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SUBJECTs:Product Management - Art of the Trade

The Internet 800 Directory -
The Internet 800 Directory Newsletter
This issue is for Friday, November 9, 2001

Table of Contents
01. Product Management and the Laws of Physics
02. The Art of the Trade (off)

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*01 Product Management and the Laws of Physics (Part 2)

Last week we defined product management as the deliberate directing of a product's movement through the lifecycle. We looked at the strategic component. This week we'll explore the tactical, the Directing.

Directing is the doing. Across the street from my building I watched as an office building was constructed. I was fascinated by the crane they used to erect the frame. The operator skillfully pulled and pushed levers that controlled the boom that hoisted steel beams hundreds of feet into the air. And while those beams weighed tons and were suspended high above the ground, the crane operator moved them at will by knowing what levers to use. Like lifting steel beams, product management is all about knowing what levers to use and how to use them.

So what levers, or tools, can help you in the directing, or doing, part of product management? The list is infinite, but here are three essentials.

---The Boston Box (Growth-Strategy Matrix)
Remember that golden oldie? Well, some of the best tools are the tried and true ones. The Boston Box was developed by the Boston Consulting Group in the 1970's to illustrate a product's position in the lifecycle and to aid in product portfolio management. By honestly assessing where your product falls in the box (Question Mark, Rising Star, Cash Cow, or Dog), you can make better product investment decisions quicker and more rationally than with out it. For more on the Boston Box, see

---Financial Dashboard
No one would drive a car without a speedometer, fuel gauge, and temperature indicators. But product managers often think nothing about making product decisions without even the most basic financial data. Can you measure a small set of key financial metrics? Do you have basic financial reports on a periodic basis? The dashboard doesn't have to be elaborate or labor intensive. It does, however, need to be actionable and relevant to your business.

----Product Reviews
Do you periodically step back from the day to day and look at how the product is doing? Can you say with any certainty that corrective efforts are working and your strategy is still sound? It's a good idea to stop every six months and take a fresh look at your product with key internal constituencies. Look backward briefly, but spend most of the time looking forward. Ask the hard questions about the product, about target markets, and about where the product fits into the company's strategic direction. And then take the answers to those questions and act.

Whether you are one-person firm, or part of a multinational corporation, managing products revolves around being deliberate about directing the product through its lifecycle. It means understanding that, left alone, products will choose their own paths, often resulting in disappointment for the product manager. And, it means realizing, as my childhood friend found out on the playground one day, the laws of physics do apply to you.

John Riggins ([email protected])
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*02 The Art of the Trade (off)

Man, do I hate to admit this. I am much too old to be in fantasy football, but I am, and I enjoy it. For those of you not into fantasy football (and I daresay everyone has some fantasy), one has a team that he drafts or buys by auction, much like the NFL. When an individual player socres points, the team that "owns" him scores points. During the season, an owner may trade his players, again just like the NFL. A trade may make or break his team.

Why am I bringing this up? A trade is a negotiation. It is playing one's cards against the other's. The art of negotiation may make or break your firm, or successfully promote it or hinder it. So here are some tips:

First and foremost, a negotiation is a meeting of the minds. It is not about winning. If one goes into a negotiation determined to win, then he will probably lose, because even if he "wins", then the other party will always be regretful, or even vengeful. To begin with, the purpose for a negotiation is that both parties should have something that the other wants or needs. It is almost like forming a partnership. Both sides must feel that they benefit from the arrangement, or all is lost.

It is always imperative to listen to what the other person is saying, when points of conflict become critical. That hackneyed expression: "Put yourself in the other guy's shoes" totally applies to negotiation.

However, this does not mean to imply that one should be a pushover. Set your goals and compromise when it makes sense to achieve those goals. Be prepared to not come to an agreement if the other party is totally unreasonable. A non-deal is better than a bad one.

This may sound childish, but there should be no finger-pointing, shouting or harmful insinuations. A negotiator must find a way to express his opinion in ways that will cause the other party to regress from his position. Hostility can cause the other party to remain so adamant that it is time to walk.

By the way, I am not telling you if I am winning or losing with my football trades, but I will tell you that I don't feel cheated, nor do I feel that I cheated anyone, and that's fun.

Steven Jackson ([email protected])
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