Previewing The Guide to the Product Management Body of Knowledge (ProdBOK?)

Both Nick and I (Adrienne) were fortunate to catch up with Greg Gracie from Actuation Consulting in Chicago in December 2012.

Greg has spent the last 2 years engaging globally with product professionals, user experience designers and project managers to create the foundation of good product management practice known as the the Product Management and Marketing Body of Knowledge.

Here’s what Greg has to say about the ProdBOK.

Most product managers, at some point in their careers, attempt to transfer their skills from one vertical (say healthcare) to consumer products and struggle to make this jump. Why? This is because most hiring managers emphasize domain skills over product management skills. The simple fact is that hiring managers aren’t clear on what product management skills are transferable.

How did the profession get to this point and what can be done about it?

The truth is that while the product management profession has been around for approximately 75 years it’s still in the early stages of development. There isn’t a common standard that has been agreed upon by the majority of industry players. This market fragmentation means that there isn’t a common lexicon, open standard processes, and agreement on the key tools and techniques that make up the profession.

Without industry agreement hiring managers will continue to emphasize domain skills over product management skills because they have never been defined and codified. Today there is still a heavy reliance on proprietary frameworks and viewpoints from single insightful individuals. Take for example product management books. If you go to you will see that all books, including my own, are written from the perspective of one person – one person’s take on what product management is and how it should be practiced.

This is about to change.

Since 2011 a team of over 60 thought leading professionals have been working to codify a product management and marketing body of knowledge known as ProdBOK. I have been responsible for leading this effort as Editor-in-Chief. Our effort has been sponsored by the Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM).

All bodies of knowledge have two requisites to be legitimate. The first is they need to be sponsored by a leading professional association. The second is that BOKs need to incorporate a wide range of industry players in order to build a semblance of consensus.

Our mission is to lay down the cornerstone of the profession in an effort to support the development of an open professional standard that clarifies the language, processes, and toolsets that product managers rely upon. To achieve this objective we have recruited a wide range of industry players to contribute as both writers and reviewers. These are many of the best minds in the industry and the adjoining professions. The list of participants reads like a who’s who of well-known names and spans academics, analysts, authors, bloggers, consultants, practitioners, and thought leaders. We have truly taken a best of breed approach.

Bodies of knowledge form the foundation for consistency in terms of training and practice. Additionally, they help establish the boundaries of the profession. Without ProdBOK executives, adjoining professions, hiring managers, and practitioners have no map to the profession and have to continuously recreate the wheel. This is inefficient and often ineffective.

We are now nearing the end of the multiyear effort and we anticipate that ProdBOK will be available in the April timeframe. So we are at the threshold of the next phase of evolution for the product management profession.

It’s our hope that the work that has been done by so many devoted professionals, that have given freely of their time, will help improve the dynamic for product managers by laying the cornerstone, defining the boundaries of the profession, helping practitioners and those responsible for product management organizