• The SiriusStars blog series provides an inside look at how select high-performing clients use SiriusDecisions research and analyst inquiry to increase revenue, meet and exceed goals, and transform their organizations
  • In this edition, we feature Dominic Tavassoli, VP of product marketing and product management at HID Global
  • We talked with Dominic about how his engineering background has helped him in his current role and how to differentiate product marketing and product management

SiriusStars is an exclusive community of high-performing and highly influential clients selected for their exceptional work leveraging and implementing SiriusDecisions research and advice. The SiriusStars blog series is designed to share the personal and professional world of your B2B peers. In this post, we spoke with Dominic Tavassoli, VP of product marketing and product management at HID Global.

Dominic Tavassoli

SiriusDecisions: You got your start in engineering and software before moving over to the product side. How has that experience helped you get to where you are today?

Dominic Tavassoli: I have an engineering mind, and I actually have fun with math. That gives me a head start in understanding the products, the technology and our customer value. The move to product marketing came very gradually though; my career strategy has been to apply an 80/20 refocus every year. Every year I look back at what I do and try to determine the 20 percent that I’m not passionate about or don’t think I’m good at, and I try to find the 20 percent extra work that I’m not doing today but that could really bring more value to the organization. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I used to just shift without explicitly asking for authorization, but since it always brought more value, that was fine. That constant pruning of my workload moved me into tech sales from a pure engineering role, and then I moved into a product marketing/management role just by natural evolution. I thought, “You know what? I really like doing this, and I think I can bring more value to the organization by focusing on this stuff.”

SD: You are responsible for product marketing and product management. A key focus area for many B2B organizations is understanding how to separate the responsibilities of these two disciplines. How have you worked to achieve this at HID Global?

Dominic: The differences and similarities between product marketing and product management have come up regularly in my career. I’m a strong advocate of having both in the same group. Product marketing and product management need to be joined at the hip, even though the profiles tend to be quite different and trying to have the same people do both is a bit of a stretch. Product marketers have their finger on the pulse of the customer and the channel. They interact constantly with sales and marketing and are spokespeople for the organization. Product managers need deep understanding of the technology and the requirements to decide on trade-offs. They must be excellent project managers and have the respect of the engineering team. We definitely need both.

You can get into debates about which parts of the organization these functions should sit in. Some argue that product marketing needs to sit under the CMO because it has “marketing” in its name and needs to be very close to the marketing communications team. Similarly, I know people who push for product management to sit under the CTO because they want it to be close to the engineering team. I’m a big fan of having them together as a separate entity, because they do have a central role and there’s a fine balance to find. I’ve worked at organizations that have product marketing and product management in different parts of the organization – for example, product marketing under the CMO and product management under product-specific groups. That creates a lot of tension. Putting them together under the same group and in the same meetings – fully aligned – helps.

SD: What advice would you give to other organizations that are trying to understand how to set up these two functions within a large organization? Where should they start? What are your tips or tricks?

Dominic: I recommend having product marketing and product management roles and hiring the right people for both. The first step in doing that is to work with SiriusDecisions, which has really excellent job descriptions that detail the roles and responsibilities of both, the types of profiles to look for, and what their compensation should be. Also, make sure leaders from both functions have time to get to know each other and understand what each other brings to the success of the organization. You need to have clear roles and responsibilities, as well as clear recognition of each function’s strong points. Product managers need to produce the best product possible, and product marketers are there to ensure we hit the business objectives of that product. There’s symbiosis between the two. I see organizations make the mistake of thinking they need just one profile: a jack of all trades. That doesn’t work. You really need both.

SD: What have you found to be the most useful SiriusDecisions asset?

Dominic: The most useful SiriusDecisions asset is the ability to speak to analysts. I find it really helpful to use the time with analysts as a sounding board: “Here’s what my strategy is. Here’s what I need.” What’s most valuable is when I have a conference call with Jeff Lash, and I say, “This is what we’re going to try to achieve this year – how does that mesh with what you’re seeing? What priorities or trends are you seeing in the market? What research do you have that could help us get a kick start?” Then I have access to a wealth of research that really helps me get a good, fast start with pretty much all of my projects.

In the last 18 months, we’ve worked on portfolio optimization, value-based pricing, new business case and marketing requirements document templates, and the innovation gateway. Right now, I’m working on a product management competency framework for the company. In those bigger projects, my team often asks me for a starting point so that we can understand what we’re trying to do and build from there. This gives me that foundation; we can tweak and adjust it later, but this helps us get something up and running quickly. As I mentioned already, the job descriptions also have been very helpful – having something that works and that’s vetted is great!

SD: What does a typical day look like for you?

Dominic: A typical day starts when the sun’s not up yet. I’m a runner, so I try to get my running in before I’m worn out from work. I’m based in Europe, but a lot of the people I work with are in the United States; when I’m in the office, that distance gives me time in the morning to go through email, and also time for some of the more strategic thinking that’s sometimes difficult to get to – if everyone you work with is in the same time zone, your time tends to disappear. At HID Global, a number of my colleagues are in Austin, Texas, and Eden Prairie, Minnesota – a seven-hour time difference – so calls start at around 3:00 p.m. my time and go straight until at least 7:00 p.m. I used to try to fit in later calls as well, but I find that having less availability is a good way to prioritize and cut down on unnecessary conference calls.

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