Scorecard for a Product Management Team

As a Product Management leader, I have pondered ways to measure the effectiveness, maturity, growth and development of a team. Here is what I thought would be a holistic approach for the same.

1 Talent Review – Evaluate the strengths and opportunities for growth for each member of the team based on their grade level. Based on this assessment, craft a training plan by quarter for the fiscal year. Leverage it to build a mentoring program within the team where senior leaders can mentor junior PMs. Perform a SWOT analysis to gauge domain expertise on the team.
2 Leadership Sponsorship – It is a good idea to engage sponsorship from senior management to ensure the success of a Product Management organization. Defined roles and responsibilities also help in ensuring there is accountability and commitment towards achieving results.
3 Processes, Procedures and Documentation – As with any function in an organization, especially as it scales, effective and efficient processes and tools for the product development lifecycle. Use of productivity and collaboration tools to foster team work and sharing.
4 Customer Engagement – Does the team have formal customer engagement forums before, during and after implementation? Do these include cross sections of the customer segment especially the influencers and decision makers?
5 Emerging Technologies Investment – Progressive Product Management organizations allocate time for exploring and prototyping new ideas, and concepts for products. These could include capabilities with growth opportunities in existing products or entirely new product segments. While doing so, sunset products that provide little value to the business.
6 Marketing Processes –Go to Market processes and procedures are well defined and executed. Analysis using sales tools that capture customer interactions during the sales lifecycle. Measurement and reporting of product revenue, pricing effectiveness, and ROI. Marketing mix strategy and plans are in place. Marketing campaigns are governed with ROI calculations.
7 Continuous Learning – A culture of continuous learning from industry peers, organizations, conferences, and competitive research.
8 Operating Rhythms – Well defined and implemented Operating Rhythms that provide the right level of governance for the product’s success. These include Product and Operations Reviews.
9 Metrics for evaluating Effectiveness – Internal and external surveys to collect feedback with areas for improvement.
10 Vibrant environment – One that fosters and encourages collaboration, sharing, growth and having fun. Group events to bring teams together or competitions among team members are ways to build a creative environment.

Use the above list to gauge where you are in the progress and improvement of your team.

10 Steps to create an effective Product Strategy

The Product Manager leads a cross functional team to build products and services that delight customers and create shareholder value. As a Product Manager, one of the first steps is to understand the market, customers, competitive landscape and formulate a product strategy to ensure a viable product and business.

The following are ten steps to guide in the journey.

  1. Mission – The mission of the product should express its core purpose. This should be powerful enough to rally the product teams (Product Management, Development and Quality Engineering).
  2. Vision – The vision of the product is the desired future state. This could be about two to three years out.
  3. Understand the customer – Complete a customer segmentation study. A mind map is a useful tool for analysis. Who are your customers? What kinds of attributes are similar in your customer base? Can you put them in categories?  What problems do they currently have? Why do they buy your product? Does your product solve their current pain? Are there any future problems you can identify in this analysis? What capabilities in your product trigger buying decisions? Any future product ideas?
  4. Market Analysis – A thorough understanding of your current product and its capabilities is required as you understand the market. Doing a SWOT analysis will benefit. Look at your competition. Never forget “in house” development of capabilities as a competition. Be objective. Do a competitive analysis. Go down memory lane and study the past trends in the space. What can you predict in the future?
  5. Financial Analysis – You want to be in business to make a profit. Establish sound fiscal planning and reviews during the product life cycle. Forecast revenue projections a couple of years out. Break them out by quarter. Include revenue by geos and partners. Calculate gross margins and product profitability by phase of the product. Take into account any environmental factors that could impact revenue.  
  6. Marketing Mix – Address the product launch plan. How do you plan to market your product? How will you create the demand for the product? Through which partners? In which geos? What is the optimal product price and discounting strategy? Adjust this by phase of the product. For new product introductions, there could be some early bird pricing.
  7. Business Performance – Quarterly Business Performance reviews are good to evaluate your product adoption and issues with customers. Examine service and support data and recommend any additional features or enhancements for the product. Can some of these be addressed with additional training and documentation to increase customer satisfaction? Explore for “Key Moments of Truth” opportunities.
  8. Roadmap – A two to three year roadmap is a useful tool to communicate with customers, stakeholders and partners.
  9. A looking glass into the future – Stay current on shifts and trends in your market, customers and competition. Look for adjacent opportunities to provide an “end to end” solution that addresses customer’s problems. This could include potential M&A opportunities and recommendations. Present these ideas and opportunities.
  10. Measure. Learn. Adapt. – Ensure that you have the right KPIs to measure business performance. Learn from it. Analyze data gathered in the process to guide product decisions in the future. Try to ensure that data used for analysis is accessible, auditable, automated to guarantee sound decisions.

Tips on Setting Annual Goals and Objectives

Happy New Year. Yes this is probably that time of the year when we set our annual goals and objectives. That is, if the calendar year is aligned with your fiscal calendar. For those who are getting ready to set their annual goals with their teams, here are some guidelines in a presentation uploaded on slideshare.

Refer to the presentation at:

Reference Reading: The Balanced Scorecard : Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton

How to Build a High Performing Team

This past week, we just completed my first Leadership Team offsite. We have an awesome Leadership Team and I am excited to work with them. We had good sessions on our Mission, Guiding Principles ….

Besides these topics, I really wanted to have a frank and open dialog on how we work together to build a High Performing Team. The presentation on slideshare (link below) was provided in advance of the discussion and the team was asked to come prepared with their thoughts. Each member contributed to each one of the tenets, why they felt it was important and how they could foster the same on their teams.

