Product Management Excellence: Even the Best Product Managers Can Improve

by Sat Duggal

Customer Experience Design

Welcome to our new series of posts focused on Product Management Excellence! Product management has been described as "everything," and in well-run B2B organizations, that description may not be far from the truth. But that's tremendous pressure for a single function. In our experience, even top organizations have challenges through their ranks with efficient and effective product management.

The core challenges tend to fall into three areas:

1) Defining the role. Product managers are tasked with responsibilities in many areas. They must understand:

  • The technology
  • Their customers’ needs and the impact of the value chain
  • Their portfolio
  • Their cost structure (including supply chain and project execution)
  • The financials (revenue, margin, cost, growth, etc.) associated with their product line

Often product managers come from one of these areas (such as technology, marketing, supply chain, or sales) where they have built functional expertise, which has made them successful. When they become a product manager, they tend to rely on this previous area of expertise and neglect the other important areas to their peril. Even worse, their organizations often fail to equip them with the right tools and training to know how to be successful.

2) Cross-functional engagement. Product managers must work across organizational silos to get work done. This doesn't mean that Product Managers must make all the decisions. In fact, it’s usually counterproductive if they try. They need to work collaboratively with colleagues in other functions to make the best decisions for the product portfolio's P&L, both today and in the future.

This concept is simple on the surface, but quite difficult in practice due to the fast-moving, global nature of business today—not to mention interpersonal relationships and company politics!

3) Product portfolio and future state analysis. Often, even the most sophisticated product management teams cannot answer basic questions:

  • Are we going to hit our goals with our current portfolio this year?
  • What about next year?
  • What are our key customers going to need in the future, and how is our portfolio equipped to serve them?

Most product managers know that products typically follow a life cycle curve, but would be hard pressed to map their products to this curve. Rarely is a company able to identify products on the decline and remove them from the portfolio before they become a financial drain.

Those are the three core Product Management challenges we’ve identified in our work. Do you agree? Do any others come to mind?

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Keywords: Customer Experience Design