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Product Management Metrics (part 1)

There’s a question that comes up regularly in Product Management circles. It’s also something I’ve thought about as well.

The question is:

What metrics can be used to measure the value and contribution of product management in a company?

It sounds like it should be an easy question to answer, but apparently it’s not.  It’s certainly not as easy as asking about metrics for sales, or marketing or even,to a lesser extent, engineering. Why is it difficult?

What is Product Management’s Mandate?

First, it goes to the issue of the definition of Product Management, and in particular technology product management. Alan asked a question in a recent blog post: What is Product Management’s mandate? There were a number of answers provided. Now, if someone asked “What is the mandate of the Sales organization?”, you know for sure there’d be little debate as to the answer.

So what is Product Management’s mandate. Here’s my answer:

Product Management’s mandate is to optimize the business at a product, product line or product portfolio level over the product lifecycle.

NOTE: This is very similar to the definition used by Steven Haines in his book, The Product Manager’s Desk Reference.

I’ve emphasized three words in the above definition: optimize, business and lifecycle.  Yes, Product Management does a lot of things, but at it’s very core, the focus on Product Management must be a business centric function.

Notice I didn’t use any of the following words in the definition: align, technology, maximize, minimize,  opportunity, marketing, sales, development, engineering, requirements or agile!

Think about it. People talk about Product Management as a cross-functional organization. What does that mean? It means that Product Management cannot function as yet-another-silo along side all the other silos in the company. Product Management plays across the other organizations in a company. Diagrammed, it might look something like this:pm-relationship1

This diagram doesn’t imply that the the 4 teams (Sales, Marketing etc.) report into Product Management, but that the responsibilities of Product Management span across those teams, impact and influence them. Another way to diagram the relationships could be like this:

pm-relationship2This again shows relationships between the groups. This is, of course, a Product Management centric view of the relationships. An analogous diagram could be drawn with, for example,  Senior Management at the center, and other teams radiating out. But the fact remains that Product Management must communicate and work with many other departments in the company, moreso than practically any other group except Sr. Management.

So, what about the actual metrics? I’ll get into that in Part 2. In the mean time, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the mandate of Product Management, as well as ideas on some metrics you believe are important to track.


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