Key attributes of a successful Product Manager


One of the most common questions in interviews for Product Managers is the question on key attributes of a successful product manager. It may also be asked in a different way as “what makes a product manager successful?”

Whilst success for product managers is contextual based on the Key Result Areas defined by the organization, some of the attributes common to all types of product managers are the following:

    1. Market Knowledge
    2. Communication and Influencing skills
    3. Product Knowledge

Now, let us look at each one of them:

1. Market Knowledge: There has been a wide acceptance of the authority of product managers — that they do not have any authority over others in the organization. Whilst this may be true from a people-management perspective, product managers could gain authority on product development and projects just by being an expert of the market. Being an expert in market matters such as target market characteristics, market trends, purchasing power of customers, competition, technological landscape, et al. Try it yourself — it works.

2. Communication and Influencing skills: This skill is probably equally important to product managers as that of the first one. Being a market expert with poor or no communication (both verbal and written) and persuasive skills is a disastrous situation for a product manager to be in – it doesn’t put the market knowledge into fruition.

3. Product Knowledge: Finally, knowing one’s own product is very essential. This will give confidence to the product manager while evaluating his product’s gaps and limitations with respect to market needs. This is also essential go gain respect within the organization. It is an awkward situation when a product manager puts together a requirement for a new capability, and later discovers it is already available in the product.

Your thoughts are most welcome.

Which stage of Product Life Cycle is most difficult to handle and why?


I believe the “sustaining” phase (AKA the “maintenance” phase) after product launch is the most challenging. Product development can be done with particular “objectives” , and once the product is launched it is extremely important to ensure the product is sustained the manner it should.

This is the critical phase in PLC that will ensure the product does not derail from where it should be heading.

The “sustaining phase” ensures that the product lives up to the demands of the changing market needs. And knowing when to exactly decommission a product is part of sustaining efforts.

Thoughts welcome!

Importance of Sales Engineering in Product Companies


According to Wikipedia:
Sales engineers advise customers on how best to use the products or services provided. They may also collaborate with the design, production, engineering, or research and development departments of their companies to determine how products and services could be made or modified to suit customers’ needs. Sales engineers use their technical skills to demonstrate to potential customers the usefulness of the product or service and how it may suit the customer better than a competitors’ products. Courtesy: Wikipedia.org

My comments:

All that is said above is absolutely correct. But I would like to discuss the significance of Sales Engineering from Product Development and Customer commitment perspectives.

I attended a Product Management working session with Sales Engineering a couple of weeks ago, and really understood the importance of them in a technology product company.

Then, back at the hotel room, sitting in a corner of my room and wondering about all the disruptions with internal systems, I realized that it’s such a nice approach to have a representative of Product Management out on the field with the Sales reps and ensuring that the correct solution is being proposed to customers, every time. In fact, Sales Engineers will also need to be empowered “not to approve” Sales reps from proposing incorrect or unavailable solution to customers.

No more false commitments will be made by Sales reps, period.

Sales Engineers (or Solution Engineers or Application Engineers as the role is referred to in different companies) do not only check false commitments to prospects, but also present the solution to “technology” & “usability” buyers, especially in the case of complex products.

So, in summary, having Sales Engineers will ensure that Sales do not commit to customers that may:
 a. Create unwarranted disruptions within the internal organization or processes
 b. De-rail the Product Roadmap in a big way such that it will create chaos and confusion

Are you working in a technology product company, and wonder about the numerous disruptions in Product Development? It is time to think about the importance of Sales Engineers for a moment!

Who should a startup hire first? Sales Reps, Engineers, or Product Managers?


This is a tricky question and everyone in Sales, Engineering, and Product Management feel their contribution to the organization is (strategically?) important and hence should be hired first.

Well, let’s take each job category and analyze its importance as it pertains to a startup — of course, we will exclude Operations and Support teams such as HR, Finance, Admin, Customer Support, et al.

Sales: Traditionally, Sales folks believe they are the “darlings” of the organization and sell anything (even stars on the sky!) to sign a deal. What they really do not understand is the ability of their organization to meet customer commitments on product delivery and sustain the product post-sales. So, a lack of understanding of the following items puts them in the back seat to be hired first in a startup: Current product offerings, clarity on roadmap, lack of understanding of the go-to market needs, unable to decide what product has to be proposed to which customer, etc.

Engineering: Well, this is an easy nut to crack. What will an engineer build if he does not know what is to be built? Engineering will need guidance from a market/customer facing team on what should be built. So, Engineers need not be hired first.

Product Management: When any company understands the importance of Product Management, it gives Product Managers full freedom to define and own “Product Strategy” which comprises of the traditional four P’s (Product, Price, Place, & Promotion). We could include another P to represent the market/customer Problem that is intended to be solved. Of course, the Product Managers will work with various stakeholders with supporting research material to build Product Strategy. Engineering will build the product and Sales will then sell it. In effect, Sales and Engineering are really “supporting and execution teams” to Product Management in executing the organization’s product strategy.

So, the winner is Product Management — startups should hire Product Managers first.

Thoughts welcome!

Describing Product Management in One Word


As many of us are very well familiar, Product Managers have to constantly interact with a number of organizational interfaces. There is always the tiff of resource constraints, attitude issues, tough personalities, et al.

If I have to ask you to define Product Management in one word, what would that word be?

There may be a number of answers:

1. Customer
2. Product
3. Problem
4. Market Segment
5. ROI
6. Revenue, and the list continues…

In fact, there is no incorrect answer to this question. All of the aforementioned words, and much more, are correct. But the one word I would chase down is “optimization”.

I believe optimization is key to product deliverables. No matter what the market is demanding, how irate are those bunch of customers who have been waiting for enhancements for months, how much a sales rep could guarantee revenue for a particular product, all of it boils down to what we can do with the available resources which is by-the-way “always limited!”. What can be delivered with available resources and stringent budget allocations within a reasonable timeline is always a challenge.

So, “optimization” will be the one word I advocate new Product Managers to strive to achieve.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Note: This article of mine is a spin-off of a similar article from a famous Product Management blog. I thought I should have an article of my own as this is the one thing I strive to achieve almost everyday at work.