Keeping Your Eyes On The Prize (Part Two)

Establishing Product Management as a discipline is not just about hiring an individual Product Manager. It often requires a mindset change within the organization.

Siobhan Maughan of Integrated Thinking is a product management mentor and coach, helping companies to establish a strong product strategy and discipline.

In the second of this two-part article (read Part One here) she focuses on a trio of successful Dublin-based technology businesses who have spent time focusing on their approach to Product Management:

Are you satisfied with your Product Manager? A recent 280 Group survey captured the views of 900 international companies on the biggest challenges faced by their product management organization: 57.4% of respondents felt that the Product Managers in their organization were too tactical and not strategic enough.

0nly 29% of respondents felt that their leadership team understood what Product Management is, and the value that it brings to an organization.

Many companies hire a Product Owner to support the agile software development process: in 70% of companies surveyed by the 280 group the Product Manager was in fact the Product Owner. The danger in this approach is that the Product Manager focuses too much on engineering development and QA, and does not spend enough time on the product’s strategic direction.

0nly 29% of respondents felt that their leadership team understood what Product Management is.

Allowing a Product Manager to become consumed by the engineering process (the ‘how’) and not enabling them to focus on the strategic (the ‘what’ and ‘why’) is more likely to drive your product away from what potential customers really want.

These Dublin-based technology SMEs share their thoughts on the importance of strategic product management for their organization:

Bookassist provide digital strategy and software solutions to hotels so that they can unlock the power of their websites, reach their customers online and build their direct online business. They have offices in Dublin, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Vienna and Prague, with resellers worldwide.

CEO Des O’Mahony offered this view on their approach to product management:
“Even if you are already validating your product development strategy with customers, it’s critical to realise that in a fast-moving technology environment the customer requirement is also continually changing and continual re-validation is key to producing relevant and effective product solutions. Since moving to a more product-management-oriented approach, we have worked to unify our different products into a more focused, single solution based directly on our customers needs. We appreciate better the need for clear ownership of all aspects of the product from research, market assessment, positioning, and engineering. Prior to this, many of those areas were being looked at in isolation, which led to a lack of coherence. We now validate regularly with the market and have clearly divided engineering priorities between strategic and tactical requirements.”

Asavie is a leader in next generation enterprise mobility management and Machine-to-Machine security solutions to enable connectivity between people, places and things. Headquartered in Dublin and with offices in Australia, Germany, Spain, UK and the USA, Asavie’s customers include AT&T, Cradlepoint, Telefonica O2, Telenor, Three and Vodafone.

Director of Product Management Ronan Boylan offered his perspective:
“We have doubled our growth every year, for the past 4 years, by focusing clearly on the needs of our target market. We have been focused on establishing a world-class product management team from the start. We knew early-on that we needed to formalize an end-to end approach to product strategy so that we could accelerate our growth and ensure that we could continue to deliver innovative products that help our customers to benefit from the potential of high speed mobile networks.”

TERMINALFOUR were established in 1997, and today have offices in Dublin, London, Sydney and Boston. Their digital engagement and web-content management platform is used by more than 175 university and college clients to power in excess of 10,000 higher education websites throughout the world.

CEO Piero Tintori shared his ambitions for the product management discipline in his organization:
“I want to ensure that TERMINALFOUR continues to grow and meet the demands of our market. To do this, we are continually refining our adoption of the product management discipline within the company by ensuring that we address the core areas of strategy, engineering development, sales enablement and marketing. We employ very creative and innovative people and I want to ensure that I continue to foster a culture of innovation, across all aspects of the business, so that we better serve the needs of the market and remain focused in a very competitive landscape.”

The Bottom Line: Failing to communicate corporate objectives to product management will mean that your organisation as a whole will lack clarity and focus, resulting in misalignment as to what the company is trying to achieve.

I would encourage any business, even those with an established product management function, to revisit their approach, and to ensure they adopt a process that enables them to put an appropriate focus on the strategic, marketing, technical and tactical aspects of the role.

If the product manager does not understand what the leadership expects from the role, then they are likely to fail to meet expectations. Everybody loses.

Doing product management right is not just about hiring the right person, it’s about establishing the right discipline from the start. So start today.

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