Get the right level of product investment

If you want to be a bad product manager, propose product investment without regard for return. In order to keep pace with competitors, you need to keep current, so why shouldn’t the company invest a whole lot in your product? After all, the only other option is to do nothing, and that would ruin your product in the marketplace. Sure, there may be other products which need investment, but your job as a product manager is to argue for your product’s success at all costs, even if that means at the expense of all others, right?

If you want to be a good product manager, understand that your product is part of a broader portfolio of potential investments. Most companies have more than one product and all companies have other options for investment. When you are proposing a new product or product enhancements, you not only need to make the case for why this is a worthwhile use of company resources, but you need to understand that those making budget decisions will be evaluating all other product proposals as well as other areas of investment, including operations, customer support, marketing, and sales.

Of course, product managers nearly always complain that there is not enough investment in their products. When is this a legitimate complaint and when is it just a strategy to get more funding? What is the appropriate level of product investment? As I argue in “What’s the Appropriate Level of Product Investment?”, an article just published by Pragmatic Marketing, there might not be a magic formula to calculate product investment, but there are some metrics that companies can use to help make smarter product investment decisions.

Many companies approach product investment ad-hoc, with each product requesting investment independently and without an overarching portfolio strategy. This can lead to haphazard strategy and sub-optimal returns as investment options are not evaluated appropriately. Product groups should look at the overall corporate strategy, innovation strategy, financial and business goals, and other objectives to determine the right approach to balancing product investment. Individual product managers should seek to understand these drivers of product investment in order to position their initiatives appropriately with respect to the other funding options.

Too much self-aggrandizing — or too weak of an argument — can hurt the prospects of getting the right level of investment for your product. Product managers need to put together solid financial business cases for their product investments which accurately represent the potential benefits of any initiatives they propose. And, like the products themselves, these business cases need to be positioned appropriately against all of the other options available.

3 thoughts on “Get the right level of product investment

  1. Yes, very good point. PM should define the product investment on the basis of company strategy, a solid business case, and an overall package of the investment which may include the cost for development, marketing and operation etc.

  2. Great blog post Jeff, thanks! Totally agree that product investment decisions need to be made with the larger company strategy in mind. I think this kind of tunnel-vision happens not only at a product level in relation to a portfolio, but also at a feature level in relation to the product. Stakeholders often scream and yell for “their” feature without keeping the overall product goals in mind. One way we here at Seilevel try to combat this is by tying features back to quantifiable business objectives. You can find an interesting blog post about using business objectives to control scope that a colleague of mine wrote. Thanks again!

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