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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Wishes for Product Management in 2015

We're a few weeks into the new year and I, like many people, am planning for the year ahead. I became much more active in the international PM community last year as I began blogging, launched SPM, promoted both on Twitter and began participating in PM-related LinkedIn groups. I even attended the Product Management Festival in Zurich.

I must admit I'm still a bit frustrated by the general lack of understanding of the value we add. I think we as a community need to own this problem and work together to resolve it. Toward that end, here are the developments I would like to see in our community 2015:

1. We stop referring to ourselves as mini-CEOs
I understand the motive for using this terminology: It somewhat captures the broad nature of our accountabilities and connotes leadership, a critical success factor in our profession. However, I also believe that in the long run this type of hyperbole does more to undermine our credibility than to help it. As I've said before, I believe that the vast majority of product managers have a reasonable amount of influence on getting products on the shelf, much less getting it in the hands of customers. By and large, we are not CEOs or even general managers and that's Ok - we still add massive value. Let's focus on helping people understand what product managers do and less time casting ourselves as something else.

2. We begin positioning our role as strategic (and walking the walk)
I wrote in an earlier post that the best way to describe product management to executive leadership is from a strategic perspective, i.e., product managers execute organizational strategy at the product level. I hope in 2015 more of us embrace this idea, demanding an organization strategy to guide us and creating a compelling product strategy that is aligned with it. I also hope more of us work the words "strategy" and "strategic" into our descriptions of our job. BTW, I don't consider this idea contradictory to the first point (you don't have to pretend to be a CEO to be strategic).

3. We move closer to a credible certification scheme
To say the least, there is no shortage of product management certifications available today. Most that I come across are offered by commercial organizations that also offer materials and preparation (often in the form of training) for their proprietary certification scheme. I would like to see an organization stand up as a non-profit and develop a certification program that is reasonably independent from commercial interests and mature and comprehensive enough to be valued by our community and those who hire us. Reasonably good analogs are the AICPA for certified public accountants in the US and PMI for project managers.

4. We help each other in more powerful ways
My recent foray into social media, groups on LinkedIn and event conferences has convinced me that there is a healthy community of PMs worldwide that is dedicated to helping its members evolve professionally. I hope in 2015 we see powerful mechanisms like mentoring grow significantly and that our community becomes even more active and united.

What do you think of these goals (or maybe just wishes). What would you like to see in 2015?

Previous Post:  Key to a better 2015? Pay yourself first.

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  1. Great list, I agree with every point.

    In recent years, I believe, we (PMs) formulated quite well our role definition, so that at least we understand it. Now it's time to find an easy and widely understood definition for outside world. Coz I am still kinda struggling to explain my mom what I do for a living :)

    On a certification point - totally agree. Even more articulated problem appears in Europe where we don't even have easy access to certifications such as: pdma or pragmatic marketing.

    I would add one goal: Establish reliable metric to evaluate Product Managers.
    What could it be? Overall product success? - this is due to entire cross-functional team. Delivery on time\budget\quality? - this is project management. Solved customer problems? - same as overall product success?
    Pragmatic marketing suggests it to be: number of customer problems discovered. I found it valuable, but still very much dependent on a company and product individual situation.

    p.s. just a wish: we're not project managers for God's sake!

    On the last point, I really hope that in 2015 we further develop our community: be it new non-profit, meetups, conferences or just go out from our offices and have a beer together :)

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Daniil. I think in the international context, there are still radically different views about our core competencies, e.g., do we cover the problem space, the solution space or both. A nice European (worldwide really) is ISPMA. Ping me at if you're interested. I really like the thought of KPIs! We must, of course, first come up with a reasonably consistent job description (at least a "common core"). I'm looking forward to a stronger community in 2015!

    1. Thanks Greg.
      Things change quickly, when I was searching for PM training and certification two years ago - there were nearly none options in the UE and only several stand-out options in the US.
      Nowadays, after your post and my comment - I learnt how things changed, which is great.
      Glad to see our Product management topic growing and looking forward to be a part of the growth.

  3. To clarify, I was talking about a nice option for certification is ISPMA.

    1. ISPMA definitely looks interesting, tnx for sharing.