Make the Shift to Proactive Product Management

By Greg Geracie

One of the chief indicators of a truly successful product management organization, other than market success, is its ability to move from being reactive to proactive. This is accomplished by putting the appropriate level of process in place and ensuring that everyone understands their roles and what to expect.

Oddly enough, many product organizations never reach this proactive state. There is nothing worse, as a product manager, than being continually buffeted around without the ability to seize the reins and bring order to your product. If you think about it, predictability is highly valued in just about every aspect of the organization. The leadership team wants to deliver predictable results to the investment community. Sales wants to deliver the predicted amounts of revenue. The leadership team and sales are both rewarded handsomely when this occurs.
Introduce a Product Management Calendar
Once the baseline processes have been established, cross the threshold from being reactive to being proactive by putting into place a product management calendar of events. By proactively communicating the internal timetable for key events essential for your team’s success, you’re letting everyone know what to expect in advance. Most importantly, you’re taking control. Putting out a product management calendar of events allows you to manage your workflow and your schedule.

Sean’s calendar lists the following events:

·    Roadmap publishing dates
·    Roadmap iteration meeting dates
·    Advisory group meetings
·    Cross-functional team meetings
·    Client conference dates
·    Sales conference dates
·    Product pricing submission dates to finance
·    Product training dates for the customer-facing teams
·    Budget and forecasting due dates
·    Annual board meeting date

Publishing a calendar requires more thought than it might appear at first glance. Many of the events that need to occur have to happen in a particular order, and your business may have a certain sales cycle that you’re attempting to synchronize your releases around. Carefully think through the various dimensions of your activities before publishing your calendar.

Objective Data is Essential for Your Success

As a product manager, you’ll need to rely heavily on objective data. Everyone has opinions; few have facts. Facts are concrete and often immutable. Objective facts neutralize opinions and provide the fuel that enables you to establish yourself as the market expert that everyone relies on.

Facts are not only useful in establishing your credibility, they are essential for communicating what you’ve accomplished. You’ll need to develop a framework for quantifying your success.

As we will see, one of the most effective means of doing so is to develop a product scorecard. While quantitative data is central to your success, you cannot afford to overlook the qualitative dimension of product management. Product managers are in highly visible positions that rely heavily on influence and interpersonal skills. Given the high visibility, a lot is expected of you. As you move up the leadership curve, you’re judged not only on what you’ve accomplished (the facts) but how you’ve achieved your objective (subjective perceptions). Both dimensions need to be effectively managed for you to be successful.
External Metrics of Success
The internal measures of success, both quantitative and perception-orientated, are important ways for you to understand how effective you are as a product manager. The external metrics of success illustrate what customers think about your company’s effectiveness.

Quantitatively, customers will measure your organization’s success against what you promised to deliver on your customer-facing roadmap. There are two dimensions to this commitment. The first relates to the decisions you made regarding which capabilities made it onto your customer-facing roadmap. The second element is whether you released the promised capability or product when you said you would. Roadmaps are viewed by clients as commitments, and they will judge your efforts accordingly.

If you succeed in selecting the “right” products or capabilities and successfully deliver against your commitments, most customers will view your results positively. However, if you release products or capabilities that miss the mark, miss the promised release window, or deliver reduced capabilities or inferior quality, you’ll create high levels of customer dissatisfaction. Compounding these errors over time rapidly undermines customers’ trust in your organization.

It is not always apparent, on the surface of your metrics, that customers feel this way; the greatest proportion of your customers are likely a silent majority. They may be looking for other options and biding their time. Therefore, it is important to conduct satisfaction surveys to learn their perceptions.

Customer satisfaction surveys are useful tools that can help you understand the health of your customer base and measure how customers perceive the effectiveness of your organization. If your organization has continued to miss product release windows and reduce the amount of capability you deliver to clients, you’ll likely learn that your customers perceive your organization as ineffective. Perpetuated over time, these execution errors will encourage your clients to seek other alternatives.

Customer satisfaction can also shine light on other dimensions of your customers’ perceptions, such as the quality of your sales interactions, the effectiveness of your customer support, and product quality.

Knowing what customers think about your organization and your product efforts provides you with an opportunity to make needed adjustments.

© Greg Geracie, President and Founder of Actuation Consulting.  All rights reserved.
The excerpt was taken from his global best-seller Take Charge Product Management and is available at and better bookstores world-wide.