Ask A Good Product Manager

Your product management questions answered

How can I translate needs of an industry into portfolio requirements?

Posted on May 8, 2011 · 1 Comment

Question: How does a product manager for a specific vertical (industry) translate their requirements to portfolio requirements and influence their organization to fulfill those requirements?

Answer from Mara Krieps of Pivotal Product Management: This is a great question, and solving this problem will give you an excellent opportunity to demonstrate strategic planning and cross-team leadership.

Here’s how to start:

Before you can convince executives to invest in delivering on your product requirements, you have to have the bigger picture clearly in mind, find the common opportunities, and present a business case that shows how the company will benefit.

  • First, get the bigger picture clearly in mind. Do your homework to understand the current strategy at the company level, as well as at the product portfolio level. You will need to tie your own product strategy to these higher-level strategies in order to convince executives to follow your recommendations. It may take some digging, so work with your manager and fellow product managers to identify and map out the strategy at each level.
  • Find the common opportunities across the product portfolio. Know what your product line has in common with the company’s other products, in terms of target customer segments, highest-priority customer requirements, greatest competitive threats and most compelling product development opportunities. Where are the common needs and opportunities between your product line and others in the portfolio? Your challenge is to convince executives and other managers “what’s in it for them” by showing the common opportunities and why they are important.
  • Develop a business case that shows why the company should invest in your ideas. If you’ve identified opportunities that benefit not only your product line but others as well, most likely your business case will show greater opportunity than investment in any one product. Collaborating on a business case with other product managers also can create a “win-win” situation for multiple products, and shows your ability to lead a cross-functional effort, which is good for your longer-term career growth.

Good luck in your product planning!

1 other answer so far ↓

  • John Mansour // May 13, 2011 at 10:51 am

    If you’re an industry product manager, this assumes you’re in a position to drive requirements across all products that are relevant to that industry. It’s a good position to be in because you can deliver more valuable solutions by leveraging multiple integrated products that solve bigger and more complex problems in your vertical market.

    In a portfolio management model your market evaluation and strategic planning happen at a level that transcends all products while execution and implementation of features still occur at a product level. So the great thing is it eliminates of many of the redundancies that occur in a traditional product management model such as product strategies and roadmaps for every product. No longer necessary in most cases!

    To answer your question more specifically, don’t think of portfolio requirements in the same context as product requirements. Portfolio requirements are more synonymous with high-value, high impact business solutions that advance the strategic agendas of your target customers while making it easier for your organization to meet its own strategic goals.

    For example, think about how the explosion of mobile computing is driving the strategies of wireless telecom providers. They’re being forced to re-think and reinvent certain aspects of their business if they want a piece of a huge and growing market. What’s your relevance to those market dynamics and what are the big complex problems you can solve to help telecoms gain market share in the mobile computing space?

    Can you provide solutions that help them re-deploy new infrastructures required for high volumes of wireless computing devices on a network? Can you help them re-tool their call centers to deal with growing volumes of younger users who don’t want to talk to a service rep on the phone but expect the same level of service via electronic means?

    So the answer to your question is you’ve got to define high value solutions (across your entire portfolio) that advance the strategic agendas of organizations in your vertical. Create a market strategy and portfolio roadmap of high-value solutions accordingly that articulate how your organization will meet its strategic goals by executing that strategy. Then do your best sales job by demonstrating how your strategy is a win for your organization because of its value in your vertical market.

    Here’s a link to a short white paper that may also be helpful.