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Market Problems

AARP is raising it’s brand equity via YouTube

Never let it be said that AARP isn’t relevant and the brand’s awareness is limited and only known to those 42 and over or people who have the same name as their father and accidentally gets the cool magazine every now and again.  Welcome to the social media, where age is largely unknown and rarely given.  So not only can you get really good term life insurance or a recommendations for how to deal with Medicare part B or whatever – they are putting some pretty darn inspirational messages into the marketplace via YouTube with the video below.

I’ve never looked to AARP for messages about hope, the future and contribution, will now though!  Glad I found this on FriendFeed.

The 4 PM Confusion in Technology Companies

The names and questions that we get as a Product Manager are all other place from a title and role perspective.  However; answering the “just what is that you do again?” or the confirmations of what I do “Oh, you’re like a project manager, right?” are equally not as fun, which is something most Product Managers have to endure throughout their career.

So we all end up describing what we do in non-traditional job descriptions, which may resonate with folks.   Doubt it?  Take a look at the tweets from ProductCampBoston.


I’ve never considered myself a people pleaser, but corporate politician or favor trader works, which is not inconsistent with the Tweets above.  Ultimately the activities, ownership and accountability for PM’s is a difficult thing when a company has all 4 of the PM’s types – Product Managers, Product Marketing, Project Managers and Program Managers.  On any given product, project or initiative all 4 can be involved and ownership can be difficult to discern and each may have some level of conflicting goals/motivations, but that is have the fun of being a PM.   So I’ve been stuck on the 4 PM concept for like 2 weeks since I talked to a friend:

“We started a project the other day and it has a Project Manager, 2 Product Managers and 1 Product Marketing person and my boss is more worried about how the PMO office is going to report on it, rather than if we are doing the right thing” – Annoyed Program Manager.

Oh the right thing!  The right thing varies by job description and role, ownership, influence and visibility across the business.  So while I haven’t taken much issue with being introduced as a project manager, program manager or a product manager to clients, it’s mainly because in any given situation a product manager can be 1 or all of the roles.  I do know however that if dialed in correctly having all 4 roles can deliver good things for a business and a product. So figuring out what each person does is an important thing and may vary from project to project and release to release.

So I thought it might be a good time to put to paper a delta analysis of what a PM does of each iteration.

Project Manager: The Gantt Will Set You Free

Ever since Henry Gantt pioneered the controls, constructs and made a pretty chart with critical path diamonds, Project Managers (PM) have objectively been presenting slip risk, providing two sentence summaries and yellow/red/green bubbles to management teams everywhere.  Have MS Project can travel!  The reporting and task management realities of development, launches and organizational readiness require an attention to detail, lack of emotional investment and organizational balance which typically isn’t a core value for a Product Manager (PM).

The successful interaction of all PM’s with the Project Office is an imperative, since it is typically an agnostic group which is solely accountable for schedules, costs and trusted objectivity.  The best models are to have this as a standalone group.  Not all organizations have this type of functional independence, but they should.   I had a friend who once had the PMO in his PM group and let me tell you, that is a completely unfair organizational alignment for development and support, but a makes for a pretty cool Product Management time.

Product Management: Nebulous Interactions and Priority Juggling

While there is no patron saint of Product Management (PM) like Gantt for Project Managers, we do however have Dilbert and I’m OK with that.  I’m sure there is some developer somewhere is going to say Dilbert is theirs, but that just part of the life as a Product Manager.

Product Management is different in each organization, with different title lengths and varying levels of P&L influence/accountability.  Some are business owners and others manage requirements – some do all, while the common theme exist “You have to keep things going right way and manage priorities”.  PM’s are responsible for optimizing the cross functional interfaces, customer value and competitiveness of their product in the marketplace and that creates a bunch of Dilbert moments.  PM’s just dance around the organization and try to make things work.  In the more technical organizations these folks are constantly managing the delivery of IP to Product.

Program Manager: Strategic Managers of Stuff

Program Managers have the DNA of both the previously evaluated PM’s, not so much Product Marketing folk tho. These are link Project Management Ninja or pattern a matching Product Manager of strategic things.    Essentially a corporate tattletale of cross project collisions and the celebratory target for things that randomly align.   This is a great gig for project managers and product managers alike – especially if you get organizational resource influence.  Actually it could quite possibly be a really good gig with the right company: organization switching, cross product reporting and interfacing with strategic clients/executives.  There is significant risk of incremental sport coat requirements in this role.