Next step, each member of the Leadership Team holds a similar exercise with their respective teams.
I am optimistic that we can together build a High Performing Team.

Link to the presentation:

Reading Reference : The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Top 10 Tips for Effective Networking

Networks have a purpose; could be any of the following – share information, learn and grow, or benefit life, either personal or professional. With the advent of the internet and social media there are various options for networking. Successful networking empowers an individual and opens up opportunities never imagined. Below are some tips on effective networking.

10. Make time to network constantly; not only when you need something. Invest the time and effort if you want to see results.
9. Before you ask for something, offer something of value to the other person. Keep your word and follow through on commitments. Remember to thank someone for their help.
8. Attend networking events related to your profession/area of expertise. Never under-estimate the power of meeting in person to build relationships.
7. Cultivate your network by being visible. Online networking sites have made this more accessible.
6. Be honest and authentic; don’t hesitate to show your vulnerabilities. We all have them.
5. Share content that reflects your mastery and skills that also benefits the recipient.
4. Ask genuine questions to learn; listen, explore and enquire. Use this information to make connections in your circle to help others. Add value by becoming an information exchange.
3. Your reputation matters; work on building and maintaining it. Earn the trust and goodwill of your relationships.
2. Be crystal clear of your purpose, goal, plan, outcome, and evaluation criteria for networking. Assess your progress and make changes if required.
1. Continuously work your connections. While you add new ones, nurture and strengthen your existing ones.

Remember “Anything that is of value in life only multiplies when given” – Deepak Chopra

Reading Reference: The start up of you by Reid Hoffman
Masters of Networking by Ivan R. Misner and Don Morgan

Which Financial Metric is right for your project?

While evaluating initiatives/projects, it is important to evaluate the financial impact of the investment. There are numerous financial metrics out there. Here are some of the common ones used. It is recommended to take into account the time value of money metrics.

ROI (Return on investment) – While comparing two or more investments using this method, consider the risk. The higher the risk the higher the expected return. Benefits can come from reduction of costs, increase in profits or additional value.
Calculation: (Total cost of the investment – Total benefits) / Total cost of investment
Note – Its use is limited. It ignores the time value of money.

Payback Period – How long will it take for an investment to pay for itself?
Calculation: Total amount of investment/annual savings expected
Note – Its use is limited. It ignores the time value of money.

Break Even Analysis – How many units one needs to sell in order to break even with the fixed cost cash investment?
Calculation: Breakeven volume = Fixed Cost/Unit Contribution Margin
Unit Contribution Margin = Net unit revenue – variable costs per unit
Note – Its use is limited. It ignores the time value of money.

Economic value added – It is used to evaluate investments and operational business performance.
Calculation: Net Operating Profits after Taxes – (Capital Used x Cost of Capital)
Note – It analyzes the cost of capital in investment decisions.

NPV (Net Present Value) – It is the value today of a future stream of cash flows discounted at some annual compound interest rate (or discount rate). It is a more sound decision making tool as long as the assumptions utilized in the analysis are relevant.
Note – Use a financial calculator. NPV is a more accurate value of an investment opportunity. It takes into consideration the time value of money.

IRR (Internal Rate of Return) – It is the discount rate at which the NPV of an investment equals zero. If the IRR is greater than the opportunity cost of capital required the investment is a good one. The opportunity cost is the expected return on a comparable investment. Again, assumptions used in the analysis should be pertinent.
Note –This method is preferred as it takes into account the time value of money.

Reading Reference: Finance for Managers – Harvard Business Essentials
Financial Intelligence by Karen Berman and Joe Knight, Harvard Business School Press

10 Critical Success Factors for Programs/Projects

Majority of programs/projects don’t meet the expectations of the business case/plan or the expectations of the Project Sponsors. Why is that? Here are the top 10 reasons. Pay close attention to these and your chances of success will go up.

1. Planning – Invest the time to plan the project charter, statement of work, business case, and stakeholder management strategy.
2. Budgeting and Cost Management – Ensure that the organization has the ability to provide the required resources (people and money) for the objectives stated in the project charter. Financial oversight for the duration of the project is key to ensure resources are available as planned and needed.
3. Team skills and HR Management – Partnership with HR is required to ensure the planning and availability of the right skills for the initiative.
4. Sponsor/stakeholder alignment and engagement – Executive sponsorship and engagement enables the focus of the organization on the initiative and helps to remove barriers.
5. Change Management – For the success of a project, this is key and is often overlooked due to the lack of time or resources. A comprehensive communications/training strategy, plan and execution is critical to ensure that those impacted have bought in for adoption.
6. Time Management/Project tracking – Phases in the project lifecycle have their own schedule managed and reported by the leader to a central PMO (for large programs) who monitors the end to end view of the initiative. This ensures all dependencies are adequately planned with no disruptions to the schedule.
7. Quality Management – This is applicable for every stage of the project and deliverable. Ensure there is close attention to quality that meets expectations.
8. Scope Management – During the project, new or changes to requirements that were originally overlooked tend to be raised. Manage them with a Change Control Board or an equivalent governance structure such that it does not derail the focus and momentum of the initiative.
9. Risk Management – Ensure that risks are raised and mitigated during the lifecycle. Depending on the severity and impact, they should be raised to the Sponsors/Steering Committee.
10. Monitoring and control – A PMO or project manager facilitates governance and control during the lifecycle for all deliverables and schedules.

Reading Reference : A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMI Institute)