Loading...
CultureOrganizationProcessProduct ManagementSaeed

What keeps Product Managers from being really effective?

by Saeed Khan

The-Most-Importat-ThingA couple of weeks ago, I asked you to tell me what important activities you aren’t able to do because you’re caught up doing other (less important) things?

In a rather unscientific survey, I asked the following questions:

1. What is the most important thing you SHOULD be doing in your job that you DON’T get done because of other tasks/priorities?

2. What activity (that you regularly have to do, but would rather not be doing) prevents you from doing the most important thing from Q1?

3. In an ideal world, who should really be doing the task you described in Q2?

4. How many people are there in your company?

And thank you to all who answered.  The following is a sample of the the responses. There were too many to report all of them here.

There were some clear patterns in the responses and it really points to a problem in how companies define and staff their product management teams.

1. What is the most important thing you SHOULD be doing in your job that you DON’T get done because of other tasks/priorities?

  • Talk to or observe customers using our products.
  • Research product ideas, features and user interface improvements.
  • Focusing on strategy, on what’s next and why.
  • Get out of the building – see customers, prospects, competitor offerings at industry meetings.
  • Interviewing and observing prospects and customers.
  • Talking with users, prototyping and iterating.
  • Long term thinking and conversation, asking existential/strategy questions to shape the roadmap.
  • Meeting customers to better understand their actual problems and get their input.
  • Meeting with customers.
  • Talking to customers. Seems obvious but can never crack through and make that regular.

2. What activity (that you regularly have to do, but would rather not be doing) prevents you from doing the most important thing from Q1?

  • Performing second level support for older products
  • Testing features, coordinating releases, planning deployments
  • Janitorial work – e.g. checking peoples’ work, managing their content etc.
  • Answering basic questions about product to internal teams. Mitigating “urgent” and “we will lose the client” escalations
  • Crafting marketing experiments to test value statements and determine effective marketing tactics
  • Managing engineering
  • Writing docs (release notes, marketing collateral, deployment guides etc.)
  • Answering questions from sales when answers are obvious or well known
  • Supporting pre-sales with demos, RFPs, POCs etc.

3. In an ideal world, who should really be doing the task you described in Q2?

  • Support
  • Engineering manager
  • Sales engineer
  • Marketing
  • Engineering
  • No idea!
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Marketing
  • Pre-sales Engineers
  • Project Manager

4. How many people are in your company?

I added this question after the first few responses came in because I thought I might see some pattern differences between smaller and larger companies. To be honest I saw few differences. A couple of people from larger companies (500+ people) cited process and approval issues but otherwise not much difference from smaller companies.

Take a look at these responses. Yes, it’s completely unscientific and a small sample size but it’s really a mess from my point of view.

As Steve Johnson wrote, other departments may be hiding some of their headcount in your budget. i.e. Product Management is performing tasks that should rightly be done by other groups. Based on these responses, it seems virtually every other department (except for Finance and HR) are doing this.

OR, maybe Product Management is doing these tasks because they are expected to do them because nobody else has the knowledge to do them.

How can we change this situation? How can we give other departments’ tasks back to them so we can focus on the really important work that’s not being done today?

Saeed

Tweet this: What keeps Product Managers from being really effective?  http://wp.me/pXBON-4e6 #prodmgmt

About the Author

Saeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.

0 comments
  1. What keeps Product Managers from being really e...

    […] A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to tell me what important activitiesyou aren’t able to do because you’re caught up doing other (less important) things?In a rather unscientific survey, I asked the following questions:1. What is the most important thing you SHOULD be doing in your job that you DON’T get done because of other tasks/priorities?2. What activity (that you regularly have to do, but would rather not be doing) prevents you from doing the most important thing from Q1?3. In an ideal world, who should really be doing the task you described in Q2?4. How many people are there in your company?And thank you to all who answered. The following is a sample of the the responses. There were too many to report all of them here.  […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *