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Thursday, March 19, 2015

One Product Manager's Experience at "world's largest and most international computer expo"

Spent last Monday (March 16, 2015) at CeBIT in Hannover, Germany, which claims to be the "world's largest and most international computer expo". I've heard about it for years and finally wanted to experience it firsthand. I also thought I'd use the opportunity to spread the word about my product management consulting and training services. Here's a quick rundown of my experience:

  • CeBIT is absolutely huge! I would say there were 10 exhibition buildings filled to the rafters with all kinds of high tech companies, from IBM and Microsoft to startups from Romania
  • I didn't see anything that blew me away from a technology perspective, so it didn't have the feel (to me) of anything like a consumer electronics show
  • The revenue this thing must generate is MIND-BLOWING. I'm sure there were several 6-digit vendor pods/booths/areas.

The most salient memory I took away was that virtually all of these people, each in the computer hardware or software business, knew NOTHING AT ALL ABOUT PRODUCT MANAGEMENT. Granted, the place was lousy with marketing and sales folks, which makes perfect sense. However, it was a bit disheartening that in discussions with folks in various positions (sales, HR, marketing) from organizations of all sizes from around the world, I basically had to start  from scratch with respect to explaining our profession. I didn't test the waters in this respect, but I'm convinced all those people would have claimed knowledge of other positions/disciplines in software such as CEO, developer, architect, sales, marketing and support.

Not exactly shocking, but it is clear we have our work cut out for us. Let's make 2015 the year PM emerges from the shadows.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Another Product Management Elevator Pitch

Gabriel Steinhardt of Blackblot recently had the great idea publishing an elevator pitch for product management. Being prepared to describe the value we add concisely and convincingly is, without a doubt, a great idea. As you can imagine, each of us has our own way of pitching what we do, which is probably a good thing. The fact is, different audiences need different pitches, depending on a myriad of factors including the motivation and experience of the audience (as with any presentation!).

As a long-time product manager and now a consultant and trainer, I've given this type of pitch innumerable times. As I thought about my (up to now tacit) traditional spiel, I thought about what I consider the key requirements for a great pitch. A great elevator pitch on product management should:
  • Be brief. Hey, you're on an elevator and people are busy. Get to the point!
  • Underscore the strategic importance of the role. Talking about daily tasks and other minutia should be avoided. More here.
  • Communicate the key accountability(ies) of the role.
With these requirements in mind, I crafted my version of the product management elevator pitch (in a surprisingly short period of time and with few subsequent edits!):

"Everyone agrees that companies need a vision and strategy to guide their efforts and ensure expected business outcomes. In companies that sell products, a dedicated professional called a product manager is required to execute corporate strategy at the product level, ensuring investments in product development support the corporate vision and strategy. Product managers are experts at understanding market needs and turning ideas for solutions to these problems into sustainable, product-based businesses, managing these products throughout their life cycle. Product managers are accountable for making the right product available to the right markets at the right time at a cost that supports business success."

A few comments and observations:
  • A piece of software becomes a product when it isdelivered to multiple customers in the same form and managed throughout its life cycle. More here.
  • The terms "vision" and "strategy" come from the OMG BusinessMotivation Model
  • This pitch probably applies to any organization that "sells" a "product" (not just commercial enterprises)
I've used some version of this pitch for some time and feel like it's been well received. In my mind, I met my own previously stated requirements. I was particularly happy I got it out in only 4 (admittedly lengthy) sentences!

What do you think of my elevator pitch? What's yours?