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Product Management Topics

When to Start Uncle Paul's Fruit Store
Requirements Documents (MRD, PRD) Hiring
Roadmap Competitiion and Competitive Analysis


When to Start

Building a successful high technology company today is clearly more challenging than it was even a decade ago. The web has altered the operational paradigm of so many facets of corporate structure, culture and communication. Executive teams feel like they can’t afford extended time to sit back and decide how to evolve – in a planned way – the core components of a business plan. The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants scenario is more common. It’s not surprising to see companies rise and fall as quickly as they do given the chaos that can result from off-the-cuff approaches to management.

Establishing product management excellence early in a corporate growth cycle should be a key CEO-led goal. Product management needs to grow with a company to be a key contributor to its success rather than its absence identified as a leading cause of its failure. We'll explore alternative ways to establish product management early in the growth of your business, how to sustain it over time and perhaps most importantly, how to retrofit it, if not currently present (or formalized). More

Uncle Paul's Fruit Store

Uncle Paul is a product manager at a fruit store. His business sells largely to restaurants and retailers. Uncle Paul has a nephew who is a product manager for a technology company. The two meet heads regularly to compare notes on their respective roles. Are they the same role with similar responsibilities? Written with a similar style as The Wealthy Barber, this section attempts to introduce product management concepts through a common sense approach. Hopefully this can help gain a deeper understanding of the product management role and how the role can make a strong contribution to your organization should you pursue excellence in this area. Meet Uncle Paul and his Nephew

Requirements Documents (MRD, PRD)

The bane of existence of the product manager. "Where are my requirements?", says the angry Development manager. "This does not do what the customer wanted!", says the angry sales person. "The product is not competitive", says the marketing person. "I can't get the P1 list below thresholds to release", says the Quality Assurance team lead. On it goes.

One of the top two or three documents a product manager produces is the written description of what the Development team should focus on to properly address the business opportunity at hand. Positioned as an integral step forward in a product cycle, the PRD as it is often called, contains a full description of each and every feature that is targeted for the next release cycle. This may sound simple enough, but alas, that's why product management is one of the most enjoyable, stressful, critical jobs in a technology company. Let's explore the details and see what we come up with.More

Hiring Product Managers

Effectively Product managers are notoriously difficult to hire. In fact, some of the best PMs come from inside the organization, most often from a development role or a field sales support engineer (SE). Wherever they come from, you need to know how to recognize someone with the right potential to fill this critical role. You also need to understand how to develop product managers. Let's examine some of the areas you might want to explore in hiring and developing a product manager who can deliver excellence. More


Perhaps one of the most asked questions in a sales presentation (aside from how much does it cost, how does it benefit me, why is it unique) is what is coming next? It's not uncommon for young companies to feel like a wisdom tooth is being pulled when asked to produce a product roadmap. Are you making unalterable commitments? Do you really know what you need to do next? Can you predict what your team is able to produce? Who drives what is in the product roadmap?

You must be able to produce a product roadmap. Without a statement about what is next, customers will likely be more loyal to your competition who is willing to promise what is needed. The product manager is often responsible for its production, for communicating it to customers and for maintaining it over time. It is a hard document to produce properly and even more difficult to manage through a lifecycle. We'll explore the details of how a product roadmap gets produced, what it should contain, how it should be presented and how to maintain it over time. It is a critical corporate document and should always be aligned with the overall strategy. More

Competitiion and Competitive Analysis

Although everyone in the organization should have some perspective on who is the competition and what makes them strong, the product manager is the one who should be obsessed with it. Understanding competitors is a key motivation to succeed, it helps shape direction, drives how you arm the sales people to pitch properly and much more. Competition provides a benchmark through which you, and the industry, measure the status of your Company. Without competition, you are adrift in your own world -- there are no rules of engagement, therefore no reference to present your message.

On the other hand, you can easily drown in doing too much competitive analysis. It's not uncommon to spend time (and money) analyzing dozens of companies, really a waste of time, as there is little you can practically do to address the specifics of what many, many competitors are doing. In reality, only a few matter (if any at all). Once your business understand this perspective, it makes the task of competitive analysis tractable.

The product manager leads the charge. Input comes from all possible sources, the best are often within your own organization. We'll look at the details of handling competition, the analysis required to help your company succeed, what is produced for consumption and what you might do with the information found (if anything). If you have a sound strategy and you are paying attention to the market you are addressing, the competition will take care of itself. This section largely explores how to do more with less. More