If you are a ProductCamp leader, or are thinking about starting a ProductCamp in your area, this post is for you.
There is a problem with how ProductCamps are organized and run today: they are very tribal. Knowledge is passed on a one-to-one basis, or by physically traveling to another city to watch how that camp performs. This is inefficient and error-prone, and leads to a “multiplicity” problem where we are making a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy and missing out on the chance to share what is working and what isn’t to create a kick-ass experience for everyone.
To solve this problem, I have joined with two other leaders in the ProductCamp community to kick off an new initiative: a Global forum for ProductCamp coordination. Joining me is Colleen Heubaum, past President of ProductCamp Austin and small business owner. She brings loads of experience in managing teams, wrangling personalities, and guiding ProductCamp through transition and growth periods. Jon White is a board member at ProductCamp Seattle and the Product Management Consortium and has a broad range of experience in managing these same issues with ProductCamps.
Our goal is simple: provide a place where leaders of exisiting and prospective ProductCamps around the world can share best-practices, learn from each other, talk about challenges and provide solutions, and collectively raise the experience that we provide to the ProductCamp community. To kick off this program, we are hosting a conference call/web meeting this coming Monday February 11th at 11:00AM Central time. Leaders from over 30 camps have been contacted and we look forward to a good discussion about where we need to focus in the future. We envision a monthly cadence of calls, which will be recorded and posted for anyone interested to listen to and gain knowledge from in the future.
If you would like to join the call, please feel free – we want this service to benefit everyone. Details to join are below:
If you can’t make the call for whatever reason (there is never a perfect time for everyone), please drop your info into this form, and tell us what topics you would like to hear the community of leaders talk about in the future.
If you have questions in the meantime, please feel free to email me. Talk to you Monday!
This is a quick reminder to take our annual survey. We’ve run this survey for over a decade to provide product managers and marketers with a “State of the Union” for their profession. We publish the information we gather for free back to the community as a service, so you can have valuable insights into compensation, job responsibilities, titles, and ratios that represent the industry.
We hope that you find it useful and will help us help you, so go take the survey now!
[UPDATE] Link fixed, thanks!
Product managers and project managers: how do they compare? Though the titles of these careers may look and sound similar, the job descriptions are really quite different. However, both product and project managers can learn a great deal from one another to better perform their own job duties. Let’s take a look at the general responsibilities for these two positions.
Project Managers: These professionals are primarily connected to the “how” and “when” of a project. The main responsibilities of a project manager are to develop clear, detailed, and attainable objectives for a project, build the project requirements and oversee and manage constraints such as the cost, time, scope and quality of a given project. Some have likened the role of product manager to that of a midwife – he or she oversees the project from start to finish, “delivers” the product to the product manager and then proceeds to the next assignment.
Product Managers: These individuals are typically responsible for defining and analyzing market conditions for a product, and discovering and quantifying the problems that the product must solve for the market. They are the “what” and “why” folks. They research customer needs and develop sales and marketing plans that will increase product awareness and get the product to the market.
Both types of managers possess certain traits that make them succeed in their work, and naturally some of these traits overlap.
The best project managers:
- Know the right questions and answers to present to stakeholders and are equally adept at listening to them.
- Are able to quickly and frequently re-evaluate project priorities and make appropriate adjustments when needed.
- Are deeply familiar with one or more areas, granting them natural authority and necessary strategic insight.
- Can sift through information and data rapidly and determine where action is needed and what can be left as is.
- Are excellent communicators. One of their critical roles is to act as the communication hub for all product-related matters, meaning it is imperative that they know how to effectively communicate with different personality types such as introverts and extroverts. They are also adept at knowing their “audience;” that is, they are able to adjust their message according to whom they are talking to so that both parties understand all matters clearly.
- Know how to be leaders without being authoritarian. Through a combination of negotiation, influence, and relationship building, the best product managers can steer their ship calmly and steadily.
- Learn quickly and possess a solid understanding of the fundamentals of business. They know how to identify opportunities and strategies that will lead to a winning product.
Clearly, the strengths of project and product managers can overlap despite the difference in their roles. In order to serve as effective leaders, both positions can learn from the characteristics their counterpart is known for. Time management, excellent communication skills, effective leadership practices and attention to detail are all areas that serve both product and project managers well. Take a moment to think of these and other skills and traits that your counterpart may possess which could help you be more successful, manage tasks more effectively, and develop better relationships with your team.
