Here at the 280 Group we have worked with thousands of companies over the past eighteen years to help them Optimize Product Management and get the function to the next level. Throughout the course of our work we have noticed that there are three levels that companies typically fall into in terms of how effective and mature their Product Management function is. Thus we developed our Product Management Maturity Scale.
Levels of the Product Management Maturity Scale
The first level is Ad Hoc.
This tends to be startups, though there are many mid-size and even large companies that fall into this. In many cases companies that are at the Ad Hoc level don’t even have Product Management at all, or they may have hired someone with little or no experience to be a Product Manager.
In startups the founders tend to be the product visionaries and drive the early product feature set and roadmaps. This can work well, but the challenge is that founders often don’t have the business background or the experience of having actually launched a product and taken it through the full product lifecycle, so mistakes, sometimes fatal, may be made.
Ad Hoc Product Management is characterized by often requiring “Heroic” efforts to get products to market. Because there is little or no planning, process or role definition each new release of the product becomes a “One-off” where the wheel has to be re-invented. The team and company suffer from unnecessary stress and burnout, and the product often suffers and doesn’t succeed at the level that it could.
The next level is Partially Defined.
In companies where the Product Management function is partially defined there will be more structure in place, including somewhat of a process, role clarification and a reduction of the problems encountered in an Ad Hoc environment.
Product Managers in this environment tend to be highly tactical rather than strategic, and a few may have been trained to do the job, but most are learning as they go through trial and error or from a handful of others who are more experienced. Note: less than 2% of all Product Manager have ever gone through formal training to learn how to do their jobs effectively.
The company usually has somewhat of an idea of the importance of the role, yet there still may not be someone who is the strategic driver behind the products and the overall revenue and profitability may be much lower than it might be if the company had a strategic Product Management capability.
The Final Level is Optimized.
In companies with great Product Management, the people, processes and tools have all been optimized to work together holistically and effectively. The process and roles are clear and streamlined, and the executives and stakeholders who work with Product Managers understand the value they bring to the company.
Product Managers are fully trained on the entire Product LifeCycle, foundational skills, people and leadership skills and oftentimes have earned advanced certifications. They have the knowledge, environment and skill set to step up and become strategic product leaders. The result is that profitability and customer satisfaction are maximized and the company reaps dramatic benefits.
So where does your company fit in?
Are you Ad Hoc, Partially Defined or Optimized? The recent 280 Group Product Management Challenges Survey of over 850 Product Management Professionals showed that respondents believed that profits would increase 34% on average by fully optimizing Product Management at their company. Yet a large majority (>60%) indicated they have no plan to do the optimization.
If you are interested in getting your Product Management organization to the next level consider working with a firm like the 280 Group and taking advantage of their capabilities to help you do an overall assessment, build and optimization plan and then help roll it out within your company effectively. The benefits in terms of profits, customer satisfaction, increased productivity and reduced stress will be well worth it.