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Why Product Managers are worth their weight in gold

Why Product Managers are worth their weight in gold

Part 1: Product Managers Gold Series – Setting Strategic Direction

This is Part 1 of a series of articles we will publish on the role of the Product Manager within the new product development process.

A Product Manager plays one of the most valuable roles within your organization: managing the ongoing profitability and viability of their product/category. This very broad and critical charge requires attention to specific responsibilities requiring specific skills and talents. This article will focus on the responsibilities as they relate to new product development.

The driving force of a product/category is its strategic direction and framework.  For your company’s innovation/new product development efforts this includes the set of Product, Platform, Market and Technology strategies, as well as Product and Technology Roadmaps.   These elements focus resources on activities that translate into innovative, differentiated and profitable products. A Product Manager that defines and executes appropriate strategies that yield a sustainably profitable product/category is truly worth their weight in gold.

Before your Product Manager gets started

In order for your Product Managers to develop the appropriate strategic framework, they first need clearly stated and communicated business and innovation strategies defined by senior management.

The business strategy defines the long-term direction, or mission, of the organization, how the organization will achieve that mission, and what measurements will allow the organization to identify progress against or achievement of that mission.

The innovation strategy defines in what ways and to what extent the organization will use innovation to execute its business strategy. This boils down to defining what resources and the extent of resources to be allocated to innovation, and the types of innovations or levels of risk the organization will undertake in the pursuit of innovation.

Why is strategy so important? We’ve worked in organizations that have clearly stated strategies and those that don’t.   The difference between the two is like night and day.  If I had to choose two words to describe the company with strategies, and those without it would be ‘clarity’ vs. ‘chaos’.

The organizations with strategies provided clarity to the team and organization.  The strategies provided direction on where the organization was going, and how it was going to get there.  Everyone had their marching orders, they knew what to do and their efforts were aligned.  It was not uncommon to see the Product Managers continually referring to these strategy documents because they provided a framework and an understanding of the resources and constraints they have to work with.

In contrast, in organizations without clearly stated business and innovation strategies we’ve seen a lot of valuable time wasted by product managers forced to develop their product/category strategies in a vacuum, trying to  infer the direction of the organization or worse, setting direction without regard to the mission of the larger organization.  This situation creates chaos for the entire organization as the various functions try to cope with different agendas, different resource requirements and different priorities.

It takes effort and time on the part of senior management to develop business and innovation strategies, but the payoff is tremendous.   Ensure that your Product Managers are well-equipped with the strategic direction of your organization.  They will then be able to develop appropriate and aligned strategies for their products/categories.

The Product Manager’s role in defining new product development strategy

The following content provides an overview of the five key strategy documents that Product Managers should consider when developing their product/category strategy framework for guiding new product development.

Product Strategies

Product strategies help guide your organization in the development and evolution of categories, product lines and products.  The product strategy includes the goals for new product development within each category ( e.g. market share, revenue, new markets), the arenas of strategic focus (the markets, technologies, product types to be focused on), spending/resource allocation for each arena and a  timeline showing the planned new product introductions.

Platform Strategies

Platforms enable your organization to create new products faster and more efficiently by bundling together elements that can be common across multiple product lines.  A platform strategy guides your organization in the development of platforms and derivative products.  The important elements of the platform strategy are defining the capabilities and limitations of the platform, as well as creating the platform’s point of differentiation.  The platform strategy is also an integral part of developing product and technology roadmaps.

Market Strategies

Market strategies guide your firm in the development of markets and distribution channels.  The market strategy defines who the target customer is, what segments will be served, what is the value proposition or point of differentiation when compared to the competition, and what distribution channels are needed to reach the customer.

Technology Strategies

Technology strategies guide your organization in the acquisition, development and application of technology to gain a competitive advantage.   The elements of the technology strategy include identification of the source of technology, as well as the timing of implementation to support the product strategy timeline.

Product and Technology Roadmaps

Product and Technology Roadmaps provide the graphical representation of the current and planned evolution of products and platforms that match market need to specific technologies.   They basically illustrate the portfolio of projects that the organization needs to work on in order to achieve its business strategy and be successful.  It especially helps the organization with forecasting required technology and the skills that need to be acquired.

Communicating the New Product Development Strategy

To be effective, these strategies must be agreed to and supported by senior management, and clearly communicated to everyone involved in new product development. Progress against these strategies needs to be openly and continually monitored, with adjustments made to react to changing market, industry and technology conditions. We recommend monthly new product development portfolio review meetings and quarterly strategy meetings with the Product Managers presenting their findings to the senior management team.

Product Managers have the ability to make a real difference for your bottom-line.   You will quickly realize that they’re worth their weight in gold by 1) Ensuring your product managers have access to business and innovation strategies created by senior management, 2) Ensuring your product managers have the time to create and update their product strategies on an on-going basis, 3) Communicating the new product development strategies to senior management and the project teams, and regularly monitoring progress.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Product Management, Product Marketing

 

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Google Doc on Android!

The Google Docs app for Android provides quick access to your documents and collections stored online with Google. Within the app you can view, create, edit, upload, and share files or take pictures with your Android device camera and directly import them.

Images uploaded from the gallery or camera can be scanned with optical character recognition to extract text and save it to a document. Users of Android Honeycomb can enjoy an optimized version of the app for larger screens.

The Interface

The interface of the Google Docs app is clean and straight forward and not too different from the web interface. A visual overview can be found under > Settings > Quick hints.

android google docs

When you click the little arrow button on the far right of a document, you can preview the respective document and view its details.

google docs for android

Clicking the button will open a little sidebar with document properties, including date last viewed, date last modified, owner, and a list of people who can edit the document. In this view you can also  add collaborators (people or groups), send or share the document, or rename the document. Via the settings button in the top right, you can open or delete the document.

If you want to send, rename, delete, or open a file with an alternative app, press it for a couple of seconds to trigger the menu shown in the screenshot below.

google docs for android

Creating Documents

The Google Doc apps supports creating new documents, spreadsheets, or documents from a photo or the gallery.

google docs on android

When you create a > Document from gallery or photo, the image you choose from the gallery or take with your device camera, can be uploaded as individual file, converted to a Google Docs document and embedded into a new document, or sent to web clipboard, so that you can paste it into a desired location.

google docs on android

When you choose the > Convert file go Google Docs document, the respective photo will be converted to text using optical character recognition (OCR). In theory, OCR is a fantastic feature, but in reality it doesn’t work very well, even with clearly printed text. However, if you experiment with the camera conditions (light, position, size of text), you might be able to get it to work for you. It also is rather unfortunate that the app can not display the source image, which is inserted on top of the recognized text, although it is very well able to display images.

google docs on android

Editing Documents

Editing documents within the app is possible, but it is fairly difficult. Edits can only be done line by line. Finding the right spot can be a bit of a challenge, typically resulting in short flickers of the document and a jumpy keyboard. Moreover, Google Docs does not allow you to zoom in, but forces you to work with the available text size. It must be said though that once the right line or paragraph has been highlighted, moving the cursor to a desired position works very well, unlike in some other apps.

Homescreen Widget

Google Docs comes with a simple homescreen widget. It unites four functions: opening Google Docs, viewing starred files, taking a photo and uploading it, and creating a new document.

In Honeycomb, you can add the widget by pressing an available spot on your homescreen for a few seconds or tapping the + icon in the top right, which opens the widgets gallery. The app is listed as Docs. You can drag and drop it to your desired homescreen.

android google docs

Verdict

The Google Docs app is great for accessing and reading your Google documents. However, I would not recommend to create and edit documents with it. Overall, I find the app very useful and hope that Google will continue to develop and improve it.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Product Reviews

 

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Minimum Viable Personality

MINIMUM VIABLE PERSONALITY

Most important step for build product is build product. 

Second most important is build personality for product. 

Not having personality? Product boring, no one wants. 

BREADORBACON

PERSONALITY BETTER THAN MARKETING

When choose product, humans only care about “does it work”, and “is it interesting”. 

World already full of things do work. Most are boring. 

Personality = interesting. Interesting = care. Care = talk.  

Everyone cares and talks about product? You win. 

CAREPLUSTALKISWIN

SELL TO FRIENDS, NOT STRANGERS

Personality makes product your friend. You help friend. You forgive then, when they are not perfect. You want your friends to win. 

Boring stranger?… you shouldn’t. 

Personality is API for loyalty. No one cares which boring stranger is next. But always want friend who is sitting next. 

