Browsing Tag

Product manager

Marketing is in the Middle: John Peltier

John Peltier is an interesting guy who I’ve just recently gotten to know better now that he is an Atlanta-ish resident which I am glad I have.    I first met him via ProductCamp Austin, btw – the whole Austin crew is just a good group of folks and for a single city I think Austin might have more product marketing and product management bloggers per capita than anywhere. Second I think is Toronto maybe. Which reminds me, John blogs as well @ and is still active in  Product Camps,  now that he has moved to Atlanta he is actively engaged in helping the team make the 4th PCAMPATL a success as well.

John provides some interesting insights into the journey many technology marketing folks take which often starts in the tech side of the business in his responses.  John is currently a product manager and  product owner.

What marketing roles have you had and in what markets?
I’ve got a little inbound and a little outbound marketing.  My primary outbound marketing experience was the year I spent as Marketing Lead for ProductCamp Austin.  On the inbound side, I’ve spent three years in product management.

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

As a technologist with a background in quality assurance and technical support, my biggest ramp-up was the business side of things — the interpersonal relationships and consensus building, as well as the financial analysis.

Based on your experience what activities do you think get the most return?

The biggest return comes from relationship building and understanding what products to build for the market and what the business constraints are.  Validating which problems people are willing to pay to solve helps ensure financial justification, as well as a successful rollout and marketing campaign.  So tools that allow engagement with a wider range of customers and prospects provide the raw input for the most important decisions faced by an organization.

What do you feel is the most important component of a successful marketing gig?

I am bordering on repeating myself here, but marketers can bring to market a wide range of situations, and developers can build a wide range of products.  Marketer need to identify what is needed–what to sell, and what to build–is ultimately the determining factor of a good gig.

How have you seen organizations change in the last 3-5 years to better support the needs of product marketers, product managers and communications teams?
I’m a big proponent of agile development, because I see agile as a response by development teams to the reality that it’s extremely difficult to craft a winning solution out of nothing.  Building things iteratively, and proactively obtaining feedback on each iteration, gives marketers the opportunity to change course well before the die is cast.  This works best, naturally, when marketers actually bring in end users to see the product throughout the process.

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

Companies benefit when they provide the freedom and resources to allow innovation; over-emphasis of delivery dates to the detriment of building game-changing products leads to efficient followers.  Further, companies whose leadership can unite disparate divisions around a unified purpose have an advantage over those whose leadership can’t.  Product managers can’t necessarily create the former, but those who can provide a vision to help unify the company can improve the 2nd metric.

How far is this from reality?

Some large companies like Google dedicate resources to innovation and to pet projects, and others like Apple force themselves through many design concepts before picking the final one.  Obviously exceptional companies, they illustrate ways to institutionalize the innovation that so many of us want.

So what’s next?

Product management is evolving and maturing as a discipline, which is helping illustrate to companies the clarity of vision that should exist for products brought to market.  Product managers should strive to establish a minimum set of deliverables that can clearly convey the essence of a product, and should strive to ensure they can complete it convincingly before delivering a product to market.  As just one example, last year I proposed a standard set of documentation that covers the problem(s) solved, buyers, users, value proposition, and the proposed workflow(s).  My example is probably a bit heavy on the workflow side for a true agile implementation, but by going through a similar exercise in concept validation, a product manager can make the life of the marketer and the product marketer much much easier.


Twitter: johnpeltier


Thanks for taking the time to provide your feedback on where you see marketing today John!

The State of Product Management: Tweets, Conversations and Near Quotes….

While not at all scientific, I’ve been talking more to folks doing software product management and I have compiled some near quotes, found some twitter posts and made some of the quotes up.  The general theme from folks is that something has to change inside their organization.  Everyone’s story is a little different – revenues are up, quality is down, resource reductions goofin up product delivery, profit is down and management expectations are just a little too aggressive for the marketplace. So here are some things I sorta overheard over the past 90 days:

“Yeah so I’m expected to run all strategy, product lines and market facing activities with no direct influence on development and a Sr. Manager title.” – Sr. Product Manager – 12/08/2009 at ~11:30 am

“It’s not like you can assume business as usual@Brioneja

“So the market is requiring contractual service levels and the customer support folks say that’s unacceptable and aren’t going to do it.  Yeah – that should be a CEO level discussion topic.” – Dir, Product Marketing – 12/08/2009 ~1PM

“So I had to spend like 85 person hours of cross-functional time to convince everyone that promotional marketing required a process based approach and why a value/problem based approach was the better idea over offering a 50% discount” – Product Manager – 12/08/2009 6PM

