A Call to Product Management Professionals Everywhere

Happy New Year everyone – 2009 is here!

One of our sales reps is close friends with a sales rep from a competitor – let us call them Jim and Bob (not real names!). They actually spent the Christmas holidays skiing together.

One of the stories they commiserated on was how they both felt that executives (C-level) at most companies seem to place very little importance on their Product Management teams, compared to Sales or Engineering teams.

Are “Product Management” Teams Second-Class Citizens?

First let us share with you why Jim and Bob felt this way. Over the past year, they’ve been part of a good number of sales opportunities where the Director/VP of Product Management really wanted to buy the software for their PM team. But they couldn’t get approval from their bosses to purchase the software. Which left the Director/VP pretty dejected – and of course, Jim and Bob too.

The funny thing is – software from both of our companies is very affordably priced. Compared to what most companies spend on SFA (sales force automation) or Development (Engineering) tools – software for PM teams cost a fraction, often less than one-tenth and as little as one-hundredth in some cases.

Because of this experience, Jim and Bob felt that C-level execs at most companies place very little importance on Product Management teams.

If this were indeed true (we’re not 100% convinced it is true, due to reasons that follow) – then perhaps these C-level execs are stepping over dollars to save pennies. How so?

If PM teams turn out bad MRDs/PRDs – Engineering teams will waste their time working on the wrong things. Then Sales teams will waste their efforts trying to sell the wrong product. Everybody loses.

A Call to Product Management Professionals

Whether what Jim and Bob felt is true or not – one thing we’ve observed over our couple of decades in Product Management is this. Most C-level execs place far more importance on Sales and Engineering than Product Management.

This is kinda bad news to PM teams – especially in a bad economy.

Our call to Product Management professionals as we usher in 2009 is as follows:

  • Justify your existence to C-level execs proactively, and regularly
  • Demonstrate to C-level execs specifically how your PM team’s actions in the past year helped the company
    • Be as specific as possible
    • How did you help achieve higher revenue, lower costs, achieve competitive differentiation, etc
  • Demonstrate to C-level execs how your PM team’s planned actions in 2009 will help your company
  • Proactively structure the work done by your PM team to be of strategic importance, from the perspective of C-level execs. Then tell them about it.

In a nutshell: Justify your PM team’s existence by doing important work in 2009, and tell everyone (as loudly as you can!) including your C-level execs what you’ve done.

This will help ensure that the valuable contributions by your PM team is recognized by C-level execs – and will lead to PM team having a higher impact on your company, better career progression, increased job security for PMs, and may be even an approval when you want to spend a little money down the road to give your team a tool better than good ol’ spreadsheets! 🙂

P.S. The reason we’re not 100% convinced with Jim & Bob’s feelings is this. Even in a bad economy, more and more companies continue to purchase tools from Jim and Bob to help their PM teams work more successfully & efficiently. We think that while many C-level execs may place less importance on PM teams compared to Sales or Engineering, it is unlikely that most of them place very little importance on PM teams.

Editor’s Note:
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