Managing by Influence

I used the following text as a base for my presentation at the recent ProductCamp in Chicago on June 19. The presentation is available here.

In the knowledge economy, many of us are responsible for one or several  products, services, projects or initiatives. We are held accountable to get things done, but we often do not have the resources or authority to overcome many of the obstacles thrown our way. No one reports to us. Resources get cut, coworkers have different agendas, and our management is not able to prioritize projects. While you try to resolve these issues, the competition is eating your lunch, and your customers take your product for granted. Nonetheless we must pursue our objective no matter what.

So how does one ensure that things get done under these circumstances? One way I found is to lead other by influence. Driving the though process will enlist your team to do what’s right. Give your team members a purpose and they will follow you. Usually people will support your efforts if you bring sense and logic to them. Continue reading this post »

Product Managers Must Feel The Pain

Customer pain points are a good way to start an investigation about new products or even a major feature of your new release. Granted, and to paraphrase Henry Ford, customers familiar with horses won’t think to ask you about a car, but it is a starting point.

The sales force is an invaluable source of information on this topic. As part of their sales cycle they will typically manage to articulate the customer’s pain points to the rest of the organization and they will propose solutions to these pain points around the products you and your team manage. Product Managers should use this information whenever possible.

However, Product Managers should not totally depend on the sales organization to understand the customer’s pain points. Instead, they should consider it an important part of their job to go out there (heard that one before?) and spend some time in the field. Direct discussions with the sales force can help but cannot replace direct interaction with a customer. Continue reading this post »

This One Time, At Product Camp…

I stole this title line from someone on Twitter much more comically nimble than I, but I just couldn’t resist.  As many of you know, the members of the B2B Product Makers team are working on ProductCamp Chicago. I’m on the committee that is organizing the event, Thierry is going to be presenting on leadership via influence and Josh is going to talk about effective pricing practices.  Both excellent topics – I plan to attend and contribute. Continue reading this post »

Service Management For Product Managers

In my consulting practice, I have been working a lot lately to define a service line for one of my clients.  It’s a strategic content generation service that we are packaging as a standardized, multi-customer offering. I find that it has a lot of the same high-level needs that a product might have – pricing, packaging, definition, release plan, feature/function, messaging, etc…  Seems similar – and it is, but only at the high level. Since a large portion of the knowledge economy is moving to service-oriented offerings as well as transitioning from traditional software to SaaS, I thought that more and more product managers might find themselves in a similar position.

So what are the key differences between managing a product and managing a service?

Continue reading this post »

Innovate in 12 Dimensions

When it comes to innovation, I have been guilty of thinking only in one dimension. I have mostly focused only on new features and functionality changes in my products that differentiate it from the competition. I know I am not the only product manager with this limitation.

However, not envisioning a new initiative as a whole new business process may result in failure. A good product may target the wrong buyer in the right segment, a marketing message could hit the wrong audience, a sales force may react negatively to your new solution.

So it is worth mentioning when a tool is available to help product managers think more systematically at an early stage of their innovation process. Continue reading this post »