Monday, March 14, 2011

Product Managing the Global Product Management Talk

I'm excited to report that after 5 weeks in existence, the Global Product Management Talk on twitter is gaining traction in the product management community with thought leaders sharing their expertise as speakers with  product managers contributing insights in a very quick hour of tweeting discussion. 

My greatest appreciation for the collaborative efforts of my co-host, Adrienne Tan and the entire team of brainmates, Australia and to the speakers who didn't hesitate to jump in: Steven Haines of Sequent Learning, Scott Sehlhorst of Tyner Blain, Jim Holland and Saeed Khan of, and Roger Cauvin.  

To date, we have discussed 
Best In Class Product Management
Establishing Market Authority
Innovation is Just Good Product Management
Building a PM Organization
Market Insights

Each week following the event, I post a transcript of the twitter discussion and a twitter list of participants, Adrienne provides a summary of the cogent tweets, while the speakers and other participants post blogs in response to the issues raised.  All the content is captured on the site I maintain at, including background knowledge about the speakers and their suggested links.

From a product point of view, ProdMgmtTalk has a 7 day launch cycle; all of the product marketing elements required for a product launch are repeated weekly. I intend to detail those behind the scene actions in future postings about startup product marketing and creating virtual knowledge communities.

Further context: as an early adopter, I am always trying out new tools to understand user experience, provide feedback from the market, and test the competitive space.  To this end, I have been researching tools for virtual events and discussions.  Disclaimer: I loved Googlewave and have managed online developer communities and mentor offline local communities around various issues, thus my introduction of another tool, Tanglerlive into the mix.

As founder and product manager of the ProdMgmtTalk, I'm posting my notes on lessons learned from last week's #ProdMgmtTalk followed by feedback from Saeed Khan and Scott Sehlhorst.  

What worked:

Excellent discussion around building PM organization and related issues
Increased participation: New and returning participants (statistics will follow)
Increased comfort with twitter hashtag and discussion format
Increased desire to join live discussion on Skype

What didn't work:

----Technical difficulties; Skype, Tanglerlive, Twitter

----Distraction; too many things going on dissipates focus of conversation 

----Conflicting agendas; 
enhance ongoing community discussion vs. support specific twitter talk

Technical Difficulties
1. Skype - we have consistently had issues utilizing Skype to conference everyone in at the same time. This week, we had the most people on Skype and the least amount of verbal conversation.  Previously, Skype has served to increase our enjoyment of the event, enable deeper conversation amongst the speaker and co-hosts, and allow us to collaborate on the focus and progress of the twitter discussion.  

The ideal usage of Skype is to meet and orient the speaker prior to the event, support their efforts during the event, and debrief following the discussion. 

Going forward
--schedule a 3-way conversation prior to the event to better serve the speaker and customize the experience appropriately 
--rethink how many people can or should be on Skype 
--separately consider other opportunities for live conference product management discussions, i.e. webinars

I have been testing different tools to support the discussion, seeking to extend limitations of twitter and enable depth of conversation
--Red Light! Even PMs need time to master a new tool prior to an event!
--Danger implementing a new tool live without practice sessions & scaling guarantees
--Continue to assess

3. Twitter
We can expect twitter difficulties consisting of overload, tweets not showing up from different tools (tweetdeck), twitter tools slowing down the stream or dropping tweets. 

4. Distraction - too many avenues to simultaneous communication dissipates the focus - trying to Skype, Tangler, Tweet, and for me attempting to manage, monitor, orient, welcome, watch time & contribute to the discussion on 2 fronts, 2 handles and 3 tools....

--result was missed opportunity to engage with speaker & focus of conversation
Going forward
--less is more/back to basics - master the art of twitter talk! i.e., stay within limitations of twitter for the event

5. Agendas - 
Granted, the twitter talk is one element of a bigger goal: 
to raise visibility of product management as a profession, promote product management experts, provide a forum for ongoing discussions

Recognize that the Global Product Management Talk on Twitter is a weekly product event launch, requiring on-going marketing actions of promotion & outreach, speaker attention, content curation & publication

-During event, the Twitter discussion & speaker content is the focus - anything distracting from that focus should be shelved to another time
-Same with Skype - reassess if it supports or hinders the focus 
-Tanglerlive can be open on the website to capture conversation before & after the event, however not yet tool of choice, to be reconsidered 

From Saeed:
Thanks for the detailed response. Please feel free to include my comments. I pretty much agree with everything you wrote below.

I think the openness of Twitter -- even with it's flaws -- for this kind of discussion outweighs other means for the discussion. e.g. even if TanglerLive worked properly, it's a closed system. The fact that Tangler has a Tweet capability for messages says something doesn't it? i.e. if evangelism is one of the goals for these talks, then the more open it is, the better.

The limits of Twitter messages is both a boon and a hinderance. It forces people to make their point quickly. I tend to get long winded if given the opportunity :-) and I did notice my messages were much shorter (out of necessity) on Twitter vs. Tangler. That's not a bad thing.

It can be hard to track the flow of the conv on Twitter, because you're not guaranteed to see all the message. I did not see any of Jim Holland's messages. I was just using a browser and not a dedicated twitter client. And even across clients there are issues.

At least one person should be commissioned to retweet key messages, particularly when people (like Jim) are not visible in the main stream.

One suggestion I'd make is to promote the talks on Twitter via other hashtags.  #innovation is a great one. Very active and full of people with similar mindset.

I like the Skype (voice) option for speaker orientation. That's a great back channel to keep things coordinated and flowing over the Twitter chat. I wasn't following the skype chat at all during the hour.

Again, thanks for the opportunity and I'd love to do it again if you need someone for another talk.


From Scott:

staying on twitter might be best for now, although I think an interesting move might be to go audio-primary, with a moderator working twitter as the 'back channel' to keep engagement up.  but not sure how to do that without losing the high audience participation.  still thinking...

Thank you, Saeed and Scott for your feedback and continued participation to extend the value and reach of the Global Product Management Talks on twitter!

How to Create an Effective Product Management Organization

Reposted from
by SAEED KHAN on MARCH 14, 2011

Last week, I had the pleasure to host one of the Global Product Management talks on Twitter. These are a series of weekly 1 hour open discussions on Twitter on topics of interest to Product Managers.
The title of my discussion was Creating an Effective Product Management Organization. Brainmates have published a summary of the discussion here.
Last year, I wrote a general article entitled 5 Steps to Building a Great Product Management Organization. It served as background reading for this topic.
There was healthy discussion and the hour went by very quickly. And while Twitter is a great medium for certain types of communication, it’s difficult to get deep into any topic given Twitter’s limits.  And the topic of how best to build and organize a Product Management organization deserves deeper discussion.
We discussed the following 5 questions:
  1. How do Product Management organizations start and how do they grow?
  2. What are the main problems affecting small and growing PM organizations?
  3. What is the overall impact on the department and the company?
  4. Is there a recommended way to structure Product Management organizations?
  5. What roles should be included in the Product Management organization as the company grows?
Now I won’t go into all these in detail, but I will cover the first 3 briefly and focus on the last 2 questions, WRT structure and roles in more detail, as that is where I see most of the confusion.
How do Product Management organizations start and how do they grow?
Product Management orgs usually start when the CEO or Board of Directors decides that a Product Manager should be hired to help manage incoming requirements because the current method (by CTO, CEO, committee etc.) is not working. i.e. in response to a problem as opposed to proactively for more strategic reasons.
What are the main problems affecting small and growing PM organizations?
Small and growing PM organizations typically suffer from lack of resource/bandwidth, scalability, ability to work across organizations, ability to impact change and in some cases, overall domain knowledge. All of these can be traced to a lack of understanding of the overall objectives of the PM role and the reactive nature in how the PM organization was created.
What is the overall impact on the department and the company?
There are a number of impacts including lack of market understanding and lack of business agility. Fundamentally the company can end up thrashing by releasing products with poor fit within the market, thus increasing overall sales, marketing and support costs, while reducing revenue and company growth.
Is there a recommended way to structure Product Management organizations?
My glib answers to these questions are: Yes, structure the organization for success, and of course there is a recommended way, that’s why I’m writing this blog post. :-)
While glib, both are true and let me explain.
Structuring for success means structuring to be able to achieve set goals.
For example, a sales organization without the right number of sales reps would find it impossible to achieve a sales target. If each rep is expected to deliver $1,000,000 of sales per year, and the overall goal is $10,000,000, then they need at least 10 sales reps, otherwise, they just wouldn’t have the  capacity to reach the goal.
Additionally, if the product requires significant pre-sales support, then a small number of Sales Engineers would be needed based on some ratio of sales reps to sales engineers. There may be other roles needed as well — e.g. a sales manager or VP for the overall team, and perhaps 1 or 2 direct response reps to follow-up with and qualify leads for the sales team.
In this example, both the numbers AND the roles need to be present so that the sales team can reach it’s goals. The same is true for Product Management. Even though Product Management organizations are much smaller than sales orgs, numbers and differentiated roles are critical.
So, yes there is a recommended way to structure Product Management teams. Ensure they are structured to reach their goals — with enough people in the right roles :-) . But there is no single model because the goals can vary, the type of company and products and markets can vary.
What roles should be included in the Product Management organization as the company grows?
Another question with many answers. Going back to the sales team described in the previous question, I mentioned 4 roles: sales rep, sales engineer, direct response rep, VP or sales manager.
In Product Management, the different roles can come from any of the following:
  • VP/Director Product Management
  • Technical Product Manager
  • Product Manager
  • Product Owner
  • Product Marketing Manger
  • Business Analyst
  • Solution Specialist
  • User Experience Designer
I will go into this list in a future post, but the point here is that there can be MANY different roles within a single Product Management organization. It will vary from company to company based on the history, culture and political structure in that company. But the focus should always be to ensure the goals of the Product Management team are clearly defined and the team is staffed and structured to achieve those goals. Easier said than done of course, but what other option is there?
Tweet this: @onpm How to Create an Effective Product Management Organization #prodmgmt #prodmktg #prodmgmttalk
Original posting:  How to Create an Effective #prodmgmt Organization By Saeed Khan

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Creating An Effective Product Management Organisation

Posted by Adrienne Tan, Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 at 11:58 am at
For those of you who don’t know, @cindyfsolomon and Adrienne run a weekly Product Management Twitter Talk. We invite notable Product Management professionals to lead and join discussions that hopefully enlighten and delight.
This is a summary of the 5th Product Management Twitter Talk held on 8 March  2010 (Sydney date).
This week’s topic on Creating An Effective Product Management Organisation was led by Saeed Khan, a veteran Product Manager from Canada.
An effective Product Management organisation is vital for Product Managers to succeed. Without the right structure in play, good Product Managers encounter a range of unnecessary challenges preventing them for creating value for buyers and users, and ultimately generating a return for the business. Given that organisational structure is pivotal to the success of Product Management, what does an effective Product Management organisation look like? Is it different for different sized companies? This week Saeed and various esteemed Product Managers tackled these questions with such insight and of course, humour.
The first question answered by the group in pursuit of better Product Management organisations is “How do Product Management organizations start and how do they grow?”
  • saeedwkhan: There is no single way, but the term “accidental profession” for Product Management is apt. This is done very tactically in many cases. Instead of hiring a Product Management executive, a line manager is hired and put to work “prioritizing requirements”.
    Instead of this accidental creation of Product Management in a company, it should be understood as a core function from the start.
  • sehlhorst: A lot of times Product Managers are hired into organizations when the CEO or founder decided they don’t want to or can’t handle the details that are needed to keep the product moving forward.
  • macmyday: I think that Product Management is rarely embedded in organisations from the start. It’s not until a certain complexitythat organisations pay attention to the management of products.
  • shardul: For organisations that may not have had the ProdMgmt function in the past, but now do, often struggle. In fact, I would say that because Product Management straddles so many business functions/units within organisations, they’re hard to “assign” to a particular area and therefore their work is not understood well by many.
  • jim_holland: A SEAT at the EXEC table is not given, it’s earned. Trust, Value and Credibility lay the foundation. Real work opens a seat.
The second question is “What are the main problems affecting small and growing Product Management organizations?”
  • sehlhorst: For startups – I’ve seen founders attack a tactical need for “stuff we (here) think of as Product Management but not attack a need for a Product Manager.
  • roadmapwarrior: The lack of understanding of what Product Management SHOULD be impacts on the department not being included when it should be and being included when not necessary.
  • saeedwkhan: In early companies, product strategy and company strategy are deeply entwined. CEO must see that and accomodate.
The third question Saeed posed to the group “What is the overall impact of these problems on the department and the company?”
  • vifigatelix: Quality vs. quantity. It also affects time to market. It may be fast but bad.
  • sehlhorst: Main impacts are (lack of) business agility and (lack of) market prediction.
  • alwaysbeshipping: A product organisation that doesn’t seize a leadership position early on risks becoming a project management organisation of the business principals.
  • stacymonarko: Too many captains, resources stretched too thin, no “beta” customers, poor decisions.
  • brainmates: Ultimately it may be wrong product to market.
  • leonardkish: The main problem is failure to understand users and have product demonstrate it, which I consider main role of a Product Manager.
  • macmyday: People not understanding the role and responsiblities will hamper you.  You can’t launch and enhance a product if the org doesn’t provide the resources to support it.
  • saeedwkhan: Lack of understanding of role or function will hamper any department. Not just Product Management. Imagine any poorly run department.
Some words on Product Management and leadership.
  • alwaysbeshipping: It’s also a slippery slope. The less Product Management leads, the less leadership latitude it’s afforded by the company leadership.
  • saeedwkhan: People expect Product Management to lead. If Product Management doesn’t lead someone else will.
  • sehlhorst: Leading is key. Listen to customers, but don’t be a waiter taking orders. Be a maitre d’ solving problems.
Question four “Is there a recommended way to structure Product Management organizations?”
  • saeedwkhan: Overall, Product Management should be focused on business success of the product or portfolio. How you divide tasks can be different.
    You need to have scalable teams with differentiated roles that align with company focus and strategy.
    I really feel strongly that we have to refrain from talking about “the” product manager, and talk about Product Management teams. Too much focus on “the” Product Manager means we stay in the same situation with too few resources.
  • rcauvin: One way to structure a Product Management organization: teams centered around markets or products; Product Manager manages the team.
    Another method is to have a separate manager for the team, but the Product Manager is a key “lieutenant”.
  • alwaysbeshipping: I’m a big fan of super flat, super lean, and include Program Management and ux in the same organisation.
    Head of Product Management and head of Engineering should have the same boss. Alignment between Product Manager and Engineer can make or break you.
  • vifigatelix: I’ve seen better results when they mirror customer segments (for services) and product category (for goods). Services requires an extended Customer Service team and it is easier to manage by segment.
  • macmyday: Be persistent with advocating Product Manager role. Clarify this with managers and C-lvl. Take leadership for products!
  • shardulmehta: Product Management at the executive level setting, product strategy based on business strategy; then Product Managers by market segment.
  • mikeboudreaux: Structure based on business objectives, product lifecycle situation, and market environment.
Question five “What roles should be included in Product Management as the company (and organization) grows?”
  • roadmapwarrior: The pragmatic triad. Product strategy + Technical Product managment + Product marketing.
  • saeedwkhan: Product marketing is part of Product Management and should be on the same team.
    Also, look at other departments and how they specialize roles. No different for Product Management.
    In general, organisations need to be scalable, efficient and able to achieve their goals. If not, what’s the point!
  • sehlhorst: Goals of the team: set strategy, understand market, communicate internally, engage externally, operations support / feedback.
    Roles of the team: slice up the goals, depending on people and their particular areas of interest. No magic formula. (brainmates ad lib: Just bloody hard work!)
  • macmyday: Organisations need to become aware that the Product Management team incorporates non-PMs as well.
  • rcauvin: There’s always the idea of having a Product Manager and product owner collaborating on the same team.
  • mikeboudreaux: Organize Product Management teams based on workload and market/technical knowledge/aptitude.
Product Management Talk is the fastest hour of the week. Its a great, effective way to keep your Product Management skills sharp.
Full transcript:
Join us next week for Social Media in Product Management with Paul Gray of brainmates

Monday, March 7, 2011

Global Product Management Talk w/ Saeed Khan - TanglerLive Conversation

Global Product Management Talk w/ Saeed Khan - TanglerLive Conversation

Innovation is Good Product Management!

Guest Post by Adrienne Tan, Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 at 9:31 pm  

For you of those who don’t know, myself @cindyfsolomon and Adrienne @brainmates run a weekly Global Product Management Twitter Talk. We invite notable Product Management professionals to lead and join discussions that hopefully enlighten and delight.

This is a summary of the 4th Product Management Twitter Talk held on 1 March  2010 (Sydney date). Here’s the full transcript.  Additional blog postings about this discussion

This week’s topic on Innovation and Product Management was led by Roger Cauvin, Product Strategist Consultant.
The first question for the group to consider “Are Product Managers innovators or innovation enablers?”
There were some fantastic, well thought out responses, to Roger’s question:
  • brainmates: Product Managers are both! They innovate when they seek new problems to solve. They are enablers when kick off prod development process. Innovation can happen anywhere in the Product Management cycle.
  • paulalexgray: I say Product Managers are innovation enablers. They touch all parts of the business. Their customer focus help drive multiple innovations.
  • rcauvin: In my opinion, Product Management both innovates and enables others to innovate. Product Management innovates when it synthesizes market data into new insights that drive product decisions. Product Management fosters innovation by communicating market problems to those who can design and build solutions.
  • stacymonarko: They MUST be an enabler, even better if they are innovative as well.
  • macmyday: I think they should be both, innovators and enablers. When it comes to innovation no one should step back.
  • sehlhorst: Product Managers are enablers when ‘making it happen’ and innovators when ‘connecting the dots’
  • brioneja: A common definition is that to achieve innovation you need the right culture, people and process. I see the Product Manager as the primary individual leading the innovation process and as an influencer in the culture and people. A leader is not required to innovate. The leader, however is responsible to coax the best out of the team, including best ideas, best solutions.
  • rich_velazquez: Whether Product Managers are innovators or innovation enablers depends on the organisation & size of your group. Additionally some orgs have a Product Planning role which precedes Product Managers, moving them to an innovation enabler role.
  • cindyfsolomon: It depends on the lifecycle of the product.
  • roadmapwarrior: If Product Management uses market problems to get to innovation then yes.
  • erikalandersen: I would think both – product managers should be creative enough to innovate, open-minded enough to enable innovation.
  • michaelrhopkin: Product Managers should lead the innovation process; a key aspect is gaining trust of other teams & getting their best
Roger’s 2nd question “What do great product managers do to innovate or foster innovation?
  • roadmapwarrior: Listen (to market, clients, internal, etc.), keep current on not only technology but conversations.
  • stacymonarko: Ensure clear communication channels across the organisation and must relay customer knowledge to the organisation.
  • sehlhorst: Discover the natural of matings of technology and valuable problems in the market, tell the story internally to get agreement.  Innovation is combining solution with problem.
  • rcauvin: True innovation comes from understanding the problem in solution-neutral terms. So Product Management first attempts to understand the problem thoroughly & communicate it to designers. By framing the problem clearly, Product Management enables designers to unleash their creativity & skills. Peter Drucker speaks of “purposeful”, systematic innovation. Product Management is a big part of systematising innovation.
  • macmyday: Product Managers need to be across product and people. Need to tap into people’s mind & ideas.
  • barrypaquet: Synthesise and lead. Product Managers need vision, not necessarily the answers — and that’s OK. Innovation — you can’t create it, you need to deliver it (implies validation).
  • brainmates: Product Managers need to know ask the right questions.
  • bdoctor: Product Managers foster innovation by listening to the market (not only customers) seeking unfilled needs.
  • stacymonarko: I can go around creating really cool features but its only innovative when it answers a need.
  • brioneja: Innovation has to be tied to value delivered which is tied to desirability and need.
Roger’s 3rd question for the group “What is the relationship between requirements and innovation?
  • rcauvin: A requirement defines a problem in terms of the conditions indicating its absence. So a requirement is only “innovative” insofar as it yields new insight on a problem. Once we start into innovative *solutions*, we’re no longer in the realm of requirements. Part of the Product Management role in enabling innovation is to define requirements in solution-neutral manner for designers to innovate.
  • stacymonarko: The Product Manager is responsible for confirming the requirements meet the customer’s unmet need.
  • sehlhorst: Requirements is half of innovation. Requirements + invention = innovation. Feature + requirement = innovation. feature is a solution, not a need.
  • Macmyday:  Innovation can relate to the requirements or the process behind gathering them.
  • stacymonarko: We should ensure that requirements are met while delivering a 1 of a kind solution that no one else can provide.
  • bdoctor: Some innovations are dreamt up and confirmed or tweaked by talking with the market.
  • Brioneja: The definition of the requirements sets in place the type of solution that you will get. In a similar manner, the type of process you use to manage innovation sets in place the type of innovation you get. Innovation is a combination of requirements that deliver value and the invention that meets them. A requirement is tied to a need. A feature is how the offering meets the requirement.
  • jidoctor: If the requirements drive the solution, isn’t’ that the innovation source? Requirements become the method for achieving.
  • lmckeogh: Innovation is the ‘what’ & requirements are the ‘how’.
  • brainmates: Requirements inform the solution whilst ‘innovation’ is the outcome of a successful solution.
Roger’s 4th question, a question that we can dedicate a whole hour of debate to, “Does agile product management foster or hinder innovation?”
  • rcauvin: Agile enables Product Management to uncover unanticipated market problems by demoing solutions to customers and getting feedback from the customers that lead to innovative insights. Fundamental part of agile is deciding what risks/unknowns to tackle.
  • brainmates: It neither hinders nor fosters. There are so many factors that enables innovation.
  • sehlhorst: Real agile Product Management fosters in spite of the pressure (from others) to focus on the short term.
  • brioneja: My view on agile is that it works very well on incremental or sustaining innovations.
  • roadmapwarrior: If done right it should enable innovation – the more you learn the better you define.
  • jidoctor: Too much emphasis on customer feedback will only have current interested in potential innovation…your market is bigger.
  • bdoctor: I’d like to think all PMs (agile or not) foster #innovation. Agile is just a more conducive environment for innovation.
  • brioneja: All methods lead to learning. But who you talk to and what questions you ask fix the outcome. Mainly because to set an agile system in place you need to have decided the segment where you will focus on. Thus you already made decisions that are constraining the outcome. Thus the need for another process prior to agile to define the best areas of opportunity.
  • pgopalan: Agile = process. Innovation = outcome. They can be mutually exclusive.
  • JanelleTNoble: Depends on how its done. Agile development keeps u in tune w/customers but don’t ignore a larger roadmap/vision.
Final question for the day “What are some examples of things Product Managers do to stifle innovation?
  • paulalexgray: Product Managers (or any part of business) that demands detailed biz cases for disruptive or
    startup ideas can kill innovation.
  • cindyfsolomon: Not allowing enough time for creative discussion…
  • sehlhorst: Stifling: a) interlock b) design by committee c) HiPPOs d)current-customer fixation e)ignoring not-yet-your-market.
  • roadmapwarrior: Sometimes it’s saying “no” too soon, and sometimes it’s saying “yes” too soon!
  • brainmates: Decision making by committee.
  • michaelrhopkin: #1 way orgs & pm stifle innovation? using the words “we can’t”.
  • bdoctor: We’ve never done it that way.
  • macmyday: Being caught up in day-2-day biz, forcing #innovation + probably many others
  • rcauvin: By pre-emptively designing & not letting designers design.
  • jidoctor: Stopping the creative discussions…at any level. Stop the fear!
That’s it for this week.  

Please join us for Product Management Talk next Tuesday 10 AM Sydney time. We have Saeed Khanon Creating an Effective Product Management Organisation.

To join us, we recommend you use Tweetchat and simply type in the #prodmgmttalk to follow the discussion.
Website:  #ProdMgmtTalk

Posted by Adrienne Tan, Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 at 9:31 pm