The Path to an Exceptional Product Team

Contributed by Sarela Bliman-Cohen11880928595_bf7513fd0b_z

The Product Executive Forum (PEF) discusses matters that pertain to product managers and product marketers. During our last Product Executive Forum we discussed the following topic: how do you make sure your team is the best and has the right set of skills?

Product teams are comprised of many product managers, all of whom have various levels of knowledge and abilities. One of the challenges product leaders face is having people who have transferred internally from support or engineering into product management; they posses a good understanding of the domain and the product, yet they are not quite market-oriented. That raises the question: is it a matter of training, or perhaps not stating needs clearly?

It could be a combination of both: hiring managers seek people with domain expertise, assuming that by knowing a particular market and products, they understand what customers need. Those PMs may be able to improve your existing products, but may not understand where the market is heading in the next year or two.

So, is it a matter of not identifying the right skill set? To understand your team composition it is useful to run a skill gap analysis which will identify areas where the team could be augmented. When you identify gaps and decide to hire new talent, make sure you, not HR, clearly write the job description and outline the skill set needed.

Assigning roles within the team

It is important to assign the proper responsibilities to your team members. Your less experienced product managers could serve as the product owners, working closely with development, where your more senior people would be those meeting with customers and driving the vision for the company. It is a good idea to establish some MBOs and encourage product managers to meet with customers on a regular basis.

For your less experienced PMs, consider setting a mentorship program where you pair an experienced product manager with an up and coming product manager, or encourage them to join the BPMA mentorship program. You would be amazed at the benefit they can reap from having an unbiased outsider advise them; since the mentor is removed from the company setting, their ideas will not be influenced by precedent in the company. This can be a critical factor in coming up with creative solutions.

Lastly, make sure your team is the voice of your customer. Encourage your product managers to attend a professional event at least once a month. The BPMA offers great events, and there are other organizations within your area that would benefit your team.

1429543098Sarela is a dynamic, entrepreneurial product management and strategic marketing consultant with broad experience in start up and large company environments. Sarela’s focus is building strong, strategic, customer focused teams. She is the president of Product Camp Boston, is a mentor at Harvard Business School Product Management course and is a former president of the Boston Product Management Association.


Photo credit to Zig0004 on Flickr.

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