, we grasp and often drool over the newest innovations and usually jump on-board and test drive new solutions. By a show of hands or a +1, how many of you are using Google+ ? Add one to your count for me.

Like a moth lured to a bug zapper, product professionals are often consumed with the latest and greatest gadgets. Why? I believe it’s a combination of our technology heritage, our desire to associate with innovation, our need to understand and validate markets, our willingness to test positioning and find new ways to sift through the daily noise to truly collaborate. Or perhaps we just want to hang out with the cool kids. Either way, how do we manage the onslaught and use this to our advantage?

(Re)Learning and Adapting – Every time a new technology emerges, I evaluate how it will impact me personally and what benefits I see. While I don’t perform a personal SWOT, I do consider my current and future needs, habits, desired changes, interest, working environment and how it could influence and improve collaboration.

Dr. Davidson argues “that we’re at the perfect moment to begin re-imagining our institutions and developing practices to deal with the onslaught of information, the reality of constant connectedness, and the challenges of global collaboration.”

While some of you might question technologies role as we adapt and change, the business world we live in continues to move from it’s industrialized heritage to one that is formed on collaboration, openness and information. These three elements can guide and influence better decisions, but only if we manage the distractions they present. Product management and product marketing have to transition with it or lose credibility and value because of it.

Grasp Collaboration, not Technology – While technology can be a vehicle for collaboration, there’s a larger processor in the world (our collective knowledge) that will guide this change. To make and support the transitions to a collaborative state, the following questions should be considered:

  • Does my business style and personality lend to or take away from a collaborative culture?
  • How do I currently collaborate?
  • What styles and methods of collaboration does my organization use and does it complement or hinder mine?
  • Do I value technology over conversation and collaboration?

By honestly asking and contemplating these questions, we can relearn and adapt to manage day-to-day distractions and improve as product professionals through collaboration.

Dealing with Distractions – I’ll be the first to admit that I overuse and often abuse collaborative technologies. Whether they’re in my hand, sitting on my desk, in my home, the solutions I use should have a dual purpose. One is to support me internally. This is the work and business side. The other is the external. The connection that allow me to share ideas, express my thoughts, collaborate with professional peers, ask questions and learn. If used correctly, one will benefit the other. So, what can we do to better manage the distractions? Here’s some things I do:

  • Limit the amount of time spent on non-work collaboration. I schedule blocks of time.
  • Be “out of the office” or “offline” when you really need to limit distractions.
  • Practice the Art of Saying No.
  • Forward my office phone to my mobile phone and silence the ringer of turn it off.
  • Skip a meeting and see if anyone notices. If they don’t, unofficially un-invite yourself.

Some other ways to limit distractions from Dr. Davidson’s book, “Now You See It” include:

  • Plan offline interruptions into your day, whether a walk at lunch or a face-to-face meeting.
  • Within your workplace, colleagues should have the ability to “hole up” solo or together on a project, free from constant connection to the rest of the world.
  • A tip from designer Aza Raskin: Try reserving separate screens, or even separate devices, for Facebook, Twitter, and other distractors. If they’re in separate rooms, even better.
  • Get into the habit of tagging complex matters to be discussed later, in real time. Davidson sends her colleagues emails with the subject line “Agenda”; at their weekly conference call, she’ll search her email for the term and — presto! — a list of items to discuss pops up.
  • If chronically distracted, look below the surface. “We complain about email interference,” she says, “but the two most distracting things in any human life are emotional upset and physical discomfort — heartache and heartburn.”

At the end of the day, we have to decide if the distractions will manage us or if we will manage them. Feel free to provide some insights and experiences on how you manage distraction. If you enjoyed the post, please share it: Managing Product Management Distractions – a new post by @jim_holland #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership #in