Product Management – Then, Now, And In the Future: A Celebration TEDx Style

December Event Review: Product Management – Then, Now, and In the Future: A Celebration TEDx Style

By Dan Galatin

December 2015 Event

SVPMA hosted a gala celebration of its 15th anniversary on December 2nd.  To celebrate, several former SVPMA board members and speakers shared their thoughts on how the world of product management has evolved over that span of time, as well as where product management is headed over the next few years.

Rich Mironov, CEO, Mironov Consulting

Rich highlighted four things that have changed radically since he started his career in PM over 25 years ago:

  1. Massive amounts of data are now available about what real users really do with the product
  2. Building software is much faster, more layered and more central to every business
  3. There are many techniques commonly used to learn early and iteratively (e.g. Lean Startup, Lean UX, Design Thinking, and User Centered Design)
  4. PM is sexy! (for the moment…)

By contrast, four things that haven’t changed are:

  1. No one really understands what PMs do
  2. PM requires a mix of hard and soft skills
  3. We’ve never really been the CEO of our products (Do you really have the authority to fire your engineering team?)
  4. Simply having templates for PM tasks and deliverables doesn’t give you a strategy

Barbara Nelson, Principal, Barbara G Nelson Consulting

Barbara reminisced briefly about the very first SVPMA meeting before sharing some of her wisdom on successful product management (which she called the hardest job “except parenthood!”).  She stressed the importance of focusing on the market and spending time with customers, either face-to-face, on the phone or via social media.

It is important to gather the right metrics, but it takes additional qualitative market intelligence to figure out what they mean.  Focus on the “whys” and coming up with actionable insights.

Ultimately, Barbara contends that successful product managers need to always remember the meaning that individuals derive from using their products.

Glen Lipka, Head of Magic, Engagio

As a longtime user experience advocate, Glen encouraged the audience to put user engagement in the product front and center – stop making the minimum viable product and start making the minimum lovable product!  Work should be fun, so enterprise software should be fun to use.  Modern technologies such as HTML 5, CSS 3 and JavaScript frameworks make it easier to incorporate beautiful animations and rich user interactions into products.  Glen advocated that systems should be designed from the ground up to be based on robust APIs, so they can adapt over time to whatever new front-end technologies arise and can be integrated with other applications.

Neeta Mhatre, Senior Director PMO, Intuitive Surgical

Neeta explained that unlike CEOs, PMs must rely on their influencing skills.  Product managers should keep the following important phases of their job in mind:

  1. Product vision – it’s OK if people think you’re crazy at first!
  2. Strategy – don’t just focus on how “cool” the product is, but think about what you must do to make the product successful in the market, including training the sales force and key account leaders
  3. Execution – put together a plan and run with it

Greg Cohen, Founder, Althea Health

Greg spoke about his career journey and recalled that early on, he worked with large teams that took lots of time to make progress.  The introduction of Web 2.0 included smaller, more agile teams; the introduction of standards such as open-source software; the breaking of IT’s “stranglehold”; and the overall speed-up of business.

Today, the advent of “Web 3.0” includes the dominance of mobile, wireless and cloud computing.  Technology adoption is now consumer-driven, rather than being driven by IT or even by the business.  Things are changing so rapidly that “the chasm” has become a “crack.”

In the future, change will continue to accelerate.  PMs will need to become more technology-driven and visionary.  Speed of innovation will matter more and more, and there will be increased opportunities to change the world by rethinking old assumptions, as Uber continues to do in the areas of transportation and car ownership.

Anar Taori, Senior Director of Product Management, MaaS360 by Fiberlink, an IBM Company

Anar’s definition of the PM role is to identify market problems that people are willing to pay to solve. She reflected on how product management started as brand management.  It began with waterfall methodologies and heavyweight processes.

Today, the PM role is especially important in the SaaS environment.  It’s important to think through the whole customer experience, to allow customers to try and buy online.  As development models become increasingly agile, it’s important to obtain early feedback from customers.  Anar predicts that products will continue to move to SaaS and incorporate the social web.

Dan Galatin has over 20 years of combined experience in product management and software engineering.  He is Director of Communications for the SVPMA and can be contacted at

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