“Dude, I’m so glad I’m a technical product manager – those folks who don’t have a specified role with expectations can’t be having fun.  All I have to worry about is exiting the sprint, doing demos and training folks.” – Product Owner – November

“Is it roadmap update season already?” – Product Management Evangelist

“Last time I checked, you have a quota and I have a P&L – we have different time lines on our goals for the business.” VP, Product – October

“I need suggestions for managing ideas from anywhere into, through, and out of the product dev cycle. Software? #prodmgmt” – @DanielRunion

“Just give me the goals, a bunch of poorly written epics and I’ll give you a finely groomed backlog” – Product Owner – November

“Roadmaps are evidence of strategy. Not a list of features.”  – Product Management Consultant

“So we are working the third strategic plan of the year, of course you need the next big thing before the first one’s 50% done.” – Product Marketing Manager – Early November

“Going to be tough working there… I’m thinking I can’t triple the product revenue with reduced resources and the same marketing budget the last guy had.  Does that make me negative?… Don’t get me wrong, I’m still gonna take the job though.” – Soon to be employed Director of Product Management. – 11/20-ish

“I guess it’s exciting to be in charge of the biggest piece of shit in a dying market” – Dir, Product Management 12/4

“I’ve got 18 months of cost reduction and platform consolidation to wring out profit.  Next year’s metric is going to be so easy.” – Sr. Product Manager – 12/13/09 2PM

“Don’t get me wrong, I think big thoughts all day long and I like it, but at some point we need a decision and might just need a little time to build it.” Director of Development – 12/10.

“Is connecting online to Product Managers in your locale important?” @trevorrotzien

“roadmapping session drinking game: drink when you hear the word “refactor”” – @ptyoung

“I just chuckle at my “I see stupid people” coffee mug, I rotate that with my Pragmatic mug – “your opinon although interesting is irrelevant” – the sad thing is no one has called me out on it after 18 months – REALLY?!?!” – Interim Project Manager in search of Product Management Gig – 12/14/09

“I think CEO”s are beginning to think Product Marketing is the new MARCOM.”  – Product Marketing Consultant, 11/24

“in an adolescent market, a 1% position is completely unsustainable.” – CrankyPM

Cross-Functional Diplomacy aka Product Management

French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-...
Image via Wikipedia

So with all the UN hub bub in NY a couple of weeks ago and Obama and Michelle’s plea for the Olympics in Chicago, it got me to thinking about the role of diplomats and in general diplomacy on the world stage.  Then after a couple of beers I thought that on a much smaller scale that product managers are effectively corporate diplomats.

Ultimately, Product Managers are given some mission to drive forward, with little or no authority or ownership of the resources to accomplish a task which is kinda like a diplomat.    PM need to do things like increase profit, revenue or “on time delivery” from bar napkin estimates and executive talking points.   Kinda like taxation and political promises.

PM’s try to push agendas, negotiate the scope of product releases and define what is important for our stakeholders through release planning activities, roadmap development and corporate strategy sessions.

Granted not every meeting for a product manager is a positioning initiative or platform for moving the agenda of the business forward, but many are and the negotiation/tact required to deliver on the strategic needs of the product and/or business is often a negotiation.  A negotiation where all you may have is the promise for a future feature or prioritized defect for the next sprint.

There are other ways to look at this negotiation, a friend of mine, Tim Davis over at Techlinks, used to refer to it as “horse trading”.    A negotiation which if we aren’t careful ends up with poorly prioritized activities and features which may serve one stakeholder, but doesn’t deliver on the overall needs of the product – that’s the horse trading part.  I’d probably use the horse trading concept, but as a political science undergrad I have a little more comfort in the diplomat comparison.

As corporate diplomats, when you get the opportunity to move a product, project or team right way it is often done with indirect authority and without direct ability to influence actions outside of the of negotiation/deal making.  So when we get an opportunity to turn the dial a little we do, since those opportunities are not frequent and require some patience, not unlike diplomats.

I’m not saying all product managers are opportunist who take the opportunity to speak for 96 minutes at a general assembly, but we do try and take our 3-4 minutes where we can to try and impact change/drive the agenda forward and at times take a little liberty with the “All Employee” email lists.

Hold on a second, let’s baseline what a diplomat is since I’m bouncing around a little:

diplomat (plural diplomats)

  1. A person who is accredited, such as an ambassador, to officially represents a government in its relations with other governments or international organisms
  2. (figuratively) Someone who uses skill and tact in dealing with other people

So under both items 1 and 2 it may be easy to associate a product manager to a diplomat. So the translation is fairly easy – government = company.  So what diplomatic missions do Product Managers go on?

