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Do you have a real-time brand?

Microsite’s are dead? Cool, I hated writing a bunch of microsite content that no one ever really cared about as part of a promotional activity. How about we just engage, nurture relationships and help our customers succeed. Just an idea… and fingers crossed that whitepapers soon go the way of microsites.

Thanks to David Carr for Part 1, I suspect he is actively working the other 100+ slides for part 2.  Even if part 2 doesn’t surface, you should look at part 1 in detail.

Strategy: It’s Just Storytelling and Pretty Pictures



Oh yeah and a little math is more or less what the discussion was about.  I was lucky enough to coax a couple of people into the discussion.   I was able to catch some good sessions, one which Dan Greenfield lead a panel on social media and Steve did an Agile pitch.

Very thankful for Jason Brett putting together Atlanta’s first productcamp.  I’m appreciative to have gotten some dots and to talk with folks on roadmaps, ProductCamp Atlanta was basically another technology event which was a huge success.  Solid sponsorship and attendance.

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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Marketing IS in the Middle: Ben Cody

Oh development – they HAVE to be the problem, that’s the common believe in a good deal of companies.  The next expert in delivering his take on Marketing being in the middle is one the of best technologist I’ve worked with and a development leader writ large, Ben Cody.  I call him Benji, mainly in my head, but he is a what I refer to as a practical visionary.  Ben transitioned from be being a developer leader with great ideas I depended on for years to an industry leader in B2B technologies and BPM.  I trust Ben on every level because he provides input, improvement and access to his ideas and team, not a common thing for a marketer (my opinion) and why I think it is important to get his marketing insights.  Ben currently is VP of Product Management at Global360 and continues to change the industry, glad to know him – glad he participated in the interview below.

What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?

Various roles in Product Management, Product Marketing and Field Marketing in the enterprise software markets, with a predominant focus on Financial Services and Manufacturing.

When you look at your career in marketing, what discipline/component have you found most interesting/challenging?

Although not what I do day to day anymore, the field marketing.  Demand generation is a challenge – getting people to respond to various programs – was one of the more fascinating studies in human behavior.   A given tactic works for one product, but not the other.

What do you feel the most important component of a successful marketing gig?  (Product, Brand, Positioning)

I came out of development, so I’m definitely a Product person.  The product is the hardest one to change and takes the longest to build right.  The right product with the right capabilities which solves problems is all that the market can ask for.  But this often isn’t the product that marketers are positioning.  Buyers see through lipstick on the pig these days like never before, so stretching capabilities in a data sheet or simply polishing the UI doesn’t work in a competitive marketplace.  Too many were burnt in the last big wave of enterprise IT spend back around the turn of the century, so Product is the key component.

What experiences brought you to this conclusion?

I’ve worked multiple markets, in various stages of maturity, from new markets to laggards and with varied targets, such as the SMB or Enterprise. To that end, I’ve spent a good deal of time taking legacy products and repositioning them has taught me the hard way that lipstick wears off.  Not that much fun, profitable, but not fun.

If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?

I’ve worked multiple markets, in various stages of maturity, from new markets to laggards and with varied targets, such as the SMB or Enterprise.   Along the way, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some industry leading, incredibly innovative solutions, as well as my share of also ran’s and legacy products.  No matter how hard you try, lipstick wears off and the pig over time, and the pig will show his real face.  In many ways it’s like cooking, if you don’t start with quality ingredients, you won’t be satisfied with your meal in the end. If you could design the perfect corporate environment for a marketer to be successful what would that be?
It’s the leadership and how they view investment, market pursuit and strategic planning.  Leadership starts at the top, so in my experience the #1 thing by far is that the CEO needs to have a vision for the market and the company that they pursue above all else.  And that vision needs to be something more than a targeted earnings per share.  Typically these leaders come from sales.  They do occasionally grow up through the product ranks as well.  What I’ve seen fail is a pure P&L oriented mentality that is typical of leaders that grew up in the finance office.  In fairness I’ve known a one or two finance types that were good CEO’s.  But finance types are the ones who ran GM, Ford and Chrysler for the last 20 years.  These are the leaders who didn’t feel there was enough $ in hybrid cars (forget the environment) or that “good enough” quality was good enough.  – need I say more?
How far is this from reality?

It is the reality today in successful companies…