LOYALTYPORT

HOW NOT BE BORING

Have personality easy. Answer three questions: 

1. How you change customer’s life?  

2. What you stand for? 

3. Who or what you hate? 

Now have mission, values, and enemies. That’s enough for minimum viable personality. 

Keep in brain when write, talk, blog, tweet. Iterate. Improve what work. Delete what not. Personality grows. 

Don’t be a chicken 

Chicken lives in cage. No can have personality inside cage.  

Last step is smash the cage, light barn on fire. 

Do that, you win.


CHICKENWIN


 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Product Innovations

 

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Facets of Product Management

In this article, I myself will try and understand the role of Product Manager and of Product Marketing Manager:

It Is What You Define It Is!

CTO : This is why he would like to have a role of Product Manager : He wanted someone to document all the features in their product (which had already been created) in one Word document so that they can understand what features were in their product. He also said he didn’t want the PM team to “muck around with defining features or product strategy” because between him and the VP of Engineering, they had it covered.

VP – Engineering : This is why he would like to have a role of Product Manager :- “What is the biggest reason you want to build a product management team?”. He told me that he wanted someone to create UML diagrams of the current product as well as for all the new features that he planned to come up with so that developers could implement them.

What Do Product Managers Do?
While the role of a PM varies widely depending on the company, there are several key responsibilities that product managers usually undertake at a vast majority of successful high-tech companies – based on my research and as well as conversations with friends in the industry. Here is how you can group them:

i.        Market Research:

This refers to the activities of studying a market to understand the customer needs, competitive landscape, and market forces – with the ultimate goal of uncovering opportunities for creating product enhancements as well as new products.

This is done via conversations with customers or potential customers, talking to customer-facing teams such as sales and support, studying reports and articles on the marketplace, test driving competitive products, keeping tabs on customer behavior, and other such activities.

This culminates with the PM preparing a business case, product strategy and/or business requirements document (BRD) detailing how to capitalize on the uncovered opportunities.

ii.        Product Definition and Design:

a) Product Definition refers to the activities of specifying what a product needs to do. This is usually done via what is referred to as Market Requirements Document (MRD) or Product Requirements Document (PRD). This document may include information such as product vision, target market, competitive summary, detailed description of product features, prioritization of features, use cases, system requirements, performance requirements, sales and support requirements, etc.

b) Product Design refers to the activities of specifying the look and feel of the product including the user interface (UI) and the user interaction with the product – covering the whole spectrum of user experience. In larger companies the PM works with UI designers or interaction designers to create this, while in startups the PM may do all of these.

I consider this to be the most valuable among a PM’s activities – so much so that I actually think product manager jobs which don’t include this responsibility are really not product manager jobs at all!

iii.        Project Management:

This refers to the activities of leading cross-functional teams including engineering, QA, UI design, marketing, sales and support to develop and launch the product on-time and on-budget. This may include securing resources, creating project timelines, tracking progress against timeline, identifying critical paths, getting additional resources when needed, and communicating status to the executive team.

In larger companies, Project Managers actually perform most of these activities with the support of PM’s. In very small startups, the PM may be asked to do these by herself. In some companies, the Engineering Lead may do most of these activities as well.

iv.        Evangelizing the Product:

This includes the activities of communicating the product benefits, features and target markets, and in general championing the product to internal teams such as sales, marketing, support and executives. This also includes evangelizing the product to external audience such as press, analysts and customers.

In larger companies, the PM is supported by the Product Marketing, Marketing Communications (MarCom) and/or Press Relations (PR) teams in evangelizing to external audience.

I consider this to be the second most valuable among a PM’s activities – especially evangelizing to the sales & marketing teams, and the executives to create excitement around the product.

v.        Product Marketing:

 

This refers to the activities of outbound messaging – telling the world about the product. This includes creating collateral such as datasheets, brochures, website, flash presentations, press packages, trade shows and more.

In larger companies, the product marketing activities are almost always separated from the PM. They’re instead performed by the Product Marketing Manager. The biggest shortcoming of this arrangement is the resultant inefficiencies in communication and the weakening of outbound messaging.

