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How can product management weather the recession?

Posted on February 22, 2009 · 3 Comments

Question: How can product managers thrive in tough times?

2009 has arrived and with it one of the bleakest outlooks for the economy in a long time. During recession, organizations typically take drastic measures and cut right back on anything that isn’t directly revenue generating. In these dark times, how does the discipline of Product Management maintain its “strategic value” in the eyes of the organization’s decision-makers? And, on a more personal level, how do you maintain your own personal profile and “strategic value”?

Answer from Brian Lawley of The 280 Group: The biggest strategic value that a product manager can add during tough times is to help the company decide where to focus limited resources. Most companies chop heads but don’t cut products or projects. Thus everything is still expected to get done but if it does the results are mediocre at best. If you can use the Boston Consulting Group matrix and map out your products in terms of growing markets and ability to capture them and then either kill the dog products or shift the resources and effort to the stars it will be very helpful to your company.

In terms of your own personal profile, the archived webinar on “How to recession-proof your PM career” has lots of good strategies and tips.

3 other answers so far ↓

  • Dr. Jim Anderson // Feb 23, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Two ways to look at the current economic climate: it’s either the worst of times or the best of times.

    If you put your head down and try to make no waves then MAYBE you’ll be able to keep your job. Or your product will just wander on and lose market share, be determined to not be valuable to the company, and then get canceled.

    Or you can realize that now is the best time to get your product into accounts that seemed to be closed to you in the past. Yes, you might still lose your job due to events outside of your control, but wow – what a great story you’ll have for your next employer.

    – Dr. Jim Anderson
    The Accidental PM Blog
    “Home Of The Billion Dollar Product Manager”

  • David Locke // Mar 2, 2009 at 1:53 am

    The business cycle implies that we are always facing recession. ALWAYS. Build the strategies for dealing with the recession into your product plan.

    How is the product plan impacted by
    * Task sublimation
    * Moving to SaaS
    * Mass customization
    * Launching a new technology
    * Value-based marketing
    * Demand-side services
    * The need for additional revenue streams

    Start building these in back in the beginning of your product roadmap. Start getting corporate to see the need to do so.

  • Raj // Apr 26, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I agree 100% with Brian’s statement:
    “The biggest strategic value that a product manager can add during tough times is to help the company decide where to focus limited resources.”

    If a product manager can position himself/herself as an *Expert* in bringing valuable insights to the company for prioritization (of market opps, products, features, etc) and building roadmaps based on such prioritization – then I believe the PM can not only “weather” the recession, but can actually become “more valuable” during the recession.

    – Raj
    Accompa – Affordable Product Management Tool for Managing Requirements

What do you think?