Accreditation Drives Influence

Product Managers should be by their very existence in a company accredited to carry if not the corporate strategy, at least the product strategy throughout the organization.  The nations in which they travel are the internal cross-functional groups which are required to be successful in the marketplace – sales, marketing, support, development and the leadership.  Product Managers are taking issues in the marketplace and relating them tactfully to the key stakeholders.  The I realized, not all product managers carry the same charter or accreditation, I was reminded of this the other morning when I was a Starbucks with a friend that happens to be a CEO and the conversation went something like this:

ME: Blah… How was that last round of golf… blah

CEO GUY: Blah… Blah… We really need to get out on the course… blah… How’s the new gig?

ME: New gig is great, every place has a different view of product, so it makes it fun.  Doing some real PM work again and strategy too.

CEO GUY: How many product managers do you think can actually drive strategy? What 1 out of 10 – if that.

ME:  I think the better question is how many product managers have the charter? Do they drive strategy, P&L or even market requirements.  In your company what titles do you have in product management”

CEO GUY: Technical Product managers, business analyst types or what they are now calling product owners.  In fact we are going so far as considering product owner the new official job title.  Then we have general product managers and the director of product management.  The director is the only one who has the closest thing to P&L accountability, we don’t really have that skill in the organization, so we don’t really require it in earnest.

ME: OK so you haven’t given them the charter to manage that way, I understand. Do you have Product Marketing?

CEO GUY: No, there is a enough complexity with managing the organization to understand product management, so we don’t need another not well defined or understood role.  I Think only 3 people actually know what we expect from the director of product management.

So just as diplomats can execute on a topic or theme, they don’t have the charter to negotiate anything out of scope, so you sometimes just need to keep track of the chits.  So not only are you the dimplomat your are responsible for remembering what favors you have out and which could be called in for the next real.  So you ask yourself questions like – Are you up or down with support right now?

What you can do is as much predicated on the charter, as it is on the influence, credibility and trust you have with the other nations/cross-functional groups.   For diplomats, there is a zone of acceptable execution and negotiation by the nature of your rank/title, the geography they cover and perhaps a functional/departmental definition – such as being associated with agriculture or energy if you were a diplomat.  The same is true for product managers – if you are the product manager of old crusty shit, then you probably have less influence than the product manager of cool hope for the business shit.  Multiply that by title or rank and you have some math result which means something like you have more pull on cool strategic stuff, than old declining revenue streams.

While I don’t have a pithy little close on this piece, I think the metaphor of diplomat has helped me understand that directional successes in product management are just as important as explicit success with metrics, revenue and general market execution.  Thinking about it, without a focus on moving the organization directionally towards a goal the ability to have repeatable and scalable success is a challenge, so try a little diplomacy and chit management.

Recycling: A Mid-Summers Night’s Writers Block (aka Strategic Planning) – 1 of 3

Survey sampling
Image via Wikipedia

Getting to be those lazy days of summer – ok, not really.  I’m in the process of packing up the house, coordinating all work and trying to find out how to get ready to be in Europe for the last half of August and into Sept.  No shortage of things to do in real life, so I thought it might be better to work on my focus here with a little research on what people are reading and not reading around here.

Ultimately it’s just looking at some content, stats and alike….  I’ve more or less made it an annual process to review the site, understand where it has been and what the trajectory looks like going forward – Strategic Planning more or less.

The Methodology

The process is fairly straight forward – review the content, identify content themes of personal interest and write, more acurately extend certain concepts.  The planning activity for me is psuedo-rigorous with a bunch of reading and thinking – no presentations to give, but a bunch of thinking and mindmapping.  The metrics and content themes are more or less directional and just make me understand a little more.

A Content Analysis

Over time the content and focused has changed, but there are two key areas of sustained interest for me, Branding & Product Management, which is where Spatially Relevant is listed by Alltop.   So as exercise I set out to  find out where and when did these themes started @ Spatially Relevant.  So I’m kicking off my market research for the 2010 strategic plan with a revisionist history on these two tags.

First Post on Each Tag

Product Management: First Post on Product Management was a slideshare preso on Product, which I can’t seem load, but more or less within the first thirty days of start.

Branding: Brand first appeared with an almost an incoherent post on pricing and promotion.  So the first 90 days of spinning up the blog.

Other Posts Over Time

After reviewing the initial content here, I saw that it had a happy little randomness about it – sorta all lifestream like and stuff.  The site seems to be going back that way a little, last year I declared less fluff and more value as part of the strategic plan, not sure how that worked out in retrospect, but it was fun.