Technology ExchangeBlog The Four Key Factors That Drive Product Management Excellence

The Four Key Factors That Drive Product Management Excellence

December 20, 2018 | By Jeff Lash

  • Product management has long been practiced based on “gut”; organizations have used approaches that seemed logical, but may have been based more on opinion than evidence
  • New research from SiriusDecisions shows that high-performing product management organizations exhibit specific behaviors and follow key practices in four key areas
  • By instituting these best practices, product management leaders can improve the product managers’ performance and ensure greater business success

For decades, common wisdom among physicians was that the best way to help babies born prematurely was to monitor their blood chemistry and ensure the levels of certain components remained normal. However, a researcher designed a study showing that premature babies’ survival rate increased when the mothers were given steroids before giving birth. Subsequent research showed that this intervention also reduced other risks and improved the babies’ long-term health. 

This is just one example of evidence-based medicine; instead of relying on “common wisdom” or “the way things have always been done,” healthcare experts have leveraged data and evidence to adopt improve practices.

Product management has not always been one of those evidence-focused fields. Product managers have historically “fallen” into the role, learning on the job by watching others who also learned on the job. Although product management leaders recommend and coach their teams on certain approaches that seem logical, the reality is that there has been little evidence to support certain product management practices or shed light on important aspects that may have gone unnoticed.

Until now. 

project management excellence 2019 playbookSiriusDecisions has identified the characteristics that drive product management excellence – product management teams that perform at a higher level than their peers. The results are summarized in our new e-book, Product Management Excellence: The SiriusDecisions 2019 Playbook which you can download now.

We took an evidence-based approach to identifying the key factors related to product management that cause some organizations to create more successful products than their competitors. Our research looked at companies with highly successful product management practices – companies where 75 percent or more of their products met projected revenue goals – and evaluated aspects of the product management practice. We then looked at less successful companies to see whether those same activities, processes and standards existed in their product teams.

Although there were many similarities between these two groups, there were a number of key differences identified. Our e-book provides the supporting data behind each of the specific areas of distinction, and the drivers of high performance can be summarized in four areas:

  • Customer and needs focus. Product management teams that have a better understanding of their customers, buyers and users – plus a consistent process for identifying the needs of those audiences – are more likely to create products that succeed in the market.
  • Disciplined product investment spending. Highly successful product management orgs are more likely to follow an objective, data-driven approach to product and portfolio investment decision-making.
  • Robust product lifecycle process. When a company has a defined process to take a product or enhancement from idea to launch – and when that process is detailed and followed by most initiatives – the resulting products are more likely to be successful.
  • Product management functional roles and development. There is a correlation between high-performing product management orgs, those in which the role of product management and its goals are well understood, and those in which regular upskilling is provided to reinforce new skills and learn new ones.

It’s often difficult to quickly assess whether an organization or product management team is doing well in these areas. This is why we’ve also identified some key symptoms of problems in each of these areas and included them in our e-book. For example, challenges recruiting and retaining product managers or a lack of effective and consistent communication between product management and product development may just be symptoms of a deeper problem related to lack of clearly defined roles and not enough upskilling, coaching and support for product managers.

Not only have we discovered some key product management practices that are shown to improve business results, but this research has also revealed just how influential commonly used best practices are and highlights areas we find clients are ignoring or not placing enough importance on.

Similar to how medicine has evolved with ongoing research, we believe the practice of product management is also evolving, and we are continuing to collect data and adjust our recommendations appropriately. In the meantime, we recommend all b-to-b product management leaders work to understand the key factors that drive product management success and improve them in their organizations.

Product Management Excellence

The SiriusDecisions 2019 Playbook

Access Now

Jeff Lash

Jeff Lash is Vice President and Group Director, Product Management, where he leads the Product Management Research and Advisory Service. A recognized thought leader in product management, he has over 15 years of experience in product management, product development, product marketing, and user experience design. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @jefflash.
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