Sunday, August 15, 2010

Owning Product P&L

This is often a highly debated question in the product management community. Should product managers own the P&L of their product? The answer is simple, it depends!

Here are some of my observations on the subject:
  • Authority - Most product managers don't have the authority to truly own P&L. Most of us don't have the product development headcount or other associated costs under our budget. Many product managers don't want that authority.
  • Time - Many Product Managers are torn between the day to day work of product development, supporting marketing, sales enablement, etc. that monitoring product P&L falls to the wayside. We just assume that the pricing is "good enough" or that someone else is monitoring how much our products cost to develop, sell, market, or support.
  • Organizational Structure - Does the organizational structure lend itself well to a single person owning the P&L. I have seen this work when the company is organized into distinct SBUs or SBUs. The General Manager of that SBU would own P&L, budgets, etc. and their P&L would roll up into the companies P&L. Ask yourself, who owns the P&L for your product. It's ok if it is not you, as long as someone does.
  • Create a basic excel dashboard that has the basics and some charts that can printed out on a single page. I use a 3x3 grid for a total of 9 charts that monitor things like bug count, internal costs breakdown, revenue, key usage stats, other costs, etc. Having a dashboard like this goes a long way when someone asks about your product and you can instantly respond with a detailed dashboard. How many of us have had to scurry to find information when someone asks. Be Proactive!
  • You may not have access to all of the data you need to create a 100% accurate P&L. That's ok. Approximate. It's ok if you call your P&L an "Estimated P&L". Guess, ask, do what you can. Most of your assumptions are probably not too far from the truth and if they are someone will inform you otherwise :)
  • Share your dashboard. Many products may have a weekly team meeting. Perhaps at the first meeting of the month you can share your estimated product P&L for the previous month. Just seeing it goes a long way! 
Just some thoughts. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Experiences with Great Leaders

In my career, I've noticed it has become easier and easier to separate the great leaders from the average leader. I've spent some time thinking about what traits they had in common in an effort to learn from others.

Here are some traits of great leaders:

  • Collaboration - Great leaders understand that there are always competing priorities and product development requires the alignment of many disparate teams. I've noticed that they always have the ability to truly partner with others rather than throw dependencies over the wall and down the hill so to speak. Who wants to be on the other end of that? No one! Great leaders know that and work to partner and collaborate on planning and execution to drive results.
  • Respect - Great leaders earn the respect of others. Don't be fooled by titles, titles don't mean you have earned any respect. The best way I've experience to earn that respect is to deliver results. Say what you are going to do and do what you said you would. Communicate and listen!
  • Level Headed - We all hear about the famous CEOs who bang their fists on tables and cause a lot of angst among the whole company. Or the project manager that snaps at someone who misses a deadline. Great leaders know that there is a bigger picture and how you handle tough situations says a lot of about your character.
Every time I write a blog post like this I feel like I'm saying the obvious, but then I read other professional blog posts and I always think that their content is also pretty obvious. So I thought I'd also include some of these observations and learnings.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Never forget the product demo

Sometime we build great products that don't demo as well as they should.

Here are some thoughts I have about the demo:

  • Understand your product - I know this sounds pretty basic, but you would be surprised how the lack of preparation can quickly become apparent. Know your value proposition! You have to have objection handling down pat, you should know where you are different from the competition so that you can hit home some key points. Be prepared to answer pricing questions. Walk through the demo both mentally and with the product. Practice, practice, practice!
  • Understand the demo viewer - Most of these viewers (depending on where you are in the sales process) are either getting an introduction to your product and trying to gauge/compare the value of your product vs. the competition. They are typically not interested in every single detail of your product. I typically like to get to know the demo viewer a little bit by asking them what they do and what they are interested in learning about. Is the viewer the key decision maker, an influencer, the user, etc. Tailor the demo to the demo viewer. As a product manager, I also like to inquire about the viewer's perceptions of the product. What do they like and not like? There is a lot of information to be found in these nuggets of information.
  • Build a product that demo's well - Sometimes products are too complicated with bells and whistles that can confuse someone who is looking to make an initial impression about the product. It is as if your product has all the features of every power user, but it somehow can't convey its value to majority of non-power users. For example, instead of just a plain "Open" option, you can add an "Recently Opened" option. This would make the demo pretty easy and minimize steps that waste precious time. Also, be aware if you need to incorporate some dummy data? Be mindful, of how credible the data looks and how well it will look when demo'd.

Just some thoughts...any tips from my readers?