The Role of the Product Management Champion (12 Tasks They Should Own)
What is A Product Management Champion?
An executive champion serves as an advocate for a specific activity, function, or center of excellence in an organization. The role can be similar to that of a person who leads an industry standards organization (ISO, IEEE, ITU, etc.). Standards organizations produce guidelines, documents, and other items that enable an organization to achieve greater levels of consistency and efficiency in a given area.
Any company can adopt analogous structures to achieve those levels of uniformity so that the organization can adopt a mindset for continuous improvement. Product Management is no exception.
In firms that implement Product Management, an executive champion can and should provide the vision, goals, strategy, and governance policies for that aspect of the organization. This is important because Product Management, as a “function” extends horizontally as an integrative function versus other functions which stand vertically.
In order to establish an Office of Product Management (OPM), a Product Management Executive Champion (Champion) should be appointed. The Champion operates most effectively with the support of the CEO and/or business unit leader. With this in place, other functional department leaders must be aligned around the role and purpose of the Product Management function. This alignment is critical because those leaders delegate their employees to work on various product projects, or in roles vital to those products’ businesses.
(For additional context, while product managers are expected to influence others who do not work for them, their work is made more difficult if resources in other areas are directed by their management to focus on the goals for that function. Therefore, the alignment of the leadership team is critical to success.)
The OPM is not a single person office. It is likely formed of a subset of people from the leadership team.
A sub‐team or council may be another way of viewing this structure. However, the leader of this team is the Champion. Once the leadership team is on board, the Champion and his or her team can begin the work to establish and guide the OPM.
What is The Product Management Champion’s Role?
Therefore, the Champion leads efforts that:
- Establish the proper level of investment (in programs and human resources) for robust market intelligence programs. These are vital in establishing market (customer/competitor/industry) context for the work done by product managers, marketers, and others.
- Set the foundation for the vision, goals, and strategies that:
- Guide the rationalization of portfolios and resultant investment allocations
- Drive the creation of product line strategies, consistent with the goals of the firm
- Create an investment management council for the review of Business Cases and other programs.
- Define or refine the innovation and/or new product development (NPD) process model to decide on product project investments. This also covers the allocation of company resources toward new and existing products consistent with the allocation model.
- Define and refine other processes and work streams that impact the business of products, especially those that have been shown to be problematic.
- Define and refine dimensions of the ecosystem of customers, suppliers, and key players from within the product organization.
- Document and explain parameters for reprioritization and escalations from product teams to senior leaders.
- Set forth the requirements for financial and non‐financial data collection and measurements for product, product line, and portfolio performance tracking and management.
- These provide the means to create periodic product health reports and feedback into the overall business performance management framework. It may be required to involve the CFO in analyzing product catalogs, charts of accounts, and reporting procedures. In firms that have grown by acquisition, accounting system integration has lagged. This may lead to the in ability to properly evaluate revenue, COGS, and gross margin. Furthermore, if factories are treated as profit centers, then changes may need to be considered.
- Determine the key documents, templates, and work tools used by the Product Management community – as well as a repository to house these. Examples include strategic plans, business cases, product requirements, launch plans, and others.
- Guide the formation of cross‐functional product teams that are designated to manage product lines across their life cycles. This may include team performance recognition and compensation.
- Develop a bona‐fide community of practice for knowledge sharing, information exchange, and other supportive efforts so that product managers can learn and grow from one another.
- Create or refine Product Management job family guidelines. It’s recommended that the OPM work with HR and OD partners in the following areas
- Competency management
- Job descriptions and leveling
- Progression planning guidelines
- Employee performance management procedures
- Recruitment and selection protocols
- Training and development requirements
The formation of the OPM should be treated as an ongoing, collaborative transition—not as a single change management initiative. If treated as a one‐time event, then the program will fail. If other functional leaders do not contribute, compromise on agendas, and collaborate toward the vision, the program will fail. It does not mean that products will fail, but it does mean that optimal success may be elusive. Having an OPM will most certainly add a layer of complexity to any organization. There is a lot the group must pay attention to. Therefore, it’s always important to remember that the upside potential—the overarching value proposition—can serve as a foundation for competitive advantage beyond anyone’s individual paradigm.
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