After countless conversations, articles, webinars and conference sessions, I started to feel like the profession of product management had been reduced to…
- Finding user problems.
- Writing epics and stories.
- Convincing stakeholders the above supports company goals (product strategy).
- Cranking user stories through the agile factory.
After more than two dozen conversations with product management VPs and SVPs, I’m happy to report the market-facing, customer-value-driven product management I’ve long known is alive and well.
At the top of the product executives’ list still?
Making sure every major product initiative has quantifiable strategic value to the customer organization (beyond just the users). Customer retention and new sales are always the key drivers.
Getting product teams to “consistently” operate with this mentality…still a challenge!
The Feel-Good Story That Sealed the Deal
My favorite feel-good story comes from a VP that recently inherited a new product/platform that was built with more of a generic cross-industry approach.
His first move…determine the vertical industries with the greatest need and highest adoption rates for their technology, and then prioritize those verticals in terms of their contribution to his company’s growth goals.
Next move…sprinkle in industry specific features (20%) on a cross-industry (80%) platform to form out-of-the-box solutions for the named vertical segments.
After hearing this, my gut reaction was OMG, the product strategy gods are alive and well!
This approach positions his company to succeed in specific markets and beat the pants off competitors that have generic platforms. Once they establish sufficient traction in each vertical, they’ll repeat the process for additional verticals.
Here’s the reason I love the vertical market approach. It sets the product up for long-term success and market leadership in chosen verticals without sacrificing short-term revenue.
Most companies that build a technology platform take a horizontal market approach, meaning they build and go to market with generic features that are table stakes for all industries.
Here’s the problem with that approach. Your salesforce is selling to every industry and they all have unique needs, the 20%.
It spreads product teams so thin with enormous piles of technical debt that you never get the opportunity to deliver industry-specific solutions that set you apart from the competition.
Result: you become a commodity that’s forced to compete on price. Customer retention will be an uphill battle too.
When I was coming up through the product management ranks, I worked for companies that did it both ways. The vertical industry approach was far more successful because you got to be the best at what you do in your chosen verticals! We ruled in terms of customer success and sales wins.
That doesn’t mean the vertical approach is the only way or the only right way to bring products to market in B2B, but it’s incredibly refreshing to see organizations that are succeeding with a proven formula for long-term market and product success.
My favorite part as a lifelong product manager? The fundamentals of strong product management haven’t changed.
The Importance of Strong Feeder Systems for Agile
Here’s the bottom line. The greater the clarity on the WHO, WHAT & WHY (the market-facing part of product management), the easier the design and development execution, the HOW.
Your development process is only as successful as your market-facing feeder systems. If you can’t articulate WHAT you’re going to help the customer organization accomplish, WHY it’s important to them strategically, and the hurdles standing in their way, your design and development execution (user value) will always be a struggle.
Here’s why. You’re too focused on user problems without proper context in terms of the outcome to the broader organization.
There’s no development methodology on the planet that can compensate for weak feeder systems.
For those that have accepted some version of agile (46 at last count) as their product management model, it’s the reason you’re still struggling to deliver strategic customer value consistently.
Let’s put agile development into proper perspective. Agile development is simply a methodology for building software. And it’s a darn good one.
But agile is NOT market facing, customer-value-driven product management. Never gonna be!
If you want to strengthen your agile feeder systems with true market facing, customer-value-driven product management for B2B, enroll in a Product Management University course.
No other product management training organization will teach you how to uncover needs from the top of the customer organization down in a way that leads you to the right users, workflows and job tasks that have the greatest strategic value. It’s easier than anything you’re doing now!
Contact us today to discuss a personalized workshop for your team.
by John Mansour on November 17, 2022.