Ryan Sauer is a writer and editor for Bisk Education in association with University Alliance. He actively writes about project management in different industries and strives to help professionals succeed in getting their project management certification. Through the University Alliance, Ryan writes to help encourage professionals obtain their PMP certification online.
A great mentor can be a huge help at any stage of your career, especially the early and mid stages. I’ve been fortunate to have some excellent mentors throughout my career, who have helped me drive my career in the direction I wanted. I recently agreed to be a mentor to a young product manager, and going through this process has made me think about what I want to give and receive as a mentor. Unfortunately, most mentoring relationships are sorely lacking in structure and results, and it can be very disappointing to establish a mentoring relationship only to see it fizzle out.
Mentorship typically breaks down for the same reason people stop going to the gym: it seems like a great idea at first, but then you find out that it’s really hard! Then, life takes over, and six months later you realize you haven’t talked to your mentor in months. Even worse then having no mentor is having the hope of a great mentor that gets dashed due to lack of follow through. Both the mentor and protégé should have reasonable expectations of what each side wants from the relationship, and of the time commitment involved. First, let’s examine what a mentor and protégé should desire and expect.
One who is protected or trained or whose career is furthered by a person of experience, prominence, or influence.
The motivation for a protégé to enter into mentorship is obvious: they hope to gain from the experience of their mentor. But a protégé should not just be a passive receiver of information, their job should be to put the advice and council they are getting into practice and offer feedback to their mentor. Every mentor-protégé relationship is unique, but there are several areas where mentors can be especially helpful in the realm of product management. These areas include:
- Strategic Thinking
- Executive Relationships
- Career Planning
- Management Skills
- Executive Presence
Good protégés should have a willingness to learn, be open to new ways to accomplish their goals, and have a strong desire to advance in their career. One of the first steps to becoming a good protégé is to recognize that you could benefit from a mentor, and by recruiting your own mentor. People are almost always flattered to be asked to be a mentor. If they’ve never mentored before, send them this post as a how-to guide to get started.
1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter.
The motivations for a mentor to enter into a relationship are less obvious than the protégé. People become mentors for many reasons, such as a personal connection to the protégé, to help someone in need, because they see potential in a protégé they want to foster, to “pay it forward” from their time as a protégé, or simply to stroke their own ego.
Solid mentors have executive and management experience they can apply to help the protégé in various situations. They can help the protégé understand how to interact with leadership teams and stakeholders across the business by illustrating different perspectives the protégé may have not considered. A good mentor can even help role-play with the protégé by acting as the protégé’s executive team, preparing them for potentially stressful or high stakes meetings.
A word of caution to protégés searching for a mentor: your manager should never be your mentor. Part of mentorship is providing neutral, disinterested feedback on a variety of topics, including how to deal more effectively with your management. Your direct manager has a conflict of interest and cannot provide this feedback in the same way, plus it puts them in an awkward position when you ask them to mentor you. If you have a great manager that you want as a mentor, keep them in mind for when you move to another role where they aren’t managing you directly, and they will be honored to act as your mentor in that capacity.
Mentors can also help their protégé with their experiences in hiring and building teams to inform career planning and advancement. Mentors can advise on when to stand pat versus when to seek a job or company change, how hard to press during salary and benefits negotiation, and helping them map their desired titles and responsibilities in their next several roles.
Finally, mentors should also supply their protégé with access and introductions to the mentor’s wider set of contacts. The mentor by definition will typically have a more expansive network, that they should allow the protégé to use. In addition, the mentor should also make proactive introductions to people from their network that the protégé would benefit from knowing. Those contacts could become future bosses, contacts, or even additional mentors for the protégé.
The primary role of the mentor is to arm the protégé with council and contacts to make them successful.
Formats and Time Commitments
Mentoring is not free; for the mentor or the protégé. It costs in the form of time and energy. The amount of time and energy will vary based on the formats you choose.
Frequency: Once a month to every three months
Meeting face-to-face should be the staple of a mentorship relationship. 70% of human communications is non-verbal, and you will both miss out on that extra data if you try to do all the conversations online. Go grab a drink, hash out your issues. More than once per month will probably overtax the mentor, less than once every three months will allow the relationship to grow stale.
Frequency: Bi-weekly to monthly
Talking by phone between face-to-face meetings is a good way to keep up-to-date and do course corrections. It is also the way to get quick answers to questions that can’t wait for an in-person meeting.
