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It’s no secret, while technology is advancing at breakneck speeds, the markets are grappling to adjust, and traditional long-cycle businesses are scrambling to keep pace. Existing competitors within a given industry are vying for innovation and breakthrough technologies, while at the same time, new entrants (start-ups) are disrupting the landscape threatening to make traditional products and services irrelevant. Maintaining alignment between market/customer needs and available products and services has never been more critical.

At this point, the understanding and optimizing the art and science of product management steps in. In this environment, it is not enough to be a good product manager, knowing your product in the classic sense. Product managers have to be experts in understanding the dynamics of the ecosystem in which their products exist. The traditional process-heavy, checkpoint-laden approach to developing new products and services is simply too slow and cumbersome to be effective for Today’s product managers. Product lifecycles are shortening, rendering established launch cycles for improvements or upgrades ineffective. Businesses need to be much more flexible and dynamic in managing products through their lifecycle. Companies need to consider how they share differentiating features with customers, position the product in the market, and approach the Multi-Generational Product Plans (MGPPs)that can be roadmaps to guide business decisions.

When a business has a strong product management system in place, focused on optimizing product management’s art and science, it is more flexible and agile, enabling it to pivot more easily as market conditions change.



Throughout the years, many organizations have implemented change programs for the product management and product development process to respond to the new demands described above. Unfortunately, if not implemented correctly, these complex programs can create confusion and distraction for the very people they targeted to help – the product managers!

We strongly believe that the basic product managers’ toolkit comprising MGPP, VOC, NPS, SWOT, 3 Ps, is still valid today. However, to move faster and be more alert to market and customer dynamics, the product manager must respond with the speed and clarity that the organization can follow. This agility is only possible when the product management function is a standalone department supported by

key business processes: a peer to Engineering, Supply Chain, and Marketing/Sales with the authority to make decisions and direct resources, able to take a holistic view of the product, balancing the demands of all stakeholders. The product manager is then free to strategize for the future, deliver the product the customer wants, and stay aligned to the business goals.

By empowering the product manager, the whole organization will become better informed and flexible in responding to market dynamics much faster than before. Processes will need to be refined and, in some cases simplified, to enable the whole organization to follow. The primary focus of using the product manager as the “change agent,” however, is far more effective and impactful than a month after month of process transformation.



Building best-in-class product management processes needs to focus on three simple “pillars,” designed to move experienced product managers from the traditional process-driven methodologies (the science) into the more dynamic, real-time change agents (the art). Product managers can apply these principles to their existing product portfolio very quickly.

The three pillars are:

Three pillars of product management

Combining each pillar’s fundamental principles will provide significant enhancement to the product manager’s toolkit and empower the product manager to lead competently in this more dynamic environment.



The principles of comprehending the ecosystem – monitoring changes and anticipating next moves from a customer’s perspective – builds a deeper understanding of differentiators and “must-have” features. Becoming a student of the ecosystem allows the product manager to identify a new entrant, a change in regulations, or a change in customer use patterns, all of which can move certain product features from differentiators to must-haves. Without this understanding, a product manager may end up promoting features that have no value to the customer, appearing out of sync with market realities. 

Starting the process with understanding the ecosystem, rather than adjusting the product or service portfolio, provides a real appreciation for how the whole offering is valued. It creates the opportunity to spot gaps in the offering (which could result in a new product or service introductions), to identify different ways

to combine products and services that better fit the customer needs, and potentially create greater combined incremental value. Also, it provides the opportunity for the product manager to be the domain expert in the ecosystem, earning higher levels of credibility within the organization – a key element to driving more significant thought leadership within the business.



All too often, the product managers genuinely understand their products, how they create value, and how they fit into the ecosystem but fail to communicate the same understanding to the market and customers in a compelling way. In some organizations, the roles are split, placing this responsibility on marketing as a discrete function. In either case, this compromises the ability to position the product or service to win effectively.

The art to properly position a product for a win depends on effective communication. The product manager needs to become a respected thought leader within the product’s ecosystem: developing strategies and tactics to ensure everyone truly understands the product and services offered and communicating how the differentiated features positively impact customer-driven outcomes. The product manager must be seen as the product’s champion both inside and outside of the business. Product marketing is a sub-set of product management and must be owned and led by the product manager.




Every product or product line must be viewed as a business within a business, and the product manager viewed as the business owner. All business models should account not only for new product planning and new product introduction but also for lifecycle product management. Unfortunately, many companies have built their organizations around a development-centric approach, which reduces the role of a product manager to a project manager. The goal becomes to get to the finish line with minimal disruptions and little to no attention to maximizing lifecycle value.

Given the need to respond to the fast-moving dynamics of today’s markets, one might think that all elements of the traditional approach to product evolution are out of place. We must stress, however, that the majority of the product manager’s traditional toolkit is still valid; it just needs to be implemented in such a way that pivots are seen as a norm, not an annoyance. The MGPP must become a living document that the product manager uses to continually capture, share, and assimilate information across the various functions of the organization. TheMGPP, when correctly managed and maintained, can be an extremely powerful strategic playbook for mapping the ecosystem, identifying new demands on products and services, and anticipating market and product disruptions, ALL while keeping a strong focus on business performance.


This review only scratched the surface of the topic that has a wide-ranging impact on a business’s ability to remain relevant in today’s fast-paced world. 

Understanding and optimizing the art and science of product management provides a pathway for the product manager to become the ecosystem thought-leader, staying on top of potential pivots, while navigating the business through the fast-moving dynamics of changing customer needs.

Authors: Trevor Bailey and Steve Rahm