By Mohan Sawhney
Two defining characteristics of the technology industry are its dynamic nature and the inter-connected nature of technology products and services. This results in a continuous need for new products—and for managing all of the aspects of discovering, designing, developing, supporting and making money from these products. In technology companies, the Product Management organization is responsible for the “inbound” product development activities as well as “outbound” product marketing activities: discovering customer needs, defining product requirements, orchestrating the development of products and solutions to address these needs, taking new products to market and managing products as a business. In a technology startup, a Product Manager is often a co-founder of the firm. In mid-sized and large technology firms, the best Product Managers are intrapreneurs responsible for product innovation and managing one or more products as a business.
This course equips students with the frameworks, tools and direct experience to become effective technology product managers (whether as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs). Students will gain hands-on experience via an industry-sponsored project and targeted cases—including several cases developed specifically for this course. The overall goal of the course is to prepare students to become effective product managers and product marketers in a startup firm or in a larger technology company by developing:
- A comprehensive understanding of the role of Product Management in a technology company and the responsibilities of the product manager in various contexts, considering product characteristics, industry, firm size and market maturity.
- A firm grasp of the strategic frameworks and tactical tools (deliverables) that form the foundational skills for product management.
- The ability to apply these product management skills in business situations.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_tta_accordion style=”modern” shape=”square” color=”sky” gap=”1″ active_section=”1″ no_fill=”true” collapsible_all=”true” title=”Course Modules”][vc_tta_section title=”Module 1 – Overview of Product Management” tab_id=”1483520317905-87e7ccb5-5637″][vc_column_text]The course kicks off with an overview of the multi-faceted role of product management in technology companies. We discuss what product managers do, what the demands are of modern PMs, what they are expected to know, what they are accountable for and what factors determine a high-performance product manager and product management organization. We will present both an entrepreneurial perspective on product management (regardless of company size) and specifics on product management in an entrepreneurial environment. We introduce the core building blocks for product management that will form the basis for the remainder of the course. In the second session for the week, we will invite a distinguished panel of senior product managers to share their experience “from the trenches”. This will give students a good opportunity to experience “life as a PM” through the eyes of people who have spent long careers in product managers or have founded companies.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Module 2 – Opportunity Assessment” tab_id=”1483520318020-eb6fe664-2f0f”][vc_column_text]Opportunity Assessment answers two key questions, “How do we source and identify opportunities?” and “Which opportunities should we invest time and money in?” This module defines the three dimensions of Opportunity Assessment – Product-Market fit, Product-Company fit, and Product-Business fit). We will discuss the “Jobs to Be Done” framework to define key unmet needs and hence the opportunities for a new product. We will discuss how to organize the opportunity analysis into a recommendation and present the output in an Opportunity Brief. The Opportunity Brief serves as the “business case” for the product and should explicitly provide a “Go/No-Go” recommendation to invest resources and initiate the Discovery process for a specific product (or not).[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Module 3 – Discovery & Requirements Definition” tab_id=”1483520318149-5a3aca9b-f70e”][vc_column_text]After identifying the target product opportunity concept, the product manager leads an iterative process to discover, define/ refine and prototype a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) that will capitalize on the opportunity—or identify a better opportunity (a ‘pivot’). This discovery and requirements definition process is at the very core of the PM’s job because these early product decisions typically define a product’s ultimate business success, failure or mediocrity. The primary output from this process should be a customer-proven prototype tested for functionality, usability and business viability. We will discuss the iterative process in getting to the MVP and building a customer-proven prototype. We will also discuss the elements and scenarios that comprise an effective requirements document.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Module 4 – Business Model Design” tab_id=”1483520318290-02b661c1-f6d4″][vc_column_text]The business model is the mechanism by which the firm generates revenues and profits from a product, service or solution. For various reasons (including engineer-driven products, VC-fueled “all-or-nothing” mentality and dynamic market conditions), technology companies are often better at value creation than value capture. PM’s are best positioned to evaluate product, customer, competitive, operational and business inputs to define an effective model. We will discuss frameworks for defining and diagnosing a business model and we will review popular revenue models for technology products and services (e.g., advertising, subscription, Freemium, etc.). We will conclude with a discussion on business model innovation and how technology startups can change the game with innovative and disruptive business models. [/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Module 5 – Orchestration & Team Leadership” tab_id=”1483520480519-936349ec-c230″][vc_column_text]Having considered the product and business model definition, we will focus on the product management organization and the product manager’s role in orchestrating the activities of product development, launch and on-going management. We will discuss product management’s role leading cross-functional product teams in the New Product Development (NPD) process. Our focus will be to prepare students to lead cross-functional teams by understanding the unique organizational behavior issues most relevant to product management. We survey various NPD methodologies and present the argument for a more iterative, customer-experiential, approach (often called ‘agile’) vs. a more sequential approach (aka ‘waterfall’). We will discuss how to manage teams, overcome the challenges of working with remote and virtual teams, run effective meetings and conclude with what a great orchestrator does.