The value the Product Development and Management Association provides for product mangers and leaders
Today we are talking about the most influential professional product association you’ve likely never heard of. The association is PDMA, and we’ll talk about what the they do and why you should know about them.
Susan Penta is with us. She is the Chair of PDMA and has served in other volunteer roles with the association in the past. She is also the co-founder and managing partner at MIDIOR, which has been providing professional services for 26 years to product organizations in a number of areas from product insights, product development and management, and technology platforms. It’s worth noting that PDMA is a volunteer-led organization and, like Susan, most of the people involved in its leadership have fulltime jobs in product roles yet make time to contribute to the professional association.
On and off, I’ve been one of those contributors as well because PDMA has been vital in my career development and I want to help other product managers. I’m currently serving PDMA by being an author on the 3rd edition of their body of knowledge for product innovation, which Wiley is publishing in early 2024.
This episode is sponsored by PDMA so we can find out more about the association. Register for PDMA’s 2023 Inspire Innovation Conference on September 16th-19th in New Orleans, LA, USA.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:15] What is PDMA?
PDMA is the Product Development and Management Association. We exist to advance and nurture the discipline of innovation, product development, and product management. We do that through academic research, academic-focused professional development, education, certification, and community. We were founded in 1976 by a group of individuals who at that point powered some of the most respected, recognized, and innovative companies. Today we are still doing that, and we are one of the only associations, if not the only professional association, to bring together academics, practitioners, and service providers around the discipline of product management to advance the discipline.
[4:13] Why is PDMA not better known among product managers and leaders?
You can talk about it as a marketing problem, but I think there is some root cause in our mission. Because we are about nurturing the discipline of product management itself, PDMA isn’t the place where individuals who work in product roles come to get jobs. Because our focus is on thought leadership and often the kind of content we bring to the table is heavy—academic or at least well researched and thought through—we are for those who are not faint of heart when it comes to product development and management. For many individuals who work in product management and product development roles, the discipline is a stop on their career path, so they don’t necessarily get jazzed about the discipline itself.
Our work in our communities is through our chapters. We are not putting commercialized content out there. We don’t have a big marketing engine. While we are a global organization, our grassroots are in each individual location where our chapters are. We should be better known, and organizations trying to professionalize the discipline of product development and product management inside their company give our certification visibility, but many people in small to medium businesses might not engage with PDMA unless they come across a chapter or our journal or somebody like Chad or me.
[12:47] What value have you found by being a PDMA member?
I fancy myself a lifelong learner. I care about nurturing the discipline of product management and development. In PDMA, you’re always learning. It’s fascinating to hear how other industries deal with product development, product management, organizations, process, and so forth. PDMA provided me with colleagues and an opportunity to look through many different lenses. Because I was starting to teach and the individuals in my classes were from different industries, that ended up being super valuable. It kept me at the forefront of where the research was headed because a big piece of our organization is focused on academics and research for the future.
The PDMA Body of Knowledge is synonymous with entrepreneurship and how you think about starting a company. A startup is a single-product company. The Body of Knowledge chronicles the product journey from cradle to grave. Even if you are focused on research and development, or if you’re focused on product marketing—two different ends of the life cycle—the Body of Knowledge gives you the entire context. It makes you a better individual, a better leader, and more appreciative of what other teams are doing. We have a body of work that is highly relevant to many.
[18:22] What are some other reasons product managers and leaders should know about PDMA?
First, if you think you’re going to stay in and around product, and especially if you want to lead product teams of any type, then knowing about PDMA and leveraging the professional development, Body of Knowledge, and opportunities that we present to learn and engage with others ends up being pretty powerful. PDMA cuts across career journeys and industries. If you want to stay in product or you want to be a leader, we would be an organization that you want to at least know about, if not engage with.
Second, we’re a serious group. We’re credible. The things that we put out are evidence-based and research-based. If you’re a product person—truly through your core—you go to PDMA. If you are interested in finding a job, PDMA is an interesting place for that, but we don’t have the biggest job board for product managers because that’s not our focus. We can refer to you to other places.
We care about the discipline. We care about the way in which individuals are able to interact with the discipline and with their teams and put really great, relevant products into market. That’s who we are.
[22:26] Tell us about the annual conference and how to register.
Every year PDMA puts on an annual research forum and practitioner conference, which are part of the same event. You don’t have to go to the academic conference if you’re a practitioner, and you don’t have to go to the practitioner conference if you are an academic, but they are both together, representative of who we are as PDMA.
This year’s conference is in New Orleans from September 16th-19th. It’s called the 2023 Inspire Innovation Conference. This year we will start with a research forum on Saturday into Sunday, have a bridge session Sunday afternoon, and then go into our practitioner conference on Monday into early Tuesday.
I’ve never been disappointed at any point in my career in a PDMA conference. I am, as I said, a lifelong learner. I go to the conference to learn and connect with others. The content is amazing, and it’s very egalitarian, so you can be three years into your career talking to somebody who’s a Chief Product officer or a CEO. The tie that binds everyone together is an interest in the discipline. We’re interested in product development, product management, and innovation, and there are a plethora of opportunities to go explore whatever want to you want to learn about.
I think we do a great job in a short period of time. We try to provide opportunities for the entire group to come together. This conference is attended by hundreds of people. We have sessions together and separate tracks.
Additionally, I own a professional services firm, so for my team, especially for those individuals who are earlier in their career, coming to a PDMA conference is a great way to consume a lot of material and do some professional development around the things that our clients care about.
You can register at PDMA.org. Right now there is early-bird pricing (until August 10th).
Put the information Susan shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Register for the 2023 Inspire Innovation Conference and get early-bird pricing until August 10th
- Check out PDMA.org
“Invention is a flower. Innovation is a weed.” – Bob Metcalfe
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.