PM open house at Forrester's Foster City office on 11/05

On Thursday, November 5th, from 4:00 to 5:30 PM, Forrester Research is hosting an informal discussion about product management and product marketing issues. This session is the first in what we hope will be a series of conversations about these topics, scheduled at Forrester’s Bay Area office in Foster City.

The topic for this kick-off session is how social media is changing the job description for product managers and product marketers. I'll lead the discussion on this topic, since I just did an all-day workshop about "social product management."

The operative word in that last sentence is discussion. If you want to be pummeled with PowerPoints, look elsewhere. We want to host discussions among product managers and product marketers. Our role is to provide insights from our research, and give you a chance to meet and speak with your peers.

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Workshop on "social product management" is done!

Had some great conversations with the workshop attendees on how PM teams are incorporating social media into their customer and market intelligence (including, but not limited to, requirements). Thanks to all who attended.

Interestingly, we spent a good deal of time talking about the type of questions people ask. In trying to make sense of both social media and PM deliverables, I made a distinction between problem-centric questions, which center on the customer, and product-centric questions, which (as the name implies) focus on the vendor's products and services.

In the technology industry, people are far more used to posing product-centric questions. Gradually, companies are learning the importance of the problem-related questions. However, it's easy to slip from one into the other. It reminds me of how I used to struggle with guitar fingering. As a novice player, I would concentrate for a while on keeping my fingers straight on the frets. Inevitably, as I started to think about other things (strumming, rhythm, etc.), I'd start to roll my fingers slightly to the side, which made it harder to hit the notes I was trying to reach.

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The PM job calculator: validation

[Last in this series about the Tech Product Management/Marketing Job And Department Profiler. Previous posts cover its origins, the design decisions that went into it, and the job specializations it profiles.]

From my grad student years, I know that a lot of mathematical models fall flat on their simulated faces because they don't get the testing they should. In the case of the PM job calculator/department profiler, I had to apply three different tests.

The tasks are many and varied
Last year, when I did the survey research on the state of the product management/product marketing job in technology companies, I vetted the list of tasks with a lot of PMs. Using their feedback, I added tasks, rethought others, and even merged a couple. The resulting list represented everything that PMs might be doing, depending on where they work.

That was the easy part.

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The PM job calculator: specializations

[Continuing the "behind the scenes" discussion of the Product Management/Marketing Job And Department Profiler, a.k.a. the job calculator. Here are the links to the first two parts, covering the origins of the calculator, and the design decisions behind it.]

As discussed in the last post on this topic, I decided to define product management roles through the tasks that those roles perform. The maxim, "You are what you do," made it easy to define different job categories for product managers and product marketers. A task -based approach also helped make a more convincing argument why particular specializations are necessary.

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Social product management workshop coming soon

For anyone interested in using social media as a resource for product requirements, persona development, use cases, and other customer insights, the workshop on this topic is scheduled for later this month.

The goal is to give you specific, practical guidance that you can use the day after the workshop. Therefore, I'm asking attendees to bring examples of their current challenges in gaining customer insights, from either a product management or product marketing perspective. We'll use those scenarios during some hands-on exercises.

Here's the link to the workshop, if you're interested. Space is limited, and based on the number of questions I get about this topic, it should be a lively session.

[Cross-posted at The Heretech.]

The PM calculator: tasks

[Continuing the discussion of the PM Job And Department Profiler from the previous post.]

The most fundamental decision for the Profiler was the choice of how to depict the PM role. I might have chosen functional areas, such as Pragmatic Marketing's famous diagram of PM responsibilities, or something skill-based, such as Steve Haine's efforts to define product management and product marketing as a corpus of knowledge that people in that profession need to master. Instead, I decided to use tasks to build the picture of what PMs do.

There's nothing inherently wrong in the other depictions of product management, but they weren't the right raw materials for what I wanted to do. If I accomplished nothing else, I wanted to depict the volume of work that PMs do, and the degree to which that work is focused or unfocused.

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Personas of interest

Christopher Cummings brings up an always-interesting topic: why people don't use personas as much, or as well, as they might. While persona certainly has a specific meaning in Agile, the same kind of deliverable—a profile of an archetypal user or stakeholder—exists in marketing and sales, too. It may go by different names, and people may develop and use these personas with more or less rigor.

Cummings cites three main pitfalls with personas:

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The PM job calculator: genesis

The Product Management/Marketing Job And Department Profiler is finally, finally available (Forrester account required). This project was unusual in  a lot of respects, so it's worth spending a little time explaining it. You might also get some insight into how research gets done at Forrester, which might be a little mysterious to the outside world.

What is it?
Here's the short version: You enter the priorities for a particular PM, and you get a recommended job description. If you want to go one step further, you can also get a picture of what your department should look like: how many PMs, in which specializations, at which level of seniority for their positions.

In other words, it's a tool designed primarily for the people who run PM groups. The Profiler is also useful for rank-and-file PMs who might want to gauge where their priorities and skills are, and where they should be.

I'll get into more details about the tool and how it works in a later post, but let me first explain why I created it.

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Are PMs ready to focus on research?

Several forces are pushing PMs in the same direction: both product managers and product marketers are under increasing pressure to be good researchers. Here are a quick summary of but a few of those industry changes, and how they put greater stress on the research part of the job:

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