Innovate Or Die – Five Strategies For Optimizing Product Management At Your Company

May Event Review: “Innovate Or Die – Five Strategies For Optimizing Product Management At Your Company” with Brian Lawley, CEO 280 Group LLC

By Helene Eichler

May 2015 Event

Brian Lawley kicked off a lively and interactive May SVPMA program with asking how many product managers were in the audience.  He explained how the 280 Group commissioned a comprehensive study on product management including over 25 data sources, hundreds of hours, and millions of dollars of research.  Overall, product management is well respected and product managers are highly valued within most organizations.

In terms of most valuable positions, product management ranked fourth after CEO, Senior Executives, and General Manager.  Companies that empower product managers are 50% faster to market. Product managers are very influential as 58% work directly with the C-Suite.  In fact 30% report directly to the CEO.  Product Managers are present in all industries and company sizes. 67% of them have >5 years’ experience and >50% have Masters degrees.

Brian pointed out that famous CEOs like Steve Ballmer, Marissa Mayer and Steve Jobs were all former product managers.

Next, Brian shared how Product Management has changed over the last 10 years.  As the profession has matured it has become more prestigious as well as more demanding.  As product development methodologies like agile and lean are more widely used, the number of products per product manager have increased while the product release cycles get shorter.

After Brian explained why someone would want to aspire to product management, he discussed why products fail.  Seventy-five percent of new product development programs and 95% of new product introductions fail.  Given such a well-educated, highly respected group of professionals, so why do so many products fail? Here are Brian’s top five reasons:

  1. Poor Definition (Single biggest reason)
  2. Poor customer Inputs (7 out of 10 product failures resulted from poor customer input)
  3. No Market Research (Market research wasn’t done in 75% of new product developments)
  4. Poor Value Proposition (3 out of 10 products fail because of poor value propositions)
  5. Other (Combination of Marketing, Execution, Competition, Strategy, Timing

Product failures result in massive costs to companies:

  • Almost 46% of all resources allocated to new products by US firms is spent on failed products
  • Product managers’ careers are negatively impacted as well as their brand reputations

But Brian encouraged the audience to not let setbacks slow them down.  One should use these failures as a learning tool.

Once you know why products fail, Brian proposed five Strategies for Product Management Excellence:

  1. Assess and Set Goals (to define metrics and track success)
  2. Create a multi-year plan (1-3 year plan to achieve a world class product management function)
  3. Optimize people (with training and coaching)
  4. Role definition, Process, Tools (clarity on roles/responsibilities, streamline processes, arm product managers with essential tools to be effective) – 48% of companies in the study cited poorly defined product management and 75% don’t understand product management
  5. Implement Holistic Change Management (Requires communication and buy-in of the plan, and executive support to make real change that sticks)

The key takeaways Brian covered were:

  • The rise of product management – It’s becoming an even more essential role in the organization
  • How product management has changed – More complex, demanding but also new methodologies and tool resources
  • Product Failure – It’s a reality that the overwhelming share of new products fail
  • Five failure factors – Most likely reasons this keeps happening
  • Massive cost of failure – Significant negative economic and professional impact
  • Five product management excellence strategies – Guidelines to succeed

Helene Eichler has over 10 years’ experience in developing, executing and managing revenue generating channel and direct marketing programs in the High Tech Industry.  She also has a passion for Marketing Operations and consults with Marketing Operations Partners. You can contact her at

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