Continuation of The Up Group Product Breakfast – June 2011

Last week we held the first of a series of Product Management Breakfasts, where we invited a group of senior Product Management executives from both large and small web businesses to come to our offices to share ideas about Product Management.

Attendees came from across the industry, including Betfair, ASOS, FON, Guardian, Playfish, Skype, Covestor and Basekit to name just a few. Over the course of ninety minutes many insights were shared, too many to document with brevity, however for your benefit we thought we would distil some of these into key themes:

 Product Management as a new function in a company; as the Product Manager how do you prove its value?

  1. Through benefits realisation. Establishing KPIs for each new product, down to each new feature. Allowing the stakeholders to see the effect on conversion or sales is key to gaining buy-in.
  2. Prioritisation. Begin with the product that you think will make the biggest difference, and create a business case for it. Gaining the support of a key commercial stakeholder will help you when presenting this to the business.
  3. Focus on aligning Product with Marketing, rather than Technology. The Technology should provide the ‘how’, the Product should be responsible for the ‘what’.
  4. See the Product Development process as a tunnel, not a funnel. Be strict on what you’re not going to do as well as what you are going to do, and stick to it.
  5. Add value through facilitation – PM should help the business to focus decision making and to facilitate communications between different areas.
  6. Make the business and PM team understand the cost of each release in order to make them think about the amount of incremental value that needs to be delivered as a result of a new feature/release.  It really focuses people’s minds!

How do you effectively communicate the roadmap?

  1. Throw away your spread-sheet. The product roadmap is key.  One suggestion to help manage a deluge of requests is to use the IT helpdesk to create a request system that’s visible to all internally.
  2. Communicate the roadmap to your CEO with complete transparency. Talk them through the next twelve months and allow him or her to see why certain things must be prioritised.

What skill sets and capabilities do you look for in Product Managers?

  1. Someone with the entrepreneurial capabilities of a ‘mini-CEO’. They must ‘own’ their product and be able to drive it forward like it’s their own business. They need vision and aspiration.
  2. They must have a strong intuitive understanding of the customer and be capable of combining this with vision, research and metrics to deliver products.
  3. You need someone who knows how to work with data in order to draw insights and optimise performance. It can be useful to do a maths test with candidates to assess quantitative abilities. 
  4. A Product Manager needs to be able to move from big picture thinking to the detail. Attention to small details is as important as vision.
  5. Technical understanding. A ‘reformed’ techie or someone who is highly conversant technically will be better placed to speak the language of the technical team and make accurate assessments on what is achievable.
  6. It can be necessary to make a choice between ‘Arts’ led and ‘Maths’ led candidates. Often they will either display strengths in creativity or in understanding and manipulating data.  Making a decision on which way to go will depend on the requirements of your product.

The Product Management series will continue on throughout the year. Should you wish to get involved then drop us a line at hermione@theupgroup.co.uk.

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