Through our daily conversations with B2B product management leaders, we gain a lot of insight into their priorities and the challenges they face when helping their organizations improve and grow.

Through our daily conversations with B2B product management leaders, we gain a lot of insight into their priorities and the challenges they face when helping their organizations improve and grow.

We’re also gathering more data on these topics through a short online survey. (Note: This survey is now closed.) We’ll be sharing detailed results in the coming weeks, but one item has already emerged as a top priority, based on both survey responses and our regular discussions.

For many product management leaders, improving the overall product lifecycle management framework/process is a top priority for the coming year. This is often driven by a number of factors – a need to create products that better meet the needs of buyers and users, a desire to more quickly react to market opportunities and the changing competitive landscape, and a need to reduce the inefficiencies that result from not having a consistent best-in-class process that is shared across the organization.

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. We’ve uncovered a few common mistakes:

  • Mistake #1: Focusing only on the early stages of the product lifecycle. I like to joke that, for a lot of organizations, the “post-launch” product plan is to have a pizza party and move on to the next project. (Often the response I hear is “Yes, except we skip the pizza party.”) Launch is not the finish line, and a framework must manage a product throughout its entire lifecycle, from idea through launch and growth and, often, to sunsetting. The SiriusDecisions Product Marketing and Management (PMM) Model – a best-in-class framework for innovating and marketing B2B products and solutions – includes a phase specifically focused on growth, outlining the key activities and deliverables that B2B organizations should employ to effectively manage products. This phase should be coordinated with a senior-level Innovation Council that will make approval/funding decisions throughout the lifecycle, including product sunsetting.
  • Mistake #2: Focusing only on activities and roles related to product development. Too many companies focus their efforts mainly on the interaction between product management and product development and forget the bigger picture. This is especially problematic at companies that adopt agile development processes, as they often believe that agile itself is a framework for product management. (See my blog post Agile is Not a Product Management Framework.) Our Product Marketing and Management Model reflects the fact that a best-in-class innovation and go-to-market process requires involvement from and interlock with marketing and sales. Activities like competitive analysis, pricing, sales enablement, and customer feedback/satisfaction measurement are key to creating successful offerings. These are usually not covered by processes that simply focus on the development work.
  • Mistake #3: Not actually tailoring or implementing the framework. A best-in-class product lifecycle management framework can only help if it’s actually followed. And while there are some fundamentals that should be consistent, every organization is different, so the framework needs to be tailored so that it can be made appropriate to the situation and adopted. Beyond just agreeing on a framework to use, organizations need to change processes, roles, systems and other elements to be able to put it into practice. Training is a good start, but just deciding on a process and telling people to follow it is not enough. Through our product management and portfolio marketing advisory services, we work with organizations to tailor the Product Marketing and Management Model to their specific situation, and then help them operationalize it. For example, we recently completed a Core Strategy Report on implementing the PMM model that provides step-by-step guidance on everything from sponsorship of the initiative to adaptation through to piloting and launch.
  • Mistake #4: Not providing the ongoing support and upskilling needed to succeed. As organizations start to utilize a new product lifecycle management framework, they often have questions, encounter challenges and realize that they need help with specific areas. Improving the approach to product management is not a one-time event. Without a plan and resources in place to provide ongoing support, adoption of the process will suffer and product managers – and others – will likely revert to their old ways of working. We recommend an individual or team be made responsible for managing the broader rollout of a new model and monitoring adoption. Product managers, product marketers and others impacted by the change need support through ongoing foundational training, targeted upskilling, troubleshooting and tailoring. SiriusDecisions can provide ongoing upskilling and address specific challenges through our best practices research services. Other tools, like our Product Management Competency Map, can be used to assess competencies of individuals against the PMM Model, and our Product Management Maturity Model can be used to assess the maturity of the organization as a whole and measure the improvements from implementing a new product management framework.

Organizations that can avoid these mistakes can be well on their way to achieving repeatable product success. Learn more about how the SiriusDecisions Product Marketing and Management Model can help.