In some companies the terms ‘Product Management‘ and ‘Product Marketing’ are used synonymously and one person is responsible for all activities. In companies where there are separate ‘Product Management’ and ‘Product Marketing’ groups, the latter group performs all the activities mentioned in this category.

vi.        Product Life Cycle Management:

This refers to the activities of managing a product as it goes through its life cycle from ideation to launch to growth to maturity, and eventually to decline.

This includes tasks such as product positioning, pricing and promotion, product portfolio management, competitive strategy, making build/buy/partner decisions, and identifying and developing partnerships. The PM works with Product Marketing, Business Development and MarCom teams on many of these activities.

There you have it – my attempt at demystifying the role of product management.

 

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Product Management, Uncategorized

 

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Marketing and New Product Development

Marketing management plays a key role in the new-product-development process along with the research and development department and other related departments.

New Products

The consulting firm Booz, Allen & Hamilton has identified six categories of new products in terms of their newness to the company and the marketplace.

New-to-the-world products (Product new to the company and the market)

New product lines: New products that allow a company to enter an established market for the first time (the product is new to the company not the market)

Additions to existing product lines: New products that supplement a company’s established products lines (package sizes, flavors, and so on)

Improvements and revisions of existing products: New products that provide improve performance or greater perceived value and replace existing product (Improvements in features and benefits of a product)

Repositionings: Existing products that are targeted to new markets or market segments (to be called a new product there must be some changes in the existing product to suit the new segments targeted).

Cost reductions: New products that provide similar performance at lower cost to the company.

Kotler says only 10% of all new products are truly innovative and new to the world.

New product development in various categories mentioned above is very important for any organization because existing products are vulnerable to changing consumer needs and tastes, new technologies, shortened product life cycles, and increased domestic and foreign competition.  Organizations have to be on the lookout for new products.

Factors That Contribute to Success in New Product Marketing

Madique and Zirger found the following factors:

1. Deep understanding of the customer needs.

2. High performance to cost ratio of the product

3. Being the early entrant into the market

4. Higher contribution margin

5. Larger amount of marketing expenditure

6. Strong top management support

7. Greater cross-functional teamwork among R&D, Engineering, Manufacturing, Purchasing, Marketing and Finance from the beginning

Effective Organizational Arrangements for New Product Development

An effective new product development organization starts with top management. The amount of money spent on R & D is an important top management decision related to new product development. Companies give the responsibility for new product development to product mangers, or new-product managers, or new-product committee, or new-product department, or new-product venture teams. In general product managers may not be able to devote adequate time to new products as they have to take care of existing products’ marketing and selling issues.

Managing the New Product Development Process

Eight stages are involved in the new product development process.

1. Idea generation

2. Idea screening

3. Concept development and testing

4. Marketing strategy development

5. Business analysis

6. Product development

7. Market testing

8. Commercialization

Idea Generation

A number of creative idea generating techniques can help individuals and groups generate idea. Some of them are:

  • Attribute listing
  • Forced relationships
  • Morphological analysis
  • Need/Problem identification
  • Brain storming
  • Synectics

Idea Screening

The purpose of screening is to drop poor ideas as early as possible and allow only promising ideas for further stage in the new product development process.

There is likelihood of two opposite types of errors occurring in this process. One, the drop error, results in dismissing a good idea. The other, the go-error, results in moving a poor idea forward.

Poor ideas result in product failures. Three types of product-marketing failures can be categorized: Absolute product failure loses money even on variable cost. Partial product failure recovers variable cost and some fixed cost. Relative product failure yields a profit, means it recovers variable cost and fixed cost, but the profitability is less than the company’s target rate of return.

Concept Development and Testing

A product concept is an elaborated version of the product idea and it is expressed in meaningful consumer terms so that consumer can visualize the product.

Concept testing involves an appropriate group of target consumers giving their reactions to the concept.

Will it Sell?

New Product Marketing Strategy Development

After the concept is finalized, marketing strategy needs to crystallized. At this stage the marketing strategy is expressed in three parts.

The first part: It describes the target market’s size, structure, and behavior. Product positioning is defined. The sales size, market share and profit goals are expressed.

The second part: The price and distribution strategy and the required marketing budget  for the first year are specified.

The third part: It describes marketing-mix strategy over time and evolution of sales and profit.

Business Analysis

At this stage, marketing department has finalized its market understanding and converted it into sales revenues and related marketing costs. The next stage is analysis of operating costs and profit analysis.