Frequency: As needed
Email is good for background information, homework assignments, and certain introductions.
Roadmap for Mentoring Success
Mentoring is hard, but it is easier with a plan. If you are thinking about setting up a mentoring relationship, and you are willing to put in the time to make it work, use this plan as a launch pad to get started. You will know quickly if you need to modify this outline, but at least you have a starting point. Note: this outline is designed for a protégé product manager in an early career stage.
- Month 1: initial meeting, mentor should probe protégé for “where do you want to be in 1/5/10 years.”
- Month 2: chart a plan to achieve the 1/5/10 year plan, break 1-year plan into measurable goals for the year, design a plan to “sell” the goals to protégé’s management as part of objectives.
- Month 3: assess current role, responsibilities, fit to 1-year plan, compensation and benefits (design plan to correct if under market).
- Month 4: catalog past achievements, design plan for reviewing with current management so the protégé’s value is recognized.
- Month 5: ensure protégé is receiving adequate executive exposure and design corrective plan if not.
- Month 6: introduce protégé to contact from mentor network in an industry or title that aligns with his/her 5/10 year plan.
- Month 7: mid-point check in on 1-year plan achievement versus goals, adjust as needed.
- Month 8: identify networking and visibility opportunities to raise the protégé’s thought leadership profile inside and outside the company (e.g. presenting at a local ProductCamp), plan and execute.
- Month 9: collect information in support of comp and benefits negotiation (e.g. Pragmatic Marketing’s annual survey report), assemble BATNA.
- Month 10: assess performance versus 1-year plan, make adjustments to suit. Role play comp negotiation if needed.
- Month 11: assess results of negotiation and decide what action to take.
- Month 12: revisit 1/5/10 year plan. Assess need and value for continued mentorship. Repeat!
Completing the Circle
The last step in mentorship is to “complete the circle.” This means that the protégé should pay back the experience by becoming a mentor themselves. This step doesn’t have to happen immediately, but it should happen if the protégé got a benefit from the original relationship. Thank you notes to the mentor are always a great idea, but the biggest compliment to a mentor should be that they inspired you to become a mentor yourself. Pay the ultimate compliment, and as you grow in your career, help the next generation along and remember that you could be mentoring your next great team member (or boss)!
Rich Mironov at Product Bytes weighs in with a thoughtful post about measuring product managers. He had a recent experience in Sweden where the product executives he worked with shared the same concerns as product executives in the U.S., Europe and the rest of the World, namely: what is the right way to measure the performance of a product manager?
This is a really interesting and difficult question to answer. Rich breaks it down into three areas: product-level metrics (product revenue, profit, customer sat), team-level metrics (are the other teams getting what they need from product management), and individual-level metrics. The first two metrics are fairly well defined – there is a strong history of measuring products and teams with these criteria and there are MBA programs with entire curriculum defined about measuring product performance. Unfortunately measuring individual product manager performance is more tricky as these metrics are not as clear.
Lacking traditional or clear metrics, most companies rely on product-level metrics such as product revenue, margin, or customer satisfaction to measure the performance of an individual product manager. The thought process is defensible – you want the product manager to be motivated by metrics that lead the product toward success. Unfortunately, product managers typically have very little control over the outcome of these metrics, or at best, indirect control. For a product manager measured on product revenue, the product manager could spend months designing the perfect product, training the sales channel, and working with marketing to design a lead generation campaign – only to wake up one day and find that the executive team had made a strategic decision to make a large acquisition and change Sales resourcing. That change would have a huge impact on the product manager’s metrics, at no fault of the product manager; effectively they would be penalized for doing the right things. For a product manager measured on product margin, I always ask “Do you have the ability to outsource the development of your product to a 3rd party if your internal engineering team delivered an estimate that was too expensive?” For most product managers, the answer is a resounding “no.” Customer satisfaction suffers from a similar control issue – there are lots of reasons beyond the product that customer sat may suffer, and most of those reasons are not something a product manager can impact.
The other issue with measuring product managers on product-level metrics is an issue of timeliness. If you are measuring your team on product revenue, you can make an argument that it may take up to 18-24 months to know if the product manager is doing a good job. Consider this – if you hire a new product manager, before he or she can impact product revenue, the following will need to occur:
- The new product manager will need to go into the market and research the market’s problems (up to 3 months)
- The product manager will then write what they have learned into a business plan, and get it approved (1-2 months)
- Then the product manager will write requirements for engineering (up to 3 months)
- Then engineering will build something (6-9 months)
- Then in most products there will be a Sales cycle (3-6 months)
Only then will we have the data to understand if the decisions made on the front-end of the process are “good.” Hopefully we will be more agile and most faster, but the point remains – using product-level metrics to measure individual performance is insufficient. We need a better way, and there is a better way.
What I have settled on for measuring individual performance is to measure the activities required for a product manager to be market-driven:
- Setting a quota for market visits (10/quarter is a good start IMO),
- Being able to defend an updated business plan in front of me and their peers every quarter, without using the phrases “I think,” or “In my opinion” (which requires higher order thought and research).
- Keeping their finger on the pulse of the business by defining and measuring the right product level metrics and communicating them in the form of a dashboard report monthly.
I like these metrics because they require a product manager to get out from behind their desk and be outside-in focused, and the product manager can control them, as opposed to revenue, margin or CSAT which the product manager cannot control.
All things being equal, it would be preferable to measure outcomes as opposed to activities, but it is wicked hard to separate and quantify the inputs of a product manager vis-a-vi all the other variables that go into making a product fly. Activities are a sufficient proxy to measure a market-driven product manager to supplement product-level metrics and understand if a product manager is doing their job – without having to wait two years to find out.
Most of the readers of this blog are probably familiar with ProductCamp, a networking event for product management and marketing talent that I founded in Austin and have helped seed around the world. One of those seeds took root in London, where ProductCamp London merged with another group to form ProductTank, a group for London product talent to meet, drink, and network. My friend Janna Bastow is one of the leaders of this group and is coming to Austin for SXSW – and is bringing some of her ProductTank’s charm with her!
ProductTank describes themselves as:
ProductTank provides an opportunity for Product Managers working for (or wanting to work for) web companies in London to exchange ideas and experiences about Product Management, Business Modelling, Metrics, User Experience and all the other things that get us excited.
Sounds fun! U.S. product people might not have the chance to experience this event, but if you are going to be in Austin, you’re in luck! ProductTank is hosting a happy hour at SXSW on March 11th! If you are in town and interested, you can go register (it’s free). I hope to be there, so come say hi.
Every year for the last decade, Pragmatic Marketing has run a survey of the product management and marketing community in order to assemble a profile of common industry practices, team sizes, responsibilities, and compensation. This year, I administered the survey, and we got some very interesting data! Over 1800 of your peers participated, and for the first time explored some new areas around soft skills and compensation. I hope that you find the results as interesting as we did.
First, you can download the complete report in all of it’s PDF glory from our website. Here are some nuggets to whet your appetite:
- 52% of respondents report directly to the CEO/COO or a Product Management VP. Product Management is becoming its own department in the majority of companies.
- There are only 0.48 Product Owners per Product Manager. This tells us that Product Managers are being asked to take on both roles – a recipe for potential disaster.
- Over 80% of respondents indicated that they spend at least half a day per week (or more) in meetings with Engineering (such as daily standups). Whereas only 30% indicated they spend at least half a day per week visiting sites without Sales. Where is the time to be in the market?
- On the softer skills of product management, over 45% rated their ability to challenge and negotiate with executives to be a weakness, an opportunity for improvement.
- The average compensation is $98,068 plus a $13,501 annual bonus.
If you participated in this year’s survey – thank you! Also, a special thanks to Steve Johnson for his valued assistance and guidance in assembling this year’s results.
If you have additional questions, drop them in the comments below and I will attempt to answer them.
- You might be a product manager if your wedding included a PowerPoint presentation.
- You might be a product manager if you stack rank your children.
- You might be a product manager if you ask your kids “what problem are you trying to solve?” when they ask for a new toy.
- You might be a product manager if you’ve ever A/B tested invitations to a party – Rebecca Kalogeris
- You might be a product manager if you and your spouse refer to your chores as a backlog @sjohnson717
- You might be an (agile) product manager if you decorate for Christmas in short sprints @barbaragnelson
- You might be a product manager if you calculate the opportunity cost of hiring a maid or lawn service @ptyoung
Last month, we ran a quick survey about how you are using social media in product marketing and management. The goal was not to develop a comprehensive picture of this broad topic, but to recognize some trends and validate some areas that we have heard out in the field. Over 130 of you responded to the quick, nine question survey, and the results are now in. Keep in mind that this isn’t scientific!
