Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with Mr. Gabriel Steinhardt – Blackblot’s Managing Director. For those of you that don’t know, Blackblot® provides premium product management expert services for market dealers and innovators – all over the world! Mr. Steinhardt is a recognized international technology product marketing expert, author, lecturer and developer of methods and tools that increase product management productivity.
Naturally, I had a lot of questions for him about his work. We spoke on several topics, that I think you will find particularly interesting.
For those of us that need a little refresher on some of the central terms of product management, Mr. Steinhardt provided background info. The interview continues afterward. Keep reading for Blackblot’s industry insights!
What is a product?
A Product is any offering that satisfies needs. Products can be categorized as being either Goods or Services. Goods are tangible products that we can possess. Services are intangible products that we can pay for and use but can never own.
What is Product Management?
Product management is an occupational domain which holds two professional disciplines: product planning and product marketing. Collectively, product planning and product marketing are called product management.
The rationale for this is because product functionality is built for the user via product planning and the product’s value is presented to the buyer via product marketing. The product planning and product marketing disciplines respectively focus on the users’ and buyers’ needs.
Therefore, the product management domain resides solely in the “Problem Space”, and the engineering domain (which deals with the product and technology) resides in the “Solution Space”.
Spechtechular: Why is it important to have a product management methodology?
Mr. Gabriel Steinhardt: Applying a solid product management methodology that translates into standardized processes can greatly increase the probability of product success and profitability. While there is no way to prove a direct correlation between a methodology and financial rewards, it is understood that a solid methodology helps reduce the risk of failure at all levels and increase the chances of success.
Ultimately, a methodology is about following the definitive steps that foster efficiency, focus, and success. Empirically, not all successful products have had great product management behind them but it is clear that many product failures have had poor or no guidance from product management. Therefore, combining a definitive product management methodology with disciplined technology development practices is the key to commercial success, especially in the world of technology.
Spechtechular: Is the Product Manager really the “CEO of the Product”?
GS: First, Product Manager is the title given to a job container which holds one or more roles.
The very colloquial term “Product CEO” or “CEO of the Product” refers to an encompassing role description which alludes to complete and overall responsibility of one person for a product project, also owning all monetary considerations and project management.
The Product Manager is not the “CEO of the Product” as this is a notion that is applicable only to the Program Manager. In some companies the Product Manager is incorrectly tasked with program management responsibilities and hence lays the confusion. It is the Program Manager who is the “CEO of the Product”, not the Product Manager.
Spechtechular: How should one make a move from core engineering/development or R&D to product management?
GS: The mechanics of making this career move would include suggestions such as getting trained and certified in product management or volunteering to partake in product management tasks at your company. Some recommend getting a Master of Business Administration (MBA) academic degree as a beneficial step towards a product management position.
However, the transition from a technical position to any role in product management is not about acquiring a new skill set with new responsibilities but is mainly about somewhat of a personality change that is not easy to accomplish in a grown person.
Therefore, the move is all about a personal internal change. You should leave your current position and move into product management roles if you feel challenged and excited by market-think (not product-think) and wish to make uncertain yet possibly very rewarding business decisions that in their very nature run contrary to deterministic technical decisions.
Spechtechular: How will technology change the role of product management in the future?
GS: Technology itself does not fundamentally impact product management, but it does affect it because rapid technological advancements create an impatient expectation and demand in the market for sophisticated products. This drives product management and its practitioners to be more efficient and presents the necessity of working with tools and processes that have a clear methodology behind them.
The future of product management will demand higher professionalism – to balance solution overload caused by rapid technological developments – and make sure that products and services actually reach the market and succeed.
Spechtechular: What advice related to product managers can you provide to high ranking industry leaders?
GS: The product management team nowadays is considered the talent pool and management reserve from which a company’s future executives are drawn. Product management professionals are in the best position to assume leadership roles given their accumulated market and customer knowledge, on-going collaborative work and exposure to multitude corporate functions (sales, finance, marketing, development, etc.’), and intrinsic role duties that develop the multi-disciplinary skills that are required of an executive manager.
Assuming roles in product management reflects a natural career growth path and is an obvious stepping stone to leadership positions in the company. Therefore it will be a wise for industry leaders to learn about product management, the role and function of these employees in a company – so future product managers can be mentored to become business leaders that drive their decisions from both understanding the market and the business.
Spechtechular: What is the main challenge that product managers worldwide face?
GS: The main problem that product management professionals worldwide encounter is that product management is misunderstood, undervalued and incorrectly implemented at many companies.
Consequently, the key challenge product managers everywhere are faced with is to help peers and executives realize the true definition of product management and the critical importance that market-driven product management has to achieving marketplace success.