To understand changes to product management, I turned to Google. They have a massive customer base with a large number of digital connection points. Product managers have a large amount of big data at hand and an ability to test-market products at scales no one else can imagine. Ken Norton, a partner at Google Ventures, wrote a classic essay in 2005, which he claims was reinforced with his experiences at Google. Here is how he describes the personality of a product manager:

For my part, I loved the technical challenges of engineering but despised the coding. I liked solving problems, but I hated having other people tell me what to do. I wanted to be a part of the strategic decisions,

I wanted to own the product. Marketing appealed to my creativity, but I knew Id dislike being too far away from the technology. Engineers respected me, but knew my heart was elsewhere and generally thought I was too “marketing-ish.” People like me naturally gravitate to product management.10

Product management is an integration point between marketing, engineering, and operations. With the increased observations as described in chapter 3, as well as the orchestration capabilities as described in chapter 5, product managers have an unprecedented opportunity to design products interactively with their customers, test-market different ideas, iterate over a large number of permutations and combinations, and launch a product based on extensive feedback from the marketplace. Products can also evolve and be streamlined based on usage and feedback. All this makes the product manager a very key orchestrator across a large pool of resources.

The most innovative companies generate a greater proportion of revenue from new products and services. A study conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers that asked 1,700 board-level executives around the globe questions related to innovation, found that the leading innovators receive 25 percent of their revenue from innovative products and services launched in the last year compared with only 6.6 percent for the 20 percent least-innovative companies.11 Product managers are mini-CEOs who drive innovative products through engineering, marketing, operations, and support. Consulting organizations like PwC’s PRTM have been helping businesses in organizing their product management function.12 So, how do big data, collaborative influencing, and orchestrated marketing lead to improved product management?

A fair amount of organizational division across product engineering, marketing, and operations were the result of the decision-making divisions that drove the silos across these organizations in the past. Collaboration was achieved through extensive cross-organization discussions, but resulted in long lead times. With the automation in product and customer touchpoints, product managers are now able to collect massive volumes of usage data, which can be employed to obtain rapid feedback on products’ functionality, features, and components. At the same time, marketers can track shopping behavior and isolate features and components that are driving purchases. The interest can also be validated using social media data. As the smartphone purchase example illustrated in chapter 5 , a marketer can identify and track shopper behavior and send specific marketing messages that influenced the purchase decision-making. In addition, the product manager can examine the product usage to investigate the extent and frequency of usage across product features. By analyzing social media, the marketer can also track positive or negative sentiments associated with each aspect. Armed with this detailed knowledge, the product manager can experiment with specific changes to the product, and test-market the changes by downloading different features on a set of beta customers. As usage patterns change, the product manager can track the changes to decipher whether they are accepted by the marketplace and whether any subtle messaging changes are needed.

This complex product management process requires an orchestra- tor. The product manager is closely tied to engineering, marketing, and operations, and is able to pull all the relevant data from product and customer interface to make critical product decisions. This person possesses a fair amount of respect and trust across the board, and is also able to distill key feedback from the deluge of data coming from a variety of sources, both inside and outside the corporation.

Returning to Google, statisticians embarked on a plan in 2009 to study their management. In Project Oxygen, statisticians gathered more than 10,000 observations about managers—across more than 100 variables, from various performance reviews, feedback surveys, and other reports. Then they spent time coding the comments in order to look for patterns. For much of its 13-year history, particularly the early years, Google has taken a pretty simple approach to management: leave people alone. Let the engineers do their stuff. If they become stuck, they will ask their bosses, whose deep technical expertise propelled them into management in the first place. Laszlo Bock, Google’s vice president for human relations led a team to rank directives by importance. They found that technical expertise—the ability, say, to write computer code in one’s sleep—ranked dead last among Google’s big eight directives.13

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