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Uncle Paul's Fruit Store

Product Management Excellence is best achieved through focus on a series of cornerstone goals and objectives that relate to the lifecycle of a product - from its inception through its retirement (and beyond). The cornerstone goals capture the essence of what you want your products or services to be and the primary objectives define the milestones along the way. How the goals and objectives are specifically defined depends on the nature of the organization you are working in, the market you are selling into and often the types of people in the very product management role itself.

Your implementation of product management excellence may be vastly different than someone else, even within the same industry and by someone selling the same types of products or services. You may also find a need to change your implementation of product management as the lifecycle of your target market evolves. There are some excellent materials on this theme referenced elsewhere in InsideSpin.

If you are new to the concept of product management, one of the first things you will observe is that it is often difficult to get two people to describe product management in the same way. The labels Product Management and Product Marketing are often used interchangeably as is whether the product management role is a function of Marketing or a central element of Product Development.

This section of InsideSpin takes the perspective that the best-of-the-best occurs when product marketing and product management are viewed as an integrated function regardless of organizational location (although on its own is recommended) – this is the best starting point when you are first trying to establish this role in your organization. To be successful with its implementation, you will need to adapt the things you read in this section to the needs of your own organization and combine this with your own personal experiences – this is what product management excellence is going to mean to you.

If you are yourself a product manager, you are probably responsible for dealing with one of several typical and often complex scenarios such as:

  1. Bringing to market a new product or product family
  2. Planning the retirement of an aging product or product family
  3. Planning a "next generation" release for an existing product
  4. Merging several products acquired through acquisition into a single product or product family

Each of these scenario's are covered in an integrated fashion by applying the idea that they all fall under a single lifecycle management planning strategy. Namely, a key responsibility of product management is to successfully manage a product through its lifecycle, from the time version one is conceived all the way through to when the last version is retired. If you internalize this concept fully, you will be well on your way to establishing excellence in product management for your organization.

Product management excellence cannot be described in step-by-step scientific terms. Instead, each chapter covers a cornerstone goal or objective of product management excellence, and is presented in a series of analogies and dialogues that most every reader should be able to relate to. To highlight the common-sense nature of product management, each cornerstone goal or objective is related to the business of selling fruit in a fruit store (hopefully you are not allergic!). This allows the materials to be presented more or less uncluttered from cumbersome industry-specific business terms and issues. Applying common sense to achieving the goals of product management is itself most of the battle; so spend most of your reading time trying to take up a common-sense perspective rather than looking for usable formulas and scripts.

If you are part of the leadership team, you may feel that achieving product management excellence can only be done with a breed of resources that you can’t imagine finding and hiring. If you plan to succeed without being dependant on ‘rare’ skills, your area of focus for reading these materials should be on how to adapt a whole organizational component to achieving the cornerstone goals and objectives described here, rather than any one individual role. You will probably be better in the long term anyway as sustained business success often comes if your organization can transcend specific individuals. Howwwwever, if you can find walking-talking-born-for-the-job product managers, don’t ever give them up! You will certainly find that they can single-handedly help you be successful, especially when starting a new line of business. You may even find that you already have the right “breed” of resource within your organization and you need to mentor them towards product management to extract the necessary benefits.

A strong focus is placed on lifecycle product management. One critical dimension of this area of focus is how to sustain a product in the market for an extended period of time, often beyond the lifecycle of the particular technology paradigm it is related to. A second dimension is the importance of operational process that drives all the phases of a lifecycle, from the time the initial idea is conceived all the way through to its eventual retirement. As such, you will need to digest all of the elements in this section in order to obtain a full view of lifecycle product management. If you proceed down one path without keeping in mind all of the nuances and decision points represented by all of the cornerstones, you may not succeed in reaching the maximum potential of your extended business goals.

If you get tired of all the fruit business stuff, the end of each chapter contains a summary of the relevant cornerstone goals or objectives covered, as well as the set of common-sense points described that you can use to bring product management excellence to your organization. Keep in mind that you will also be able to consult the InsideSpin Forums to assist you if needed. Keeping in tradition with the InsideSpin community, you are also encouraged to contribute your ideas and materials so that others can benefit.

The first chapter introduces Uncle Paul and the many issues he has to deal with as a Product Manager in the fruit business. The subsequent chapters focus on the core elements of the product management function. The middle chapters delve into specific issues that may or may not arise in your particular line of business but at a minimum represent issues to keep watch for. The final chapters push hard on the common-sense elements of product management excellence and hopefully bring together a clear picture for you on how to be successful. The last section lists a number of related publications that you may also want to consult to help round out some of the ideas presented here. Remember, product management it often not a science but a series of cornerstone goals and objectives your organization needs to focus on to realize the success defined in its long-term business plan. Only a handful of chapters are initially available on InsideSpin, others will be added based on user feedback (so provide some below).

Idea

When you see the "Idea" icon on the left, it is used to highlight a paragraph containing a common sense perspective related to some aspect of product management excellence. These common sense points serve to re-enforce an element of a cornerstone goal or objective that will help make you successful.

Umbrella

Look for the "Umbrella" icon on the left that highlights difficult issues that can derail a good product management program. Examples of an Umbrella issue might be when organizational conflict emerges requiring a disproportionate amount of "internally focused" time to resolve it. Look for early signs of these kinds of issues so that you can quickly focus energy on reducing their impact on your success equation.

Cape

The "Cape" icon on the left highlights special moments in a product management activity that should be acknowledged or rewarded. Examples of a Cape moment could be when a customer or co-worker gives you a product idea that is subsequently adopted in a release plan.

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