This week I had the pleasure of spending time in Chicago with Adrienne Tan and Nick Coster – the principles behind Brainmates. Nick and Adrienne were kind enough to share their perspective on product management, ProdBOK, and the findings of a recent product management study they conducted. For those of you who may not know of Brainmates they’re the leading product management training and consulting firm in Australia.
Adrienne and Nick thank you for joining me today. As you look across the product management community from your vantage “down under” do you see the need for a product management and marketing body of knowledge?
(Adrienne Tan) Product Management is a function that has been more prevalent over the last 10 years in Australia. It’s practiced across many different industries from logistic businesses, media, finance, sport, the not-for-profit sector, and more. This is both positive and negative for Product Management. It’s great because business understands that there must be a team who’s responsible for new products and in-life products. The side effects are that the practice of Product Management including the tools, knowledge, and the skill sets vary significantly across these industries. The inconsistency dilutes Product Management as a professional discipline.
Another challenge for Product Management is the encroachment of other populist methods and philosophies that tend to discredit the need for solid business thinking.
So, I absolutely see the need for a body of knowledge. It will develop the profession as well as serve to protect it. However, it must be maintained and applied globally if we want the step change required in the profession.
(Nick Coster) In our Product Management consulting and training business we meet product management teams from a wide range of companies and industries and the only common theme is that everyone does it differently. There are constant debates around the role of the product management relative to other better defined organisational areas like marketing, sales, or ‘engineering’. We seek to provide some elements of a common language that the teams that we work with can use, however this takes time and a lot of effort to take effect. One the of main reasons for this is that there is no universally agreed body of knowledge for the product management discipline.
A collaboratively developed Product Management and Marketing Body of knowledge would help to provide a common reference point of the language used and the types of activities that are considered to be of fundamental importance to the management of a product in the fast and dynamic market conditions that products have to exist in today.
Why did you choose to lend your support to the ProdBOK effort?
(Nick Coster) We think that it’s very important for the product management community to have a common reference point for the roles and responsibilities of product management. We expect it to help provide additional credibility to the product management function in organisations, that Brainmates can align to in the delivery of of product management consulting and training services.
Our clients often ask us if we use a best practice methodology and approach to our work. While we have many years of direct and consulting experience in product management, and have developed our own methodology it’s hard to say that it’s a ‘Best Practice’ since to my knowledge no ‘best’ really exists. Instead we’re looking to see consistent and repeatable methods that are agreed across the product management domain to deliver better results than not following them.
It’s our expectation that a ProdBOK will move the profession in this direction which is why we’re supporting the efforts to develop it.
(Adrienne Tan) I love, love, love Product Management and see the value that it adds to many businesses. I want this profession to flourish and I believe that supporting a body of knowledge is the first step towards establishing a proper discipline.
I understand that you recently conducted a survey that shed some light on the needs of the product management community, what did you learn?
(Adrienne Tan) We engaged with about 100 Australian Product Managers in 2012 to understand some of their problems with their role as a Product Manager. We learned 3 key things
– Product Managers want their role to be legitimized and consistently defined as they move from job to job.
– Product Managers want to network with other Product Managers to meet like-minded professionals and to learn how others solved problems in their job.
– Product Managers want to learn about Product Management formally from credible organisations.
How do your findings tie to the need for a product management and marketing body of knowledge?
(Adrienne Tan) Our research definitely supports the need for a consistent Product Management language and process.
Any final thoughts?
(Adrienne Tan) The Body of Knowledge needs to garner support from prolific Product Management professions which is why we’re supporting it in Australia. It must be a united effort for the profession to grow.
(Nick Coster) Product Management needs a non-commercial open standard reference point. Some folks may disagree with the contents, but at least there will be something to disagree about. Too often I have discussions that are debating the same basic arguments without building on them. We need a bedrock to build on and I believe that the ProdBOK will serve as that foundation.
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.
ProdBOK is a registered trademark of AIPMM.