Methodology Vs Idea based Product Management Approach
I recently read an article by Gabriel Steinhardt on the current state and future of product management. He describes the Dichotomous future of Product Management where he foresees the evolution of two approaches to Product Management – Idea based and Methodology based.
The Generalization, Business, and Technology approaches to defining product management are all Idea-based and have emerged as reflections of people’s workplace experiences. By design these approaches lack methodological foundation and they are the result of people’s natural inclination to conceptualize and frame their world view according to their own (mostly previous) personal work experience.
- The Generalization approach views product management as being multidisciplinary and multifaceted, and responsible for nearly anything and everything related to the product.
- The Business approach is heavily focused on the business aspects of the product with a broad emphasis on all related monetary issues – team management, revenue management, metrics, costing, pricing.
- The Technology approach sees product management as an extension to product development – at times even subservient to product development. Product management practitioners are expected to be technically astute and indeed many are former engineers. It is considered acceptable for a product manager to also assume the responsibilities of the Scrum product owner role.
The Methodology based approach to product management aims to establish a well-supported methodological understanding of product management and is the outcome of a deliberate resolution process that is based on the strong coupling of logical thinking and extensive research.
– Gabriel Steinhardt, Dichotomous future of Product Management
Product Manager Vs Product Owner has been a never-ending debate!
Product Planning has to be a mix of tactical and strategic work activities of PMs. However, they can’t afford to miss strategic areas such as problem discovery, competition and market trends tracking and analysis which give them opportunities for exponential growth. I believe an open question here is – If a product manager can play both inward and outward roles related to product management? The inward role means focusing on product development and outward role entailing product planning & marketing areas.
A lot of companies worldwide call their Scrum Product Owners as “Product Managers” where they focus on solution side (product development) with some exposure on Problem side (customers). I can’t say that Product Owners are held hostage to Product Development with not so dedicated exposure to Product Planning. It’s because what they are hired to do – Write Product Requirements, Manage Product Backlog and Run Sprints. I believe that User Problem DIscovery goes for a toss with this as Product Planning is not “owned” by no one. Even if Product Owner manages to do Product Planning in the initial stage of any new product, it’s not scalable as the product grows. Ideally, product management and product development need to be specialized functions.
Some Scrum consultants claim that the most productive solution is one person who assumes both the product owner and product manager roles and all tasks attached to them – which they call – guess what? – product owner. Well – unfortunately wishful thinking for most organizations! This may work in some environments with one Scrum Team, but it can definitely not scale up. And the poor person who gets this combined product owner/product manager role will always be pushed by the team to prioritize her/his operational tasks. Over time the more strategic tasks are neglected – to the disadvantage of the product and the organization.
Continued confusion in product management vs product marketing roles
While you may be performing both the roles in any start-up or a small-scale product company, the outcomes and expectations are clearly distinct. More than focusing on the titles, you need to understand the underlying need for these 2 functions.
In a small organization, it could be one person who, by necessity, must find a way to do everything that a product manager and a product marketing manager should do. In a larger organization, it would be extremely difficult for one person and requires the roles to be shared by multiple people. Job titles have been created to represent the people, but the assignment of the roles is inconsistent with the job titles.
– David Keith Daniels, Brankraft, Are you a Product Manager or a Product Marketing Manager?
Ideally, Product Manager focuses on planning and building products for Users so that they could get their jobs done. Product Marketeer focuses on taking products to buyers so that revenue can be generated from the sales of Products.
Product Manager is responsible for figuring out what products to build and how to plan product development for making it highly useful for users. While Product Marketing Manager is responsible for go-to-market strategies, product positioning to make ideal buyers become aware of problems, consider their products as a possible solution to their problems and decide to buy the product to achieve desired results.
Below is the table created by David (BrainKraft), representing a generalized set of activities that each job title is responsible for.
Product Management for B2B Vs B2C Products
Customers bring fundamental differences in product management approach although, the idea to serve them remains the same irrespective of the product. Although similar Product Management skills, practices, and techniques can be applied interchangeably irrespective of Products, there is a clear difference in Product Management approach and philosophy for B2B and B2C products.
In B2C products, the end consumer is the buyer and the user itself. The segment size in case of say B2C Consumer Internet (CI) product like Amazon is much larger and hence it requires more of a standardized product for a greater volume of customers. However, in case of B2B Tech, the buyer segment (companies/ individuals) is relatively smaller (ranging from few thousands to 100 thousand) and it is required to match the expectations of both the buyers and users of the product. A major part of the problem for B2B Tech products revolves around solving needs of different businesses with standardization and making a necessary room for customizations.
Market, Buyers & Users
When we talk about customers, the observed differences are in terms of market size, customer expectations, their needs, risks, buyer-user personas. Market Sizing problem seems straightforward for B2B as the size, industry, revenue and other parameters can be clearly defined and PMs can always get the answer to their problems with B2B databases available. However, for B2C market sizing is an abstract problem where the demographics of a targeted consumer comprise of emotional, behavioral and personality traits.
The buyer personas can vary tremendously with professionals in one hand and wider consumer personas on the other. For B2C products, as PMs generally target broader segments, the medium of outreach can be both digital marketing and traditional ATL advertising (print, TV, radio ads). As the audience is not focused, the marketing job gets tough for PMs. For B2B SAAS, the outreach can be a mix of digital marketing, outbound sales and BTL advertising (events, promotions, meet-ups). The marketing is highly focused on targeted personas from specified industries and business functions.
The problems related to customer behavior and product acceptance is highly data-driven in case of B2B products, given the sheer amount of customers using the consumer app and making voluminous transactions. However, in case of B2B, it’s a mix of data-driven analysis where is application data points and customer feedback are equally important. Smaller customers base brings both advantages and challenges as they are relatively approachable for feedbacks. However, the captured data points might not help PMs paint a holistic picture.
PMs could see the B2C product competition-moves more easily through window shopping. Though B2C products become tough to analyze from backend tech and design philosophies as there lies an abstractness in terms of competition’s layout of user experience and interactions which impacts consumer behavior and affinity to similar products. Say, it comes to a tough call to know why a customer would buy a mobile phone with same price and delivery time from Amazon or Walmart or eBay. For B2B SAAS, it’s relatively harder to find differences due to limited access to the product. Having said that, published B2B SAAS product demos, marketing material, videos, product manuals etc. can be easily available to make a first level analysis.
B2C tech products pricing is publicly available and price points for same products are one of the key decision drivers for the larger customer segments. Though there are other major conveniences and emotional drivers of B2C products and service can be directly and indirectly co-related with money. PMs need to crack the economics behind all the costs which the customer would pay to you rather than competition. For B2B SAAS, the competition pricing may or may not be publicly available. However, I see a trend nowadays of making the pricing publicly available by most of the B2B SAAS companies be it salesforce, HubSpot, Talk desk and so on. The main challenge lies in positioning your product at the price point basis your targeted customer segment – lower price, higher market size/ higher price, lower market size. That’s the call, a PM needs to make. Read here to find B2B Vs B2C tech product management differences in detail.
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