Brian Lawley is the CEO and Founder of the 280 Group, a company that provides product management and product marketing solutions. Brian has a long history in product management, including product manager for the Apple Macintosh OS. He is also the author of “The Phenomenal Product Manager: The Product Manager’s Guide to Success, Job Satisfaction and Career Acceleration.” Brian and his 280 Group team recently conducted a research project titled the “Challenges in Product Management 2015.” We discussed the key findings from the study.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- This is the first year of the study – why did you decide to produce it? There has never been a comprehensive study about the challenges that product management organizations face. Other studies have focused on product managers while our study focuses on impact of product management to the organization.
- Before diving into the findings of this year study, what are your overall impressions of how product management has changed in the past few years? The importance of product management has increased. One report states that the product manager is the fourth most important role in organizations. Technology companies recognized this first but today product managers are found in all industries.
- What do you know about the participants in the study? 890 people participated in the study. 30% were directors and VPs, 41% were product managers, and 20% were senior product managers. Two-thirds were from the US. Numerous industries are represented.
- How is the role of product manager viewed in companies? 61% are viewed as leaders in their company but 57% are too tactical and not strategic enough. The challenge of product managers is to free up at least 30% of their time to work on strategic activities. Product managers spend too much time managing feature lists and requirements instead of holistically managing the product to optimize value for all stakeholders.
- How do product managers feel about their competency in the role? Most product managers receive no formal training in their discipline. Across teams, product manager skills vary greatly. Some product managers have very advanced skills. Most respondents shared that their knowledge was average or below.
- What did you learn about product management processes in organizations? 49% believe that their product management process is their biggest challenge while 40% of directors and VPs believe their processes are a challenge. About 55% responded that their process is not well defined or standardized. The companies with the most product challenges are those without clear and standardized processes.
- What did participants say about improving the product management process their company uses? There was clear recognition that improving processes would increase product success and organizational profitability.
- A topic that has come up several times in Agile communities is the role of product manager vs product owner. Did the study examine this intersection? Of companies that said they are doing Agile development, 70% shared that the same person has the roles of product manager and product owner. A key issue is that many of them have not been trained in product management and many have also not been trained as a product owner. On small projects, a person with the right skills and experience can be successful as the product manager and product owner. On larger projects this becomes cumbersome and strategic focus is lost. When separate people are used for the roles, trust must exist between them to be effective.
- Challenges in Product Management 2015 Report PDF
- Optimal Product Process PDF
- 42 Rules of Product Management book
- The Phenomenal Product Manager book
- The 280 Group
“Hope is not a strategy”
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