From projects to products: What you need to enable successful product management

Successful product management - from projects to products - part 4

Successful companies organize teams around products that address business and customer problems.

This sounds like a no-brainer. Products that address problems for businesses and customers – isn’t that the whole reason your organization exists in the first place? The big idea, underlined at the top of every whiteboard in the office, that should be your guiding mission statement?

Even if the answer to those questions is yes (and hopefully it is), that doesn’t make the task any less challenging or daunting. If all it took to be successful was to write out that sentence, every organization would be a successful one. But, they’re not – and one of the key reasons why is that many organizations do not have a firm understanding of how to enable great product management internally.

How do we go about that? How do you create strong, capable product leaders that can shepherd equally strong and capable product management that prioritizes customer needs?

For one, product leaders have to be accountable. The responsibilities that fall on the product management process – be it business viability, customer desirability or technical feasibility – cannot be split up and delegated to different teams or silos. The product leader has to own all of these responsibilities.

Product leaders have to be well-versed in the ins and outs of product management governance, and balance that with a flexibility for execution and delivery so that they can make the best business decisions as a situation – rather than a rigid set of rules – demands.

Product leaders must clearly define how their products serve a particular business capability or deliver a unique customer experience. Demonstrating the clear-cut purpose of the product helps to rally the organization behind that product, improve collaboration and break down the siloes that can otherwise impede product development. This image illustrates how exactly the product leader can execute this function at scale:

Coordinating decision making for effective and successful product management

And, finally, product leaders need to balance the tension between the business, IT and product sides of the organization, and push them forward together for successful product deployments.

The 4 keys to successful product management

Looking at the above, it’s clear that product leaders need to wear a lot of hats in their role. That’s easier said than done – but far from impossible! And, there are a few certain key guiding tips that can help pave the road to success for any product manager.

  1. Focus on a specific, strategic goal. Product managers can’t be good at what they do if they’re trying to juggle multiple initiatives and agendas all at once. They need to focus all their time and effort on realizing just one value proposition.
  2. Forge a strong relationship with the head of the business. Other than the obvious reasons about why you’d want to be on good terms with your boss, having a strong partnership with the business owner gives you a powerful and needed ally in reshaping future business models around a product.
  3. Forge strong relationships with technologists. These are the guys who going to be prototyping and trialing new products, determining what works and what doesn’t, and ultimately helping to take a new product from concept to reality. Successful product managers need to be as close as possible to their technologists.
  4. Settle on a unified Product Vision. With so many different teams to wrangle together and siloes to break down, the only way a successful product manager is going to be able to consolidate all parts of the organization to move forward in one direction is by clearly laying out what the direction – that Product Vision – looks like, and having everyone sign off on it.

So, what does a successful product manager look like? At the end of the day, what organizations need in a product manager to drive their products forward is someone who can display a technologist’s point of view, an understanding of changing economics and a meticulous eye for detail and problem solving. But, above all, they need to be trusted as a leader, someone who can work across silos and be relied on to make the decisions needed for executing a product roadmap.

That’s the end of our blog series, but if you need a quick refresher on our previous posts – or just want everything you need to know about the journey from projects to products all in one place – download our thought paper, “Moving from Projects to Products.”