How To Be A Good Product Manager

Tips on product management and product marketing for product managers. By Jeff Lash

How To Be A Good Product Manager features tips on product management and product marketing, written by Jeff Lash (@jefflash on Twitter), Service Director, Product Management for SiriusDecisions.

Minimum Viable Products and Product Requirements; Upcoming Webcasts; Competitive Analysis Workshop in Boston

Posted on July 27, 2015 by Jeff Lash · No Comments

Minimum Viable Products Don’t Replace Product Requirements – They Help Identify Them

“Minimum viable product” (MVP) is the term du jour among entrepreneurs and increasingly among product managers. In the product management advisory service that I lead at SiriusDecisions, we hear the term used frequently by b-to-b product managers to refer to products that have the absolute minimum feature set required to launch – products that are devoid of unnecessary and non-value-adding features.

Unfortunately, that’s not what a “minimum viable product” is. So, what is an MVP? And what does this have to do with product requirements? I tackle these questions and more in my blog post: Minimum Viable Products Don’t Replace Product Requirements – They Help Identify Them

Upcoming SiriusDecisions Webcasts

There are number of great SiriusDecisions webcasts coming up in August, including two on which I’ll be presenting. You can see the full list of SiriusDecisions webcasts on our web site, but there are three that I think will be most of interest to my readers. These were all presented at our 10th annual SiriusDecisions Summit this past May in Nashville, and due to popular demand, we’re offering them as “replays” if you weren’t able to attend:

  • August 5: Product Management: The Next-Generation Toolkit. I’ll be presenting along with my colleague Jill Stanek. We’ll cover several categories of new tools and technologies specifically designed for product management use that have the potential to can improve both the efficiency and performance of product managers. This is an exciting area where we’re seeing a lot of activity, but many product managers are not even aware that these sorts of technologies exist. In addition to explaining the different types of applications relevant to product managers that are in the market, we’ll talk about the potential business impact and the types of organizations that should consider each type of tool.
  • August 13: The Economics of Sales/Marketing/Product Alignment. SiriusDecisions co-founder John Neeson will present some fascinating findings from recent research that looks specifically at the benefits of aligning sales, marketing and product functions within b-to-b organizations. The presentation also covers how you can get these three revenue-producing functions aligned and the impact you should expect to see when you do.
  • August 26: The Keys to Succeeding With Integrated Solutions. So many companies are trying to focus less on individual standalone products and more on integrated “solutions.” Unfortunately, this is an area where many organizations struggle — we regularly see problems like lack of agreement on what a “solution” is, trouble identifying the right opportunities for solutions, and inability to align their internal teams to be able to effectively deliver solutions. In this webcast, I’ll be covering the keys to succeeding with integrated solutions, including the important role that solution management plays.

Practitioner’s Workshop in Boston: Competitive Analysis for Product Managers

I’ll be in Boston on Friday, September 11 with my colleague Lisa Singer to lead a workshop for the Boston Product Management Association and you can join us! We’ll be sharing best practice techniques, practical advice, models and examples for competitive analysis that we use with our clients. Competitive analysis is one area that we see product managers struggle, whether it be because they are focusing on product feature comparisons rather than strategic competitive analysis, or relying only on a limited set of techniques to gather competitive information, or gathering information on competitors but not having a consistent, objective process to analyze that information and inform decisions.

This is a great opportunity to improve your competitive intelligence gathering skills, learn new techniques, get feedback and guidance on your approach to competitive analysis, and network with other product management professionals.

Learn more about the workshop and sign up to spend the afternoon with us!

What’s Hot on Twitter

Here are a few of my tweets that have generated the most interest recently; to get these in real-time, follow me at @jefflash:


SiriusDecisions 2015 Summit Recap

Posted on May 27, 2015 by Jeff Lash · No Comments

SiriusDecisions 2015 Summit: Recap

The 10th Annual SiriusDecisions Summit was held May 12-15, 2015 in Nashville, with 2300+ delegates getting together for 4 days of discussion on best practices and emerging trends for business-to-business sales, marketing and product leaders.

I presented two sessions:

  • The Keys to Succeeding With Integrated Solutions. So many companies talk about wanting to create “solutions” rather than “products.” But how is a solution actually different from a product? And is a solution always the best route to take? My colleague Jessica Lillian wrote a blog post about my presentation — Should You Really Build An Integrated Solution? — which summarizes the different types of solutions and some of the important elements to evaluate when considering creating an integrated solution.
  • Product Management: The Next Generation Toolkit. My colleague Jill Stanek and I covered four types of applications relevant to product managers: Idea Management (which Jill covered in this recent blog post); Concept Testing; Product Planning, Roadmapping and Prioritization (which was the subject of a SiriusDecisions Field Guide); and Product Engagement.

There were over 50 sessions in total across nine tracks, and over 100 practitioner case studies, so there was a ton of material covered at Summit. Lucky for me, others have already done a great job summarizing some of the key takeaways — here are just a few:

Besides presenting, I was busy on Twitter, as were a lot of other people (you can see some of the top Tweets by searching on the #sdsummit hashtag). In honor of David Letterman’s last show, here is my Top Ten list — my top 10 tweets from Summit 2015 (you’ll notice it’s a nice mix of serious learning and a good deal of fun as well):


Prioritizing Features; Three Questions About Product Management; SiriusDecisions 2015 Summit

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Jeff Lash · No Comments

Don’t Prioritize Features Based on Development Cost
One of the key responsibilities of a product manager is to decide what features and enhancements should be added to an offering. Product managers usually have a long list of ideas from a variety of sources – customer or sales requests, competitor products, executive “suggestions,” market research insight – and they need to figure out how to score each idea to separate the good from the bad and prioritize the good ones for development.

It’s fairly common for product managers to come up with their own spreadsheets or formulas to do this evaluation. I’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds, of different ones, and nearly all of them have one thing in common – there’s some input for development cost.

But as I explain on this post on the SiriusDecisions blog, you shouldn’t prioritize features based on development cost. Read the full post — Don’t Prioritize Features Based on Development Cost — to find out why not and see my three suggestions to avoiding this common product management trap.

Three Questions About Product Management
I was recently interviewed for The Product Mantra blog, where I was asked three questions about product management:

  1. Is “data driven decision-making” killing the innovative thinking among product owners?
  2. What are three things that you don’t want a product manager to spend his or her time on?
  3. What traits should one look for in a candidate while hiring for a product manager position in a b-to-b market?

My response the questions — and to the second question in particular — has generated a lot of interest. Read the full interview with my responses.

SiriusDecisions Summit 2015

We’re less than 30 days from the SiriusDecisions Summit 2015, our annual conference where over 2000 b-to-b product, marketing and sales leaders will get a chance to see data-driven best practices research, unveiling of new innovations across the b-to-b space and networking with an elite community of business leaders. Held May 12th-15th, this year’s event will take place at the historic and majestic Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee.

Some of the highlights include:

  • A keynote by NBA legend and business mogul Earvin “Magic” Johnson
  • Eight SiriusDecisions keynotes in the general session, more than 50 total analyst sessions across nine tracks, and over 100 practitioner case studies
  • “SD101″ sessions that provide introductions to some of the core models and frameworks that we use with product management leaders and their teams
  • A Green Tie Gala on Wednesday night, with musical guests Neon Trees — you probably recognize their song “Everybody Talks” (“It started with a whisper…”) — and a Titanium Block Party on Thursday night where we’ll be shutting down five lanes of traffic on Broadway to create an indoor/outdoor music festival vibe under the stars of Music City.

I put together some top track picks for product management leaders with my recommendations for sessions of most interest. (You can also see picks for other roles like product marketing.)

I’ll personally be presenting two sessions

  • Product Management: The Next-Generation Toolkit: This session with Jill Stanek from our technology practice will cover the emerging set of technologies that can be leveraged by product management, their business impact and the types of organizations that should consider them. This will be on Thursday, May 14, in the Product Management track in the afternoon.
  • The Keys to Succeeding With Integrated Solutions: This keynote presentation the morning of Friday, May 15 will cover the challenges and imperatives when developing and bringing to market solutions rather than individual standalone products.

There’s plenty of more information on ourSiriusDecisions 2015 Summit website. Hope to see you there!

What’s Hot on Twitter
Here are a few of my tweets that have generated the most interest recently; to get these in real-time, follow me at @jefflash:


Identifying Non-Customers for “Customer” Interviews; UX in Minneapolis; ProductCamp St. Louis

Posted on March 19, 2015 by Jeff Lash · No Comments

Identifying Non-Customers for “Customer” Interviews
One of the challenges I frequently hear about from product management leaders is that they are trying to get their product managers to better understand market opportunities and customer needs. “Customer” is usually shorthand for a number of different audiences — including non-customers. One barrier to understanding the needs of non-customers is simply gaining access to them. In this blog post on the SiriusDecisions blog, I provide four often overlooked techniques worth considering to find non-customers to interview.

Read the blog post: Identifying Non-Customers for “Customer” Interviews

Minneapolis, April 15, 2015: Sorting Out Product Management and User Experience
I’ll be in Minneapolis on April 15 to present at a monthly meeting of the Minnesota Chapter of the PDMA (Product Development and Management Association) on the topic of Sorting Out Product Management and User Experience Here’s an overview of what I’ll be covering:

In recent years there has been recognition of the importance of user experience in the product development process. Often, job descriptions for user experience roles include elements that are very similar to those for product managers – understand customer needs, conduct research activities, define requirements – and this can lead to confusion and conflict between product management and user experience. In this presentation, we will discuss how product management and user experience differ and how they need to collaborate effectively throughout the innovation and product development process.

If you’ll be in the area, please register for the meeting and I hope to see you there!

ProductCamp St Louis: Saturday, March 28, 2015
March is always a busy month for ProductCamps, but one near and dear to my heart is our very own ProductCamp here in St. Louis. If you haven’t yet registered, sign up now — it’s less than two weeks away. This is the 4th Annual ProductCamp St. Louis and it promises to be bigger and better than ever (and still free). We are expecting over 400 registrants, and a full day of great programming. Visit the ProductCamp St. Louis web site for more information and to register.

What’s Hot on Twitter
Here are a few of my tweets that have generated the most interest recently; to get these in real-time, follow me at @jefflash:


Product Management Tools; Three Questions to Improve Product Management; Happy Holidays 2014

Posted on December 8, 2014 by Jeff Lash · No Comments

SiriusDecisions Field Guide Product Management Tools

I’m pleased to announce the release of the SiriusDecisions Field Guide “Product Planning, Prioritization and Roadmapping 2015.” This is a project that I have been involved in for the past several months with several colleagues at SiriusDecisions. The Field Guide covers 11 vendors whose offerings are designed to assist product managers with developing product plans, prioritizing features and enhancements, and maintaining and communicating product roadmaps.

We’ve been hearing about the current state of technologies used by product management through our regular conversations with b-to-b product management teams, but part of the research we conducted for this field guide gave a large amount of data to confirm and add color to what we’ve been hearing. Few product managers are using tools designed specifically for product management. Most are using tools designed for other purposes (e.g. general business use, product development / engineering), and satisfaction with those options for product management purposes is generally low.

Many product managers are looking for tools and technologies that can help make them more productive and effective, but there is little awareness of the different vendors, much less their capabilities and relative strengths. Until now there has been no resource to provide analysis on the overall landscape of technologies for product managers to use for planning, prioritizing, and roadmapping.

Normally this research would be available only to clients of the SiriusDecisions Product Management advisory service, but we have made a version of this report available to non-clients. You can learn more about the field guide, the 11 vendors covered, and the research behind it in this blog post announcing the Field Guide.

Three Questions to Ask to Improve Product Management

I recently published my first post on LinkedIn “Pulse.” It outlines three questions that product management leaders can ask themselves to help clarify product strategy, drive their portfolio strategy and improve their ability to achieve growth objectives. Read the post: Three Questions to Ask to Improve Product Management

Happy Holidays
It’s hard to believe it’s December already and holiday season is upon us. There’s a few fun resources I wanted to pass along — think of this as my early holiday gift to you.

  • Last year I unveiled the SiriusDecisions Holiday Model, my tongue-in-cheek guide for helping you to navigate the holidays. Align your celebrations around themes like happiness, joy, peace and presents. Track your journey through holiday stages, from excitement to shopping panic and family celebration anxiety, all the way through to credit card bill shock and email inbox overload denial. And Never miss an important holiday, from Christmas to Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day to Boxing Day, and Festivus to National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day (December 16, if you’re wondering). Enjoy this soon-to-be holiday classic!
  • Back in 2011, I published The Twelve Days of Product Management, my take on the classic song, designed for product managers and those who work with product managers.
  • And, for something completely unrelated to product management (yes, I have other interest), here’s some holiday music I recorded a while ago with my jazz trio. The Jeff Lash Trio: Happy Holidays features our versions of some of our favorites, and there’s hopefully something for everyone — Christmas songs, Hanukkah songs, New Years songs, and some fun secular songs too.

Have a great rest of 2014 and see you again soon in 2015!


Top Challenges for Product Management; Priorities for Product Management Leaders for 2015; Buyer Personas in Action

Posted on November 12, 2014 by Jeff Lash · No Comments

Top Challenges for Product Management
At SiriusDecisions, we’ve recently been conducting research into the top priorities of product management leaders. My blog post on the Top Challenges for Product Management in 2015 shares some of the high-level findings from our research, specifically around the top priority areas for product management leaders as well as the specific skills they are looking to develop in their teams in 2015.

We’ll be sharing more results from the survey in the “Priorities for Product Management Leaders for 2015″ webcast. The webcast will be held on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 11am ET and is free to attend. In addition to sharing survey results, we will also provide examples of frameworks, models and research that can help product management leaders address these priorities more efficiently and effectively. Learn more about the webcast and register to reserve your spot.

Buyer Personas in Action
There are a lot of great posts on the SiriusDecisions blog, though I wanted to highlight one recent post by my colleague Julian Archer because it is particularly relevant to product marketers and product managers. His post — SiriusDecisions EMEA Summit 2014: Buyer Personas in Action — summarizes presentations by three of our clients at our recent SiriusDecisions EMEA Summit where they showcased examples of how they have leveraged buyer personas to transform their businesses. Personas are being used much more commonly by product managers, though often I see teams developing user personas — not buyer personas — and using them only for product development purposes. Julian’s summary shows three great examples of how buyer personas can be leveraged across the organization to align functions and improve business performance.

What’s Hot on Twitter
Here are a few of my tweets that have generated the most interest over the past few weeks; to get these in real-time, follow me at @jefflash:


Common Mistakes in Implementing a New Product Management Framework; Tools for Product Management; ProductCamp Atlanta Recap

Posted on October 26, 2014 by Jeff Lash · No Comments

Common Mistakes in Implementing a New Product Management Framework
Based on our research at SiriusDecisions, we know that improving the overall product lifecycle management framework/process is a top priority for the coming year for many b-to-b product management leaders. This is certainly not a new trend. Some organizations have tried to improve their product lifecycle management framework — and their overall process used for innovation and go-to-market activities — over and over and are still struggling. Why? There are four common mistakes organizations make in implementing a new product management framework, and that’s the subject of my post on the SiriusDecisions blog.

What tools do you use for product management?
What tools and technologies do you use for product management? How well do they work? At SiriusDecisions, we’re conducting a survey of b-to-b product managers and what applications they do (and don’t) use. The survey takes only about 5 minutes to complete, and in return for your participation, you will receive a complimentary copy of the forthcoming SiriusDecisions Field Guide on Product Management Tools. Take the 2014 SiriusDecisions Product Management Tools Survey now!

ProductCamp Atlanta Recap
I had a great time at ProductCamp Atlanta last weekend. If you weren’t there, here’s a brief summary of my experience through some selected Tweets.


Tools for Product Management; ProductCamp Atlanta 2014

Posted on October 8, 2014 by Jeff Lash · No Comments

What tools do you use for product management?
What tools and technologies do you use for product management? How well do they work? At SiriusDecisions, we’re conducting a survey of b-to-b product managers and what applications they do (and don’t) use. The survey takes only about 5 minutes to complete, and in return for your participation, you will receive a complimentary copy of the forthcoming SiriusDecisions Field Guide on Product Management Tools. Take the 2014 SiriusDecisions Product Management Tools Survey now!

