A Hard Job

One of the most difficult jobs I’ve had in my career was being a Product Manager at various software companies.

Ideally, PMs own the product P&L, work to identify product features, establish a road map, create pricing models based on competitive market dynamics, establish a marketing strategy, and support sales and marketing as required.

Unfortunately, PMs are frequently an extension of the sales force and are at the beck and call of the sales VP and perform the role of head sales engineer / demo-guy.  In their direct support of sales there is little time to focus on the more strategic items mentioned above.

A simple way to sum up the job is Product Managers (with the help of development) puts it on the shelf, sales and marketing take it off the shelf.

When I started out as a PM, I wish I had known about Pragmatic Marketing (www.pragmaticmarketing.com).  The good folks at Pragmatic Marketing understand the PM role better than just about anyone, and have a great itinerary of classes and frameworks for executing the job in a methodical manner.

I subscribe to their excellent quarterly publication, The Pragmatic Marketer (it’s free).  Even though I’m a long way from directly doing PM work, I still make time to read it – it’s that good.  The latest edition (Volume 6, Issue 3, 2008) has a great article in it:  Practical Rules For Product Management by Maureen Rogers.  I won’t try to recap the entire article, but I’ll reproduce the basic rules:

#1:  If product managers don’t do their jobs, the other departments will fill the void – engineers will make up features, sales will set whatever price works, sales and marketing will sell it to anyone who will buy (even if long term they’ll not be happy).

#2: An outside-in approach increases the likelihood of product success – get out there and watch how your customers use your product, fix what’s wrong and add what’s missing.

#3: Time spent on the strategic reduces time wasted on the tactical – remember strategic is where you want to go, tactical is how you get there.  You need to establish a vision and road map.

#4: In the absence of market facts, he who owns the compiler wins – engineers own the compiler, they can build it, and they will, yet they appreciate and understand facts – give them the data and the right things will get built.

#5:  Product management determines the go-to-market strategy; Marcom executes the strategy – if both groups try to do it confusion will rein.

Would any PMs out there like to “amen” the rules above?

I welcome your comments,
Mike Brannan