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Module 6 – Taking Products to Market” tab_id=”1483520524234-7136a27e-1bd3″][vc_column_text]Product Launch and Product Marketing can make or break a product in in the market. In this session we will focus on the Go To Market (GTM) strategy for a product. This includes the planning and execution of the Product Launch plan, developing the Positioning and Messaging Framework, developing all marketing collateral and supporting the sales team on strategic client meetings and sales efforts. It also involves choosing the routes to market for the product and execution of the launch activities in collaboration with the sales, channel and partner organization. We will discuss the end-to-end process of designing and executing an integrated marketing communications plan and leveraging digital and social media to create awareness and drive adoption of new products. [/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Module 7 – Managing Whole Offers and Partner Ecosystems” tab_id=”1483520547499-8a2778e3-80da”][vc_column_text]A stand-alone technology product rarely solves a complete customer problem. Mainstream customers expect technology companies to create “Whole Offers”, which include the core product as well as all the complementary products, services and information needed to create a satisfactory Total Customer Experience (TCE). To create this “whole offer”, technology companies need to assemble an ecosystem of partnerships and alliances that complement and enhance their core product. In this module, we will begin by defining the Whole Offer and the Total Customer Experience. We will discuss how to assemble, manage and grow a robust ecosystem of partnerships. We will focus on the role that Product Managers need to play in ecosystem development and management. We will also look at how the Whole Offer evolves over time as the product becomes more widely adopted in the marketplace and as customer needs evolve.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Module 8 – Product Planning: Roadmap Design & Portfolio Management” tab_id=”1483520585298-64c6c799-5799″][vc_column_text]Technology products tend to evolve quickly over time and single products tend to proliferate into diverse product lines. Therefore, product managers need to proactively plan the roadmap for the evolution of products over time as well as the relationship among products across the portfolio. In this module we will focus on decisions related to the Product Roadmap, steps in roadmap planning, and putting the roadmap together (from what to how to why). We will also look at Product Portfolio Management decisions, which include managing multiple products within a product line and across product lines so they map logically to customer segments, vertical markets, price points, strategic objectives and other factors. Portfolio management involves defining the right number of products in the portfolio, the price/ feature set differences among the products and managing cannibalization.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Module 9 – On-Going Product Management” tab_id=”1483520607983-6780da93-835a”][vc_column_text]Product managers need to do more than bring new products to market. They need to manage the products as an ongoing business over time. In this module, we examine this process of on-going management of products over their life cycle. Managing products as a business requires focused attention on several “sustaining” activities that are critical to a product’s commercial success such as customer, market and ecosystem development. Here we address the “Gotchas” missed during the product development process, as well as the Opportunities that can be uncovered by actively listening/ watching/ analyzing customer input and behavior. We will also discuss ongoing business activities like customer support, bug tracking/ fixing, next version planning, product enhancement and end-of-life (EOL) management, that are essential for the continued success of a product in the marketplace.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Module 10 – Product Management in Startup Firms” tab_id=”1483520629688-1deb99e7-629c”][vc_column_text]In this “end-cap” module, we will focus on product management in a highly resource-constrained, early-stage technology startup firm. We will discuss characteristics of the successful startup product manager and common startup organizational dynamics (including the entrepreneur-as-product manager and the transition to a ‘real’ product management team). We will present a cohesive framework that organizes the most relevant elements taught earlier in the course, applied to the various stages of the development of a startup firm. Topics will include challenges in scaling up startup firms, evolving the offering and business model, guerilla marketing tactics, maximizing the inherent advantages of startups and minimizing startup disadvantages.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Module 11 – Growth Hacking and Lean Analytics” tab_id=”1483520656868-9d1b69a8-ee10″][vc_column_text]Digital products can have marketing built right into the product. We will examine the concept of “growth hacking” – an approach that uses data-driven experimentation to drive key growth metrics for a product. We will study different types of growth hacks and growth hacking tactics. We will study the emerging discipline of “Lean Analytics”- using data-driven testing, iteration and scaling to drive user growth for a technology product. We will study experimentation techniques like A/B Testing, Segmentation Analysis and Cohort Analysis. We will discuss key metrics and define the One Metric That Matters (OMTM) in Lean Analytics and study how to use Exploratory Analytics to identify and capitalize on behavioral patterns in customer behavior to drive growth.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_accordion][/vc_column][/vc_row]