Product Development

If the business analysis clears the product, actual product development work is given to the research and development department

Test Marketing or Market Testing

High investment/high-risk products, where the chance of failure is high must be market tested. The cost of the market tests will be an insignificant percentage of the total project cost. Various types of market testing are:

Sales-wave research

Simulated test marketing

Controlled test marketing

Test Markets

 Commercialization

Based on marketing, if the company decides  to go for the manufacture and sale of the product, capacity decisions are to be made. The timing of the launch, the geography of the initial launch, the niche market within the target market and how to launch the product become important decisions.

Consumer Adoption Process

Marketers need to understand the new product adoption process to build an effective strategy for developing market for the product. Adoption is an individual’s decision to become a regular user of a product. The adoption process is followed by loyalty process.

Stages in the adoption process

Rogers defines the innovation diffusion process as “the spread of a new idea from its source of invention or creation to its ultimate users or adopters.”

Adopters go through the following five stages:

Awareness

Interest

Evaluation

Trial

Adoption

New product marketer has to aim his effort at facilitating the movement of consumer who is an adopter of new product  through the five stages.

References

 

Philip Kotler, Marketing Management (Main text for revision and article)

Modesto A. Maidique and Billie JO Zirger, ” A Study of Success and Failure in Product Innovation: the Case of the U.S. Electronics Industry,” IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, November 1984, pp. 192-203

See Bibliography also

Bibliography

Determinants of New Industrial Product Performance: A Strategic Reexamination of the Empirical Literature by GARY L. LILIEN AND EUNSANG, 1989

http://www.garylilien.info/publications/47%20-%20Determinants%20of%20new%20industrial….pdf

New Product Successes in Japanese Consumer Goods Market,

Hotaka Katahira, Makoto Mizuno, and Yoram Wind, 1994, Wharton School Working Paper

http://marketing.wharton.upenn.edu/documents/research/9402_New_Product_Success_in_the.pdf

New Product Diffusion Models in Marketing: An Assessment of Two Approaches by Malcolm Wright and Don Charlett, Marketing Bulletin, 1995

http://marketing-bulletin.massey.ac.nz/V6/MB_V6_A4_Wright.pdf

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Product Innovations

 

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Product Marketing Planning Process – I

This is a compilation of my learning from various books, articles, and posts. In this effort this will be a 2 part series to understand how the Product Marketing Planning process starts, and what are the essentials you should have to go for a solid Marketing approach. Happy Reading…
The product Marketing planning process should include the answer to the following three fundamental questions:
  • Where are you now?  (This is called BackgrProductound Analysis, we will discuss about this in this post.)
  • Where do you want to go?  (This we call as Synthesis.)
  • How you can get there? (This is your Action Program or Plan.)
In order to answer Where are you now?, you should do a Background Analysis:
Background analysis is a multi-step process, which accounts for
  1. Current Trend: Start the annual planing process by carefully assessing the Current status of your product and your company. You should look out for the problems that you may encounter during the fiscal year..at the same time you should look out for the opportunities to exploit.
  2. Segments:Segments are the groups of customers with common demographics, common needs and / or common uses for the products. You should divide your customer in the segments or groups so that you can allocate resources optimally and effectively. You should think about different ways, your customer can be reached out.The various factors that you should take in to account are Demographics, Application / use of the product, and the benefits.Your goal should be to find out the ‘Size Opportunities in new markets, and then invest resources accordingly”. For this you should estimate the size and your share of market under the competitive scenarios.You should profile, identify characteristics that distinguishes “likely” purchasers. In other words you should associate product’s performance in each segment.
  3. Competitive Analysis: You should start by asking yourself, whom yo have lost the most and who has bought you the most business or form where you have gained the most. Competitive Intelligence is an essential part of a Product Manager’s life…the essence is to understand the competition to avoid the threats and looses. There will be lot of information which will be available for you from your competitor…you just need to look around…you will find various publishing documents, Financial reports, competitive advertisements, promotional materials etc., and all this info is of great use. From the advertisement you can easily understand the positioning of the brand…and the specification can set the benchmark for your products.You should design a model that ‘win’ against competing products. This would involve you determining offers (features, price, and promotions) that optimize demands.Contd…
 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Product Management

 

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