My employer posted a Senior Product Manager position for Sage 300 & CRM this week. Product Management is an area of the business that has always fascinated me. Although Product Managers (PM) have a lot of influence at Sage they have very little power to make things happen. Expectations remain high though to deliver results! Their job is even more challenging due to the matrix organization at Sage. There are a lot of stakeholders to manage with different and often conflicting opinions in multiple locations. It can be challenging to make decisions in a timely manner. This can negatively impact performance in the product delivery teams.
I have read a few books on Product Management & Strategic Alliances in the past year. I am currently reading “Software Product Management Essentials”. It is above average of a fairly mediocre list of books on the topic. One section I found interesting was the authors thoughts on the 7 habits of highly effective product managers. The list is worth sharing.
- Great PM’s know their product but also their limits: I definitely agree with this one. PM’s who know the product have far more credibility with the folks in R&D if they know the product. That said nothing infuriates R&D more when PM’s are pontificating on something they know nothing about. It is important clearly communicate the requirements and market\customer needs. If PM’s have evidence\data to support their perspective it is important to share it. Then it is time to let the experts in their respective fields UCD\BA\DEV\QA\UA do what they do best. In a nutshell PM identifies the right product\feature for the market. The experts make sure the product is built right!
- A great PM listens first: Simon Covey’s timeless advice in the 7 habits of highly effective people comes to mind. Seek first to understand then be understood. It is important to understand your various stakeholders needs so you can ask good questions. PM’s message resonates far more when it is tailored to their respective audiences.
- Great PM’s are curious: The ability to continue to ask why to uncover the real issue is invaluable. The best PM’s I have seen never settle for the obvious answer and strive to truly understand the problem to be solved.
- Great PM’s are decisive: Strong PM’s are willing to defend and debate their decisions. PM’s are often challenged publicly. It is important to encourage people to share their ideas and opinions with you and remain assertive and confident at the same time. Sometimes data is available to help guide the decision. Many times (more often than most organizations care to admit) it is not. If new information comes along that justifies a course correction so be it. In the interests of time a decision is often required quickly.
- Great PM’s are responsive: Once a PM loses respect in an organization it is very challenging to regain it. The PM’s with the best reputations I know are very hard workers. They are diligent about managing expectations and actively engaged with stakeholders at all levels of the organization.
- Great PM’s are excellent communicators: The most credible PM’s are typically the best presenters. They tailor their message for their audience and simplify the data with easily understand graphs. PM’s need to inspire their colleagues to achieve their vision for the product. People want to believe their contribution counts in something important and tangible.
- Great PM’s are passionate: Marcus Buckingham often points out in his writings that your strengths maximized become a weakness. Passion is a great example of this. Why should their stakeholder’s care if the PM is not passionate about their product? That said the ability to get to win-win situations especially in a matrix organization requires a PM to keep a cool head while others resist or even block their initiatives.
Does anyone out there have other comments on what makes a great PM? If you are considering a switch to PM a friend of mine shared the following presentation. I highly recommend it. http://www.slideshare.net/guestfbb385/shreyas-doshi-how-to-get-that-next-pm-job-svpma-march-2010?from=share_email