The Art & Science of Product Management

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The Art and Science of Product Management

Believe it or not, there is no absolute rule-of-thumb for the product managers to dictate the right roadmap to product success.

There are a ton of unresolved real-life problems to be taken care of- while inboxes can be flooded with suggestions, only a few will come up with actual ideas and it’s quite possible that a few will be lost in the process. Above all the odds it is critical for product managers to stay calm, prioritize the needs while using feasible fixes with a touch of innovation. Well, User Experience (UX) is not always about coming up with a whole new product, lean improvements can also do the trick. A product with a hint of amusement for the customers can settle the market, long enough to bring on the next surprise.

What slopes-up the steep is the effort to harmonize the organizational process flow. This multi-studio prospect claims product managers to be excellent communicators. Be it for decking a new product idea, justifying circumstances, planning, or verification, they are the ones to pull the strings to bring harmony, breaking walls of the organizational silos. Again, appointed product managers aka mini CEOs carry no ownership for the products, making the job more challenging for them to boost processes as the third party idea-interpreter, throughout the product life-cycle.
While product management is often interpreted as an accidental profession, it may not actually be so. The role is quite critical and implies responsibility in both in-bound and out-bound functions. It’s the sophistication of the thought process which makes it difficult to sketch the realm it belongs to. Is it the artistic enigma or sheer mechanistic approach that describes the propaganda of product management?

Let’s get to know how it settles as a part of both.

Why it is called ‘The Art’?

It’s a ‘talk’ among many of the practicing corporates that the companies who ‘wing’ the market with product management involve a ‘mystery factor;’ to their history of success. Well, there exists no secret ingredient, it is the result of rigorous iterations of multiple ideas that failed and didn’t make much fortune in the market. Like, no one can definitively tell what would work best in the market.

If you are still in doubt why product management is an art, then we should go by the Oxford dictionary defines –art as “a form of creative expressions of human imagination, as a visual gallery of painting or sculpting or producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

Here lies the catch, when the product became more customer-centric, the product managers learned to touch and understand human emotions with their products. How? It’s the years of experience that conditioned the product managers to learn the skill of custom product experience that can bring real value to the businesses.

When H. McElroy introduced the concept of ‘Brand man’, the corporation faced the first ‘customer-centric’ market shift. When customer likely-hood was the key, apart from gaining an industry profit, companies introduced product aesthetics as a creative take in winning customer loyalty. Likewise, the product manager’s primary target is a user engagement and there is no place for opportunistic products. The flex of mind to listen to the customers calls to develop a winning product that can populate the market and generate customer interest.

Innovative execution of creative ideations

Innovation and creativity are often treated as equals and the myth needs to be busted. When the managers were asked to differentiate between the two, most of them failed to voice-up. It’s very important to know creativity sparks your idea whereas repetitive iteration in animating the idea can only lead to innovation. Taking into account the organization’s capacity, innovation is creativity multiplied by execution, hence if either creativity or execution is zero then the innovation capacity will also result in zero.

Considering the fact that product management largely involves problem-solving at every stage of the product life cycle, inventing new possibilities with creativity and imagination engages the individual’s artistic input. But to measure the credibility of the creative process we need a logical explanation to reason the ‘why’ of execution and whether it is worth an innovation.

Product management has a primary involvement with innovation. Every organization needs a stream of new ideas that allow the introduction of new, profitable products. Getting an innovative culture within the organization is a vast subject in its own right, but there are simple and effective techniques that product managers can use.

Innovation can often be facilitated by product managers simply by breaking down existing silos within the organization and by leveraging existing customer relationships. Product managers can play a vital role here because their mandate is to act as a customer advocate in a multidisciplinary manner, both within and outside the organization.

Strategic Science is the key

Science asserts methodology to a process, involving conjectures, test hypotheses by conducting experiments or studies. Similarly for product creation, regardless of its size, there is a need for a proper protocol, methodology, and tools to manage the elements. Further to revisit the improved elements or previous launches, there should be a well-curated repository that can be tracked throughout the product life cycle. Following a steady outline for the process with references to cross-check the methodology to minimize the product failure.

Strategic management is more of a ‘test & learn’ procedure until one can reach a conclusion to optimize the entire process and that’s really not a part of creativity. In order to practice the ‘test & learn’ method, one should ply for the best, that can deliver better results over time – and that’s how science is practiced by the product managers in their work process.

Because of the cross-functional nature of product lines and the strategic implications on the business, the ultimate responsibility for product management rests with the executive team. Ideally, there should be an executive who is accountable for product strategy overall. This must be supported by a well defined organizational structure that has clear job positions and career paths defined for product managers and product specialists.

Product strategy is often managed in portfolios where groups of related products and services are managed together to unlock efficiencies or leverage common elements such as a common market, internal processes, or investment objectives.

Deciding on exactly how to group and structure the portfolio of products and services should be very intentional and not left to chance. Getting the structure right (structure by product, by portfolio, by service or by market, etc) can have a radical impact on the organic growth of an organization.

Analytical Views for Scientific Practice

Through the times, product managers have had no formal college training to prepare for the job role. They have been addressed as mini CEOs without an existing playbook. They are largely a self-taught community in the market. Product managers have acted with their gut and basic instincts when the job role has been disrupted by the data analytics explosion. However, nowadays, there are formal programs that help product management professionals to acquire the skills required in the current market environment.

In this need of the hour, premiere business institution IIM Lucknow and Wiley have come up with an Executive Education Program on Data-Driven Product Management. The course has an experiential and outcome-based learning approach integrating concepts and their applications in the real-life world. It is developed by top faculty at IIM Lucknow along with 50+ businesses from emerging tech and product leaders of Wiley Innovation Advisory Council. This course offering is a boon to today’s emerging product managers.

IIM Lucknow–Wiley’s Executive Program in Data-Driven Product Management, has chosen Miles Education, a dynamic platform delivering CPA-CMA courses, as their channel partner. To know more, take a tour of the Miles Education website and suit yourself with the courses that you need to up-skill or re-skill to stay relevant in industry standards. https://mileseducation.com

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