ProductCamp Atlanta
I’ll be in Atlanta on Saturday, October 18 for another edition of ProductCamp Atlanta. Though the event is sold out, if you missed the registration, you can add yourself to the wait list.

For those attending I’ve proposed two sessions — if these sound interesting, make sure to vote for them!

Let me know if you’ll be at ProductCamp Atlanta so we can meet face-to-face. And, if you won’t be there, make sure to watch the #pcampatl hashtag on Twitter to follow along at home.

What’s Hot on Twitter
Here are a few of my tweets that have generated the most interest over the past few weeks; to get these in real-time, follow me at @jefflash:


Priorities for Product Management Leaders; Product Management Festival 2014 recap

Posted on September 23, 2014 by Jeff Lash · No Comments

Priorities for Product Management Leaders
There’s something I hear a lot when talking with product management leaders about challenges – some variation of, “We can’t be the only ones having these issues… are we?” Product management leaders are often curious about how their priorities compare to those of their peers and wonder how many or what types of companies are facing the same challenges. As part of ongoing research we’re doing at SiriusDecisions to help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of b-to-b product management organizations, we are conducting a short survey of product management leaders to gather more data on their challenges and priorities. The survey only has 4 questions and should take less than 5 minutes to complete. Everyone who responds to the survey will get a summary of the results. If you’re someone who leads product management for a product line, business unit or organization, please fill out our short 4-question survey.

Recap in Tweets: Product Management Festival 2014
I was thrilled to be in Zurich last week for the second annual Product Management Festival. This was a great two-day gathering of hundreds of product management leaders and product managers from across Europe and around the globe. In addition to my presentation on Effectively Communicating Product Roadmaps, I participated in two panel discussions and tried to take in as many of the other presentations as I could. As is always the case, one of the best things about the conference was the informal discussions that happened outside of the sessions, and it was gratifying to (finally) meet blog readers and Twitter followers in person.

There was a lot of activity on Twitter (using the #PMF14 hashtag), so rather than writing a separate summary, I thought I’d provide a (very very condensed) recap of my experience through some selected tweets/retweets:

Make sure to look through tweets using the #PMF14 hashtag for a lot more details and context.


Four Questions You Should Ask in Customer Interviews; Five-Year View of B2B Product Management

Posted on September 3, 2014 by Jeff Lash · No Comments

Four Questions You Should Ask in Customer Interviews, But Probably Don’t

There are many techniques for understanding buyers, customers and users, though interviewing is one of the best in terms of the value received for the effort. Whether you’re trying to create personas, uncover needs not being met for existing customers or identify aspects of a product that current users feel could be improved, interviews can be a valuable source of insight. I talk with many product managers and marketers who are experienced at interviewing, but they often fail to take full advantage of the format. Whether you’re new to buyer/customer/user interviews or you’ve done more than you care to count, my post on the SiriusDecisions blog — Four Questions You Should Ask in Customer Interviews, But Probably Don’t — provides you with some suggestions on how to improve the insight value of an interview.

Product Management Festival 2014
This is a final reminder that I’ll be speaking at the 2014 Product Management Festival in Zurich. It’s less than two weeks away so register now! My presentation on Wednesday, September 17 will be on Effectively Communicating Product Roadmaps. It looks to be a great conference and I’m excited to present, participate and learn. If you’re attending, let me know and we can plan on meeting face-to-face.

A Five-Year View of Product, Marketing and Sales
At the 2014 SiriusDecisions Summit, I joined my colleagues Jason Hekl (@the_hekler) and Mark Levinson (@MarkBLevinson)
to present a A Five-Year View of Product, Marketing and Sales. In a previous post here I provided some links to good summaries of the Summit — many of which included some references to the Five-Year View presentation. However, there’s also a nice details summary also wanted to highlight a new summary up on the SiriusDecisions blog that provides a nice synopsis of the presentation in more detail. I recommend the summary in particular if you’re a business-to-business product manager or product management leader trying to understand key trends and implications over the next five years.

What’s Hot on Twitter
Here are a few of my tweets that have generated the most interest over the past week; to get these in real-time, follow me at @jefflash: