For every product manager I’ve worked with, I uncover yet another “unique” problem that is so completely different from any other problem in the industry that it’s almost impossible to solve – but not really. There is always quite a bit of overlap, repetition and similarity, albeit wrapped in a different skin. This is actually quite a good thing, as long as one can see past the view that all things are unique, and realize that some fairly general rules of thumb can help you out. This brings me to the topic of today’s post – product management toolkits, and how useful they really are. I’ve worked with many frameworks, processes and consulting teams, so I feel I have a decent idea of the different approaches teams take to creating toolkits, and how product managers actually use them in the field. I recently reviewed the “Take Charge Product Management Toolkit”, from Actuation Consulting. Greg and I have worked together before, and I was very interested in understanding his new toolkit.
Now if you’re in a product management position today (technical, business, marketing, or the variety of other titles, including VP), toolkits can really help give you the starting point you need, or help improve incrementally some internal templates you may already be using. The hardest part, I find, is the introduction of such a toolkit – is it your VP bringing in a new template to change things around, or some member of the team taking the initiative to improve the process. Let me show you what happened when I shared this toolkit.
Day 1 – Read the toolkit, liked what I saw, and wanted to share my findings (read on for more details on that)
Day 2 – Emailed my team sharing this toolkit asking for feedback, as we had been looking for strategic templates for new products
Day 7 – 0 emails, 0 phone calls, 0 feedback. Puzzled I push forward
Day 14 – I have one-on-one discussions on strategic roadmapping using material from the toolkit, and everyone is impressed with my business understanding
This is the lesson you need to learn when using toolkits – they should never be used as is, they should always be incorporated into your own business reality, and many times people will resist a new template but absolutely adore work you produce using it!
Now on to some reviews of this Toolkit:
-Take advantage of the free, 30 minute consultation they offer. You’ll always have questions, and asking for live examples of how to leverage it is invaluable.
-Examples – personally I avoid templates without some examples pre-filled. This “learn by seeing in action” is quite powerful, and I’m very happy Take Charge Product Management decided to include them in this toolkit.
-The templates make you really think about the basics of business, selling and moving product. Sometimes we forget that if our products can’t sell, we are the ones that can make the most impact. A PM that doesn’t grasp the sales funnel should not be a PM. They shouldn’t own the funnel, but they should be comfortable understanding it.
-Every organization should have a product decision (aka Opportunity prioritization) process. It’s a good template, and will likely be the one that you’ll tailor the most. Great starting point.
-I haven’t seen many formal RACI matrices out there – the biggest takeaway is that there are many stakeholders in the life-cycle of a product, and this template makes you face that fact.
If you’re a business minded product manager looking for a starting point, or to help improve certain processes, the toolkit is great. In addition to it, you’ll also want to get yourself some tools to help better understand how product management can play nice (and excel!) in agile environments, and how to define the line between the technical and marketing roles in product management. With that, you’ll have a full set of tools to push your product management process to the next level.
Remember, as I told a friend recently, the best way to build up your experience in product management is to BE a product manager.
This blog post will give you more information and also how to obtain the Take Charge Product Management Toolkit