Fast Product Management Lessons From A Porsche 911

by drjim on July 23, 2012

Wow – that Porsche 911 is some kind of car…

Wow – that Porsche 911 is some kind of car…

This is the kind of story that I really like – it has a Porsche in it! Hopefully everyone know who Porsche is. They are the German car manufacturer who makes ridiculously fast sports cars and then sells them for an awful lot of money. It’s how they go about doing the selling part that just might hold some lessons for Product Managers…

Behold: the Porsche 911!!

What kind of car do you drive today? I’m willing to bet that it’s nothing like the brand new Porsche that was recently introduced. This car is a beast. It has 394 horsepower under the hood and can go from 0 – 60 m.p.h. in 4 seconds. Ouch – who needs that kind of power? Wouldn’t we all like to be able to add that kind of product to our product manager resume?

It really doesn’t matter who needs that kind of power, because we all simply want it! Unfortunately as with all things in life, automobile power comes at a price. In this case the price of nicely outfitted Porsche 911 is roughly US$132,360.

Even though the product, the 911, is a highly desirable one, the product managers at Porsche realize that the people who make up their market segment do have other options when it comes to high end sports cars. This means that they need to take steps to cause people to choose a Porsche when they go expensive car shopping.

All too often we product managers try to find different ways to talk about our products so that they will seem to have a little bit of everything for everyone. The most important thing that the Porsche product managers have realized is that it’s just not possible to make one product that is going to meet every potential customer’s needs.

What Porsche Product Managers Know About Product Lines

The Porsche product managers have clearly started in the right place. Since they know that they can’t capture every customer with a single product, they’ve decided to create multiple variations of a single popular product. The thinking is that if you like the base product, then once they create a variant that exactly matches what you are looking for you’ll be almost forced to buy one.

How could the Porsche product managers make the apparently perfect 911 even better than it currently is? How about if they made multiple models? The last version of the Porsche 911 came in 18 configurations that were grouped in four main categories:

 

  • Turbo: This configuration allowed the 911 to accelerate faster.

 

 

  • GT3: This was a configuration that improved the 911’s handling at high speeds.

 

 

  • GT3 RS: This was a configuration of the 911 that was created for racing at such events as Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

 

  • GT2: A street-legal configuration that accelerates faster and breaks even quicker.

 

The latest version of the 911 clearly shows that over at Porsche they know all about the product development definition. This means that the Porsche product managers have a product roadmap and they are in the process of executing it. The just introduced model has spare room designed in around the engine that will permit a larger engine to be added to future models. Additionally, since this version of the 911 is both longer and has a wider wheelbase, it is anticipated that there will be a hybrid version in the not so distant future.

Instead of having to scramble to adapt the current product design to handle some last minute “must have” feature, it’s pretty clear that the Porsche product managers have a long-term product roadmap and that they are executing it. This kind of planning and execution is something that all product managers could learn a thing or two from.

What All Of This Means For You

I want a Porsche 911. Of course, so does everyone else so that’s not really saying very much. However, the product managers at Porsche know that we all want their car and they’ve taken steps to make sure that every last person who can possibly buy their car will do so. This is the kind of product management skill that should be in every product manager job description

The Porsche 911 is a fantastic piece of machinery. It looks great and it drives like a bat out of hell. However, it’s only going to get better. The Porsche product managers have pre-engineered this beast to be able to be transformed into multiple future models: bigger, faster, and perhaps even a hybrid. What this means is that they have already thought out their product development roadmap and even as you read this they are working on the future.

Taking the time to plan not just the next version of your product, but the next next and even the next next next version can yield great rewards for a product manager. Let the success of the Porsche 911 show you the way to making sure that your next product launch gets your product in the fast lane so that you can put the petal to the metal…!

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

Question For You: How many future versions of your product do you think that your product roadmap should account for?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

“Be more innovative” – how many times has your management told you that? Although being innovative isn’t really part of the product development definition, product managers still want their products to always be ahead of what their customers want. We’d like to be able to have our products solve problems that our customers might not even know that they have. However, it turns out that being innovative is very hard to do. Good news – I’ve got three ways that product manager

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