Reaching the Summit of Product Management Success

Posted by Wayne Applehans on May 11, 2016

Facing a daunting product management project? We've all been there. Last month I introduced “Agile on the Mountaintop”, as a lesson in how product owners can achieve new heights in product delivery despite the steep challenges they often face.

In summary, there ain't no mountain high enough, that you can't conquer it with the right attitude and resources.

A Guide to Get You to the Top

To help you reach new heights, I offer my Sherpa-like services, in the form of three more works of some celebrated authors that have themselves helped me forge my career as a product owner and executive. I know they can do the same for you.

For each work, I have provided a takeaway to serve as your guide, as you shape and support the transformational vision for your organization, strengthen customer experience, embrace performance management, and foster an agile work environment.

[For Tip 1, check out my previous post.]

Tip 2: Pack the Right Gear. (Like the map!)

Craft a personal, relevant, and accessible customer journey that engages customers both on and off-line.

Want lifetime customers? Then read Connect.

A must read for anyone claiming to be a marketing professional, the premise of Connect is that the customer is in control, and your only hope of connecting with them is to look at the data and experiences shaping their engagement with you.

With marketing currently undergoing a revolution that rival the impact of Gutenberg's printing press, customers, with more choice and more access than ever before, are firmly in control and they refuse to be "sold to" or "managed." Many marketing professionals are flailing for a new strategy, while the winners are clearly jumping ahead – Connect takes readers inside the winners' world to learn the approach that's engaging the new consumer.

Authors Lars Birkholm Petersen, Ron Person, and Christopher Nash explain how smart marketers have moved to a higher level that achieves business objectives while increasing relevance to the customer. They provide readers with a roadmap to this new approach, and the tools to make it work.

Connect outlines the massive paradigm shift currently taking place within the industry, and provides the insight and perspective marketers need to stay on board. How do you reach a customer base that sees marketers as an increasingly unnecessary annoyance? How do you engage those customers at touch points throughout the customer lifecycle? The book covers both digital and real-life avenues, as well as the new tools and processes that allow marketers to function in this new era in which digital customer experiences have become increasingly important.

Read this book to become more relevant, effective, and successful within the new digital marketplace.

Tip 3: Track Your Progress As You Ascend.

Align product strategy and goals to customer, financial, and organizational success metrics.

How can you win if you don't keep score?

In The Strategy-Focused Organization, the creators of the Balanced Scorecard, a revolutionary performance management tool, introduce an innovative approach that makes strategy not just a continuous process owned by top management, but by everyone.

I love this book because it states the obvious over and over. If it’s worth measuring, then it must be worth doing. And if we must measure what we do, then we drive that alignment across the organization so strategic execution becomes everyone’s daily job.

Ten years of learning and research from more than 200 companies have gone into the Balanced Scorecard strategy. Drawing from more than twenty in-depth case studies, Robert Kaplan and David Norton illustrate how adopters of the tool have taken it to the next level, and used the scorecard to center their strategy on key management processes and systems.

Tip 4: Believe in Your Ability to Reach the Summit. Envision your Ultimate Success.

Adopt, foster, and reward an agile mindset across the entire organization, in order to shorten development cycles and test product vision continuously.

We're in an age when companies need to innovate more than ever.

Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, offers entrepreneurs - in companies of all sizes - a way to continuously test their vision, and to adapt and adjust it quickly.

Thinking like a startup is critical to our success as product owners. Driving the agile mindset does not stop with development and IT, but must extend into marketing, sales, delivery, and support. The brand promise is everyone’s responsibility, and should be evident in every customer touch point.

Through providing a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups, the Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that more effectively leverage team creativity. 

Ries' strategy enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans on a minute-by-minute basis. Learn what customers really want through validated learning, rapid scientific experimentation, and even some counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles and measure actual progress.

You made it… so what’s next?

With the resources above, and your own grit, hard work and determination, you did it! You reached the top of the product management mountain. Well, at least for this project. Now what?

Stop for a moment, catch your breath, and make note of your lessons learned. Every project has them. You'll need them in your bag of tricks for the next ascent. And now, see that next project looming in the distance, even more daunting than the current one seemed when you began?  Take another deep breath; the next challenge is calling you.

What else do you have in your bag of tricks to get you to the top? Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear about how you achieve product management success.


Wayne Applehans
Wayne Applehans is a seasoned business technology leader, information architect, and product development strategist and executive with over 20 years of proven experience building and managing innovative product development, sales, digital marketing, and delivery teams at Microsoft, JD Edwards (now Oracle), Jones/NCTI, and numerous early-stage tech companies in Colorado. He also serves as the Chief Marketing Officer and Digital Strategist for Denver-based BlueModus. Contact Wayne.