Three Tips For Successful Product Management Today
By Philip Casini
What happened to the days when product management meant targeting a customer base, identifying specific needs, taking the time to build the right product, and growing marketshare though strong brand and quality satisfaction promotions? They are long gone. Several key dynamics have changed product management forever:
1. The rising complexity for products today to be competitive is escalating the engineering costs. Even outsourcing the development work has a price, and engineering resources in most companies are getting tighter. More and more tough decisions are made on the priorities of new products, most of which are great ideas that never will touch a customer.
2. The revolution of outbound marketing over the internet means virtually any company of any size any where in the world can compete for the attention of the customer. There are no barriers to entry here anymore.
3. Low cost development centers located internationally has shown quality control can vary greatly and production costs can escalate (have you noticed the frequency by which some of the biggest names in the electronics business are experiencing product recalls?)
One of the biggest reasons these changes create havoc in a company is that the product development process has not evolved at the same pace as the outbound marketing. Doing things even remotely the same old way is just not effective anymore. So what steps can companies take to regain product management efficiencies?
1. It starts with a revamped process. There are three critical questions that should be answered in order to justify spending precious resources to develop a product
a. Can a market opportunity be identified where the core competencies of the company has the ability to drive the product innovation enough to become a market leader?
b. Is the market relevant to the corporate goals?
c. Is someone really committed to buy the product?
But wait, these sound like market research questions. Yes they are. However the difference is that today’s market requirements change much more quickly. So these questions have to be asked during every step of the process all the way to the final decision to engineer the product. In the past these questions were normally answered early in the process and shelved until the product comes out. This is a source for obsolescence development today.
2. Let product development decisions be made by the people who have to do the work to make the product happen. Because products are so complex, and markets change so quickly, there is no longer enough time nor the right words to communicate clearly to anyone outside of the process all the nuances of a market opportunity. Key strategic decisions still must be made by upper management. But empowering the people executing the process is the most efficient way to ensure your product stays relevant. This includes integration of engineering resource allocations so that the process can continually assess, and reassess, the priorities of the engineering teams.
3. Build quality control into the development process. The days of shipping a new product to a dedicated quality center are long gone. That does not mean this should not be done. However, with the rising complexity of products and the distribution of development tasks across perhaps several engineering groups, a centralized QA team cannot be held responsible for having the knowledge and skills sets to identify and address detailed problems. Quality control has to now be an integral component to the development process. Design with quality in mind and the end result will be much better before it hits the QA team.
The ability to cope with the dynamism built into today’s market opportunities are the difference between successful products and lost leaders. An acute awareness and willingness to embrace the dynamics is the next evolution step after the tactical tasks that many companies have been undertaken (such as developing lower cost engineering centers world-wide, reducing the number of products being built, re-focusing core competencies, right sizing….)..
The changes suggested here are not necessarily expensive or require massive shifts in resources or skills sets, or even the acquisition of new capital or skills. Simple but effective steps can make a big difference.
Advance Tech Marketing (ATM). is a marketing consulting firm specializing in individual skills training for marketing professionals. For more information, see http://www.advancetechmarketing.com
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