While there are at least 1000 product managers at Microsoft, who each admittedly have a tough time articulating their role in the Borg, the MSFT program managers readily admit that “Dude – I got a sweet gig!” and have a REALLY hard time explaining what they do.  It might help just to understand the difference in a program and a project:

1. A project is unique and is of definite duration. A program is ongoing and implemented within a business to consistently achieve certain results for the business. A project is designed to deliver an output or deliverable and its success will be in terms of delivering the right output at the right time and to the right cost.
2. Program management includes management of projects which, together, improve the performance of the organization. A program’s success will be measured in terms of benefits.
3. Benefits are the measures of improvement of an organization and might include increased income, increased profits, decreased costs, reduced wastage or environmental damage, more satisfied customers. In central or local government organizations, benefits might include providing a better service to the community.
4. In the course of achieving required results, business programs will normally understand related business constraints and determine the processes required to achieve results based on resources allocated. Improvement of processes is a continuous operation that very much contrasts a program from a project.
5. At the lowest level project managers co-ordinate individual projects. They are overseen by the program manager who accounts to the program sponsor (or board).

I kinda see it like being a “cross-thing” corporate gardener and really similar to the other PM’s – the only difference is scope and lack of titles about director.

Product Marketing: Go to Market Magic

Product Managers (PM), not unlike program managers, are responsible for the random alignment of product goals and revenue optimization.   The right story, the right capabilities and the marketing mix are essentially the domain of Product Marketing folk.  Moderately good excel and PowerPoint skills are essential.   These folks are the organizational sanity check on a given product or set of products.  Sales enablement, product level brand connection and consumable stories which drives revenue and reduces cost.  For most organization’s being a PM is like being a Product Manager minus product delivery.

No matter where your company is in the 4PM model, all you need is a little trust and experience to make it work.  Detailed job descriptions help too, especially if you have all four.

Maybe I should have just tried to explain the roles by the core apps they use:

  • MSFT Project + PowerPoint + Intranet Project Status Site = Project Manager
  • PowerPoint + Email = Program Manager
  • PowerPoint + Email + Excel + Software Lifecycle App = Product Manager
  • PowerPoint + Email + Excel + Adobe = Product Marketing

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SoCon09: Oh the people you meet outside the perimeter

#SoCon09 basically proved it was Atlanta’s premier Social Media event yesterday without question.  The event however was not located in Atlanta, much to the chagrin of Andrew Wilson, who just might understand that Atlanta has a brand identity issue.   The conference had record attendance of like 325 folks.

Some of the highlights from my perspective:

  • KSU got a $1.5M grant to research journalism in context of social media
  • Chris Carfi rearranged the room and lead the engaging keynote discussion on markets
  • basically STOPPED due to refreshes for those on the KSU network
  • #SoCon09 sustained as a trending topic right up until the end of the day
  • Met at least 6 people from Twitter I hadn’t met before – real life can be fun
  • Met EVEN MORE people who I will now get to know better on Twitter
  • Learned about really cool stuff people are doing in Atlanta – where are you people the rest of the year?
  • Jeff Haynie reaffirmed that Your Idea Sucks and it is about execution!
  • I met a person more theoretical and conceptual than myself, ok I met Greg Bond before, just didn’t realize it.
  • Plenty of pictures shared in real-time
  • I learned that facilitating a discussion is far more rewarding than giving a presentation
  • I figured out you can go to a conference and make it to baby shower without issue, even if you start your day in Kennesaw

So who was there? A bunch of people, but to highlight a few and create pseudo blog roll:

At the end of the day, a big thanks has to go out to Leonard Witt, Sherry Heyl and all the folks at KSU.  The event clearly shows that technology interest and expertise isn’t in short supply in Atlanta.   As a follow up, I started trolling through the event tweets and the tweet below made me ask myself a question: So why would we wait until next year to synch up?


We shouldn’t!  Every month ATL Tweeters and Social Media Club Atlanta meet to share ideas, discuss things we are seeing in the community and try to find ways to get just a little more social in ATL.

If I left you off the “blog roll”, I apologize, I recreated via hash tags and cards I had in my pocket – so leave a comment and your link so everyone can read other folks out there in the Greater Atlanta Area.

Great meeting y’all and see you at either ATL Tweeters or the next Social Media Club meeting.



SoCon09: Social Atlanta Proves Events Aren’t Dead!

So who says events are a thing of the past?  With over well 100 people registered for dinner on Friday from ACLU lawyers to everyday folk — marketers are getting geared up for SoCon09.  I don’t know the exact count, but day 2 is over 225 participants.

This unconference will span the practical to the theoretical and should provide significant insight into effective social media strategies and tactics.   The conference includes local business folk like me, the curious and those who are passionate about social media in the south.  For a complete list of the leaders and their bio’s you can get it here.  Hopefully the group will look forward to talking about Social Media and B2B and how social media can effect business communities and the impact of social media on social good.  Friday night provides for focused discussion tables around multiple topics and Saturday includes a conversation with Chris Carfi.

Registration ends in the like 3 days.  So if you are in Atlanta and have an afternoon to spend, come learn best practices and meet others in the community trying to change how they engage their customers and the market.

Many thanks to Sherry and Leonard for getting me involved and keeping the south active in social media.