I’m joined today by Jeff Lash. We’ll be discussing the history of product management blogging, ProdBOK, and Jeff’s thoughts on the current trends.
First of all Jeff, thanks for joining me today.
Let’s begin by talking about the evolution that has taken place in the product management blogging community. How have things changed since you first started blogging?
(Jeff Lash) I started my product management blog in 2006, so a lot has changed. Back then, there weren’t many product management blogs, and there were fewer blogs in general. There were a lot fewer places online to get and share information on product management, and fewer opportunities to connect online with others in product management. Twitter had just launched in 2006 but few people had heard of it. Now, there are so many more product management blogs, and all sorts of other forums for product management discussion – places like LinkedIn Groups and Quora. It’s so much easier to contact other people in product management and share ideas, there’s just a lot more information out there.
What do you see as the current trends, challenges, or subjects that your followers are most interested in?
(Jeff Lash) In some ways, the topics of interest haven’t changed much. A post I wrote in 2007 on product management versus project management is still one of the most popular pieces on my site, even now in 2013, and same goes for some other posts that are a few years old.
One thing that has changed is that product management is getting a lot more attention, and a lot more people are interested in becoming product managers than even just a few years ago. You now see product managers profiled and interviewed in mainstream publications. You see companies really starting to recognize the importance of the role and growing their product management staff considerably.
So, many of my readers and followers are not product managers, but they’re looking for tips on how to break into the field. There are also a lot of people new to the role, and they’re looking for some practical tips and suggestions to help them succeed. There are also some broader trends – like more subscription-based products and more companies adopting Agile product development processes – which product managers are interested in, because that changes the way they approach product management.
How do you think the new ProdBOK guide will help address some of these challenges or trends?
(Jeff Lash) Product management as a profession is still fairly young. Certainly compared to things like medicine or law, we’re just in our infancy – even when you look at other business roles like marketing and accounting, product management is very young by comparison. While there are a lot of things that product managers have learned over the years, there’s a lot still left to be learned, and things are changing, so resources like the ProdBOK can be useful for helping to establish a base set of knowledge for product management.
There are also only a few formal degrees or programs, and most people in product management haven’t been through those programs, so they end up having to learn on the job, and often only by making mistakes. In medicine there’s this idea of “see one, do one, teach one” which is describing the way many physicians learn and then teach others. In product management, it’s often just “do one” because there’s no one to watch and no time to teach. Anything that can help with this challenge will be useful. Also having a formal body of knowledge also helps legitimize the role – and among other things that might lead to more university programs and more study of the field. At the very least, you might be able to spend less time trying to explain to your friends and relatives what you do for a living!
Why did you choose to participate in the ProdBOK project?
(Jeff Lash) My Twitter headline reads, in part “Passionate about making successful products and making product managers successful.” I truly enjoy the process of creating a successful product and helping others do it successfully. So, to me, this was just another natural way to continue that work. When I started my involvement with the ProdBOK, my involvement with it – much like my blogging – was a side project, an “extracurricular” in a way, alongside my day job in a product management role. Now, in my role at SiriusDecisions, I do research into best practices and advise B-to-B companies on how to improve their product management, so I’m doing this sort of thing all day every day, and I’m proud to have been a contributor to the development of the body of knowledge.
Any final thoughts you would like to share?
(Jeff Lash) There’s a quote by the writer John Donne that most people have probably heard before: “No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine.” (It’s from the 1600s, hence the different grammar, but you get the idea.) I’ve thought for a long time that this applies product management. A lot of product managers feel alone, like an island, adrift in the sea of marketers and engineers and salespeople. Without training or education in product management, and possibly without a team of other product managers to turn to, they see themselves as completely alone in trying to navigate the challenges of product management.
But there are lots of places to turn to, and I’d encourage people to seek out these resources. By reading this blog post, you’re already on a great start! Join a LinkedIn Group, start using Twitter, attend a ProductCamp, join your local product management association – there are tons of ways to get involved and learn from your peers.
No product manager is an island; every product manager is a piece of the broader product management community.
You can learn more about Jeff and his blog by clicking here.
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.
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