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How product managers can excel in both supportive and challenging organizational environments
In this discussion we share ideas and experiences for getting more benefits from product management and how you can help with that, regardless of whether your organization supports product management or not.
To help us with that is someone who has made it happen, increasing the visibility and effectiveness of product management, in different types of organizations. Her name is Monika Murugesan and she is Vice President of Product Management at Sentient Energy. She focuses on portfolio roadmaps, innovation, strategy, and customer success.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[5:26] What’s it like to be a product manager in a product-centered organization where product management is valued?
In an organization like this where the product manager’s function and value are understood, product management is usually a separate function. The product managers report to a chief product officer or CEO and have a big-picture understanding of the company strategy, which they can relate to the product portfolio strategy.
[6:24] How can product managers excel in that environment?
As a product manager, you build the right product and release it at the right time, so you need to know what the right product is and make sure you can build it with your resources and get it to market on time. PdMs interact with every division in the company—finance, marketing, sales, customers, quality, manufacturing. You have to be on top of everything and excel at time management and communication, because you are responsible for solving problems related to every division.
[10:37] What’s it like to be in an organization where product management isn’t honored or recognized?
Product management isn’t an easy job, because PdMs are the CEOs of the product without any positional authority. It’s a challenging role because it requires influential capacity, and it’s even tougher when no one understands product management. In organizations where product management is not well-understood, the PdM role blurs between project management and outbound marketing, and PdMs are usually under engineering teams or marketing teams. It’s a tougher position when your peers don’t recognize what you do.
[12:02] How can product managers excel in that challenging environment?
Build credibility and trust by influencing with the 3 H’s:
- Head: logical reasoning, e.g., using data to show the engineering team why it’s best for the company to pursue a project
- Hands: mutual benefits, e.g., showing a sales team why a strategy will benefit both of you
- Heart: emotional connection, e.g., showing developers how the product they’re building will help people; telling engineers what customers say about how your products are helping
Consider organizing a brown bag lunch to share customer stories with your engineering or sales teams.
[17:00] How can we build strong connections with customers?
It’s important to build a good relationship with sales so they will introduce you to customers and take you along on sales calls. You can’t build the next product sitting at your desk all day. Innovative ideas come from seeing customers in action.
[18:53] What are the benefits to having product management as a separate function?
There are some pros to having product management aligned with another function. For example, if product management is under engineering, product managers are more technical and understand the engineer’s challenges and their innovative ideas that can become part of the product. However, the ideal output from product management is achieved when product management is a separate function. When product management is a separate function, product managers see the big picture and can set up product strategy that aligns with the long-term company strategy, so product managers have a direct connection with the leaders of the organization, and engineering and sales are their peers.
Action Guide: Put the information Monika shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Connect with Monika on LinkedIn
- Find out more about Monika’s product manager coaching, Apex Specialist
“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” -Michael Porter
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator 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.