How often are you using social media? Not surprisingly, product professionals who answered this survey are prolific users. Nearly 90% said that they use social media “Daily” or “Often” to keep current on issues. Interestingly, non-work related usage scores lower on all counts.
Since we know that product professionals are making use of social media, the natural follow-up question is: which ones are they using?
This is a really interesting chart. As usual, there are the Big 3: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But amongst product professionals, LinkedIn edges out even Facebook! This correlates with the finding above that product professionals are using it more for work-related items; they probably aren’t going to friend their customers or competitors on Facebook. Even at a fraction of the size and reach of Facebook, LinkedIn’s focused ability to reach into professionals and customers drives the highest usage. Google+ also rated highly, considering its relative reach compared to the other networks.
How do product professionals actually put social media to use? Obviously, Thought Leadership activities came out on top: driving traffic to your blogs, websites, whitepapers, and landing pages is a huge priority. Live event support was a little surprising as number two – product pros are tweeting to connect with customers and partners and keep up the engagement at tradeshows and events. Competitive research also scored highly.
Most product professionals still take what they get from social channels with some skepticism. About 30% said that they rated the information they receive from these channels as “Mediocre” or “Poor.”
With social media becoming ubiquitious, you might think that all companies have a defined social media policy. You’d be wrong! 25% of respondants indicated that they don’t have any kind of defined policy for how to use (or not use) social media. About half have a policy in place that is liberal enough that they feel free to post whatever they want.
When it comes to having a clear owner of social media efforts in the company, Marketing has taken on this role. In fact, Marketing outsourced all the other options combined.
One of the biggest challenges of social media is interacting with a customer who is upset and complaining about your product or service online. With Twitter, Facebook and other channels, these customers have a huge bullhorn to create brand damage if they aren’t handled appropriately. On the other hand, companies that have mastered how to use these channels effectively are creating loyal customers who reinforce their brand and spread stories about how good the company was to them.
For this question, we posed a scenario: what would you do if someone was actively complianing about your product on social media? Almost 40% said that in this case, they’d follow a set policy. 35% would respond directly, indicating that there is still a lot of personal ownership of social media efforts at most companies. What would happen if your “social person” leaves tomorrow?
Next, we flipped it around – how would you react if someone was actively praising your product? More people ignore these, but do we risk appearing tone deaf if our customers tell us we’re doing a great job and we react with silence?
Last, we were interested in how product professionals measure their social media efforts. At Pragmatic Marketing, we are big believers in the mantra that everything needs to be measured, especially in Marketing. Unfortunately, over half of respondents are not measuring their social efforts today. 15% are still trying to figure out what their measurements need to be, and 9% measure by number of generated leads. Social media is reaching an inflection point: very soon it will cross the chasm from the shiny-object stage of “ohmygosh we’ve got to do this social media thing!” to “What’s my ROI” stage. Social efforts that can’t demonstrate positive ROI will be the first things to be cut.
We hope that you found this information interesting and helpful. If you’d like to help us construct a more complete profile of product professionals, please fill out our 2012 Annual Product Management and Marketing survey.
If you are interested in attending a Pragmatic Marketing seminar that I will be teaching, you will find me in Orlando from Dec 7-9 and Vancouver, BC from Dec 13-15 teaching Practical Product Management and Requirements that Work. I hope to see you there!
Every year for the past decade, we at Pragmatic Marketing run a State-of-the-Union survey for product management and marketing. The survey goes out to the 75,000 alumni who have been to one of our seminars and is also open to the general public. The annual survey seeks to help us define how the role of product management and marketing is changing, with regard to titles, level of education and background, roles and responsibilities, compensation, and how you work with others.
The 2012 version of the survey is now open! If you are a product professional, go take it and let us know what your work life looks like. The survey typically runs from mid-November through mid-December and we crunch the numbers and do analysis and post the results on our website early in the new year. If you think that your team might be under resourced, you can use the survey to compare against other companies. If you think that you might not be compensated correctly, or want to get a leg up on your compensation discussions for next year, you can use the survey to see how you stack up against your peers in similar industries, education levels, and other vectors.
Thanks for participating, and watch this space for analysis of the survey in December and January!
If you are interested in attending a Pragmatic Marketing seminar that I will be teaching, you will find me in Orlando from Dec 7-9 and Vancouver, BC from Dec 13-15 teaching Practical Product Management and Requirements that Work. I hope to see you there!