Market research: How involved should the PMM be?

Get in the driver’s seat

The role of the Product Marketing Manager (PMM) is to be a driver of market research. We know the products, the features, messaging, and the positioning better than anyone in the company. The experienced PMM has engineering partners on his team who have communicated the design, components, uniqueness, issues/potential weaknesses, direction and competitive positioning to him from an engineering perspective. The experienced PMM also works closely with sales and talks with customers to get some sense of how customers view current products and competitive offerings, as well as how they see their needs changing over time. From these data, the PMM either works with the market research team to design the project(s) or does it himself.                           Continue reading

Process Improvement: Intro to Agile

The high-tech industry has followed a proven method of product management that works quite nicely in a number of industries for everything from hydrophilic guide-wires to notebook computers to refrigerators—plan, develop, launch, EOL. When the product leaves the planning stage, it is pretty well defined. It gets on the POR and roadmaps are created. MRDs, PRDs are written: It is built and launched. It’s a pretty simple paradigm. But what if the product has characteristics that require it to change during the development process? What if there is a need for continual customer feedback as the product moves forward through the development cycle? The traditional “HW model” doesn’t work. This is where Agile has earned its stripes. Continue reading

Do we need more people or stronger people?

Myopia will blind you

The product groups within most companies add more and more people as the company grows. It is exciting to be a part of a company that is in the midst of a meteoric growth. New faces bring new experiences and feed the high emotional energy already present to create an overwhelming euphoria. There is a feeling that this will go on forever. The Finance and HR teams try to be the pragmatic voices; however, how can you challenge our success? After all, we ARE Compaq, Digital, Wang, Concurrent, NetFRAME, AST Research, etc.!!! When one brings up the fact that the next tier is very aggressive and is about to kick us between the legs, you hear things like “THAT will never happen!” Or “You don’t know what you are talking about.” However, when business slows and their jobs or bonuses are jeopardized, the upper management of a company then looks at these same groups to cut overhead to make the P&L look better. Too cynical a viewpoint? For the purposes of this article…no. I have seen this phenomenon many times.

What can you do?

Now that the framework has been set up, what can you do as a product person?! It seems rather bleak…doesn’t it? Hardly. A Product Manager (PM) or a Product Marketing Manager (PMM) can have a profound impact on an organization by managing up and over, regardless of the size of the company. Do we need both PMs and PMMS? The answer is…it depends. As the company grows, the decisions carry with them more responsibility (dollars); consequently, the quality of output is heavily stressed versus the quantity. The activities are very similar in both company types. It’s the depth that changes. It’s for this reason that a functional shift occurs and new titles emerge—Planners, Business Development Managers, PMs, PMMs, SEO Managers, geo marketing managers, channel marketing managers, industry marketing managers, BI, Analytics Manager. The market gets sliced and diced until there is a marketing manager responsible for every major segment of the market and every customer type. As a PM/PMM, what does this mean? Please Chris…tell me something good!       Continue reading

Process Improvement: Intro to Six Sigma

A business’ sales can flatten out due to competitive pressures, market saturation, economic conditions, or even a failure to evolve. The reason for which doesn’t matter for the purposes of this discussion. Sales and Marketing efforts don’t seem to be effective. What is the next logical step for a company? Cut costs. There are a variety of ways to “save” money. At Digital Equipment Corporation, they reduced their head-count to reduce costs. The mantra at The Home Depot with Bernie and Arthur was “Sales Cures All.” At some point, even more sales can’t over-come operational irresponsibility. At The Home Depot, Bob Nardelli leveraged his experience with process improvement at GE in an attempt to make The Home Depot a more operationally responsible company. It was through his effort that Six Sigma principles were put in place. Were they executed effectively? I’m sure everyone who reads this has been to a Home Depot store in the last couple of years. How was their Customer Service? Did it more closely resemble a Wal-Mart with lumber and no ice cream?! The challenge is to put the principles into practice without losing sight of why you are doing them and what it does to/for your “customers.”

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