Product Management 101: How To Be A Product Manager

by drjim on February 25, 2013

The Clear Blue Product Success System (CBPSS)

The Clear Blue Product Success System (CBPSS)

Ok, I give up. Enough people have been asking me how I do the job of product management, that I now feel compelled to share all of my secrets. Look, there are a lot of different product management frameworks out there and I’ve spent time studying them all. For some very compelling reasons, they’ve never quite lived up to the product development definition. They don’t seem to capture how I do the job of product management and so now I’m going to tell you just exactly how to be a product manager.

What’s Wrong With Existing Product Management Frameworks

With so many other ways of being a product manager out there, don’t you think that at least one of them would have gotten it right? I used to think so until I sat down and took a long, hard look at each of them.

One of the best ways that I’ve ever heard the job of product management described was when someone said to me “I think of you as being the CEO for your product.” Now that would be something to put on your product manager resume! I loved that idea and I carried it with me for a long time until I finally figured out that it was wrong.

The problem with looking at product management that way is that you really don’t have the power that a CEO has. The rest of the company doesn’t work for you and they don’t have to do what you want them to do. This means that in many ways, being a product manager is much harder than being a CEO although you’ll never see that spelled out in a product manager job description.

The various frameworks for product management that exist make this mistake. They treat being a product manager as though it is some sort of special task that has never existed before. The reality is that product management has always been there, it’s just been worked into other parts of the company. At its very core, the job of being a product manager is that of a traffic cop – you don’t actually do a lot of the work that needs to be done, rather you get others to do it for you. If you can tap into how a product manager works with the rest of the company, then you’ll have what you need to create a product success system.

Introducing The Clear Blue Product Management System

This all leads to the somewhat interesting question of just what make the Clear Blue Product Success System any different from the other product management frameworks. The first thing is that it’s actually a lot simpler. If you wanted to start your own company, what would you do? That the question that the CBPSS answers.

This system has been designed to focus on the two things that a product manager has to do in order to create a successful product. The first is to create a product that will be desired by customers. The second is to persuade the rest of the company to support the development and selling of the product.

In a nutshell this all boils down to being able to do two things: knowing what to do next and being able to convince people to help you to do it. This is similar to what a CEO does, but they get to tell people what to do and don’t have to do nearly as much convincing.

What A Product Manager Does

Which all leads us to the key question of just what does a product manager actually do? It turns out that at its most basic level, the job of a product manager consists of performing 5 separate tasks:

 

  • Identify A Need: Your product will never be a success if it doesn’t solve a problem for a customer. Before you spend any time creating product, first take the time to find a customer need that they’d be willing to spend money to solve.

 

 

  • Identify Customers: The world is filled with lots of customer problems that nobody would actually pay to solve. The dot.com implosion showed that it was easy to create a product that solved a problem that nobody really needed to have solved (remember Pets.com?)

 

 

  • Create Product: Product managers can get lost in this part of the program. The product that gets created needs to solve the problem better than anyone else for the customers who are willing to pay for it. That’s it.

 

 

  • Sell Product: Having a product is a good start, but it’s not going to do anyone any good unless you can make your customers aware of it. Once they know that it exists, you are going to have to work with the rest of your company to find ways to get your product into your customer’s hands.

 

 

  • Support Product: There is an old phrase that says that its 5x easier to sell to an existing customer than to a new one. The only way that that is going to be true is if your existing customer is happy with you. Supporting the product once it’s been bought is not nearly as glamorous as a new sale, but it can be the key to future sales.

 

What All Of This Means For You

The job of being a product manager is a difficult one. Although we often like to think of ourselves as being “the CEO” of our product, it turns out to be a bit more complicated than that.

I’ve unveiled my Clear Blue Product Success System which shows how to perform the job of being a product manager. Yes, you are responsible for the success of your product, but no, everyone in the company doesn’t work for you. In order to be successful the Clear Blue system provides you with a way to make sure that you do everything that you have to do and shows you how to convince the rest of the company to do it.

Although the rest of the company may not always realize it, being a product manager is a very important job. It’s trying to make sure that everything gets done and everyone does their part that makes it a challenging career.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: All phases of the Clear Blue Product Management System are not created equally. Where do you think you’ll spend the most time?

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Excuse me for just a moment while I look around for my soapbox – oh, here it is. Now I’m ready to share a shocking piece of information with you. Please make sure that you are sitting down. Product Management is broken. It really does not work. Yes, some products are successful, but it’s not because of the actions of the product managers – it’s good luck, it’s market conditions, it’s the missteps of their competitors. What’s gone wrong here?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

David Martin March 12, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I have argued for some time that the only authority a Product Manager has is reliant upon having a CEO with a clear vision that the Product can be aligned to. “this is what the business is doing and needs to do because…. work with us” a new product is change and thus you need to break through individual and departmental Agendas, Product Managers need to be able to reiterate their CEOs message, No CEO message = No authority. Successful Product Management is unfortunately more about the organisation around you than necessarily what you can do as a Product Manager. The less fighting you have to do on a daily basis the better the results you will deliver. I wouldn’t do any other job….. @mrmartinuk

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Dr. Jim Anderson March 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm

David: I think that you’ve got this one right. No matter how great your product is or how good you are at crafting a powerful marketing message, it’s just not going to matter if you don’t have the internal support that you’re going to need in order to be successful!

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von revilla April 22, 2013 at 8:20 am

Being a product manager, the real challenge is (after getting your CEO’s support) how do you make the people sell your product. This is my agony as of the moment. I conceive ideas and strategies for my product to be as competitive as it can be to the market but the people who sell it directly to our clients do not even look at my product as a potential product that they can get incentive from. My product is not as costly compared to other products that we have in the company and because of this, our sales force team do not even give time to promote my product as much as they promote our other products that are costly. Do I make sense? This really is a dilemma that I think every product managers may face.

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Dr. Jim Anderson April 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Von: you point out a problem that all product managers have — sales people often have to sell multiple products and they may not want to sell your product! To solve this problem, you need to work to make your product easier to sell than any other product that your company offers and then you need to focus on getting customers to start to request your product from your sales team. Good luck!

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Niranjan May 30, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Very true. Another interesting situation any product manager can come across in most places is that folks from other roles really do not know what a product manager is suppose to do. Sales confuse product manager role with that of a project/program manager. Product implementation team can confuse a product manager with an architect. The product architect can think you are from sales. Senior management can hold you accountable for quality, which could be under a separate QA team. etc… Is it important to explain what a product manager does? I would not waste my time here! It is more about soft skills to manage and get the dice rolling, as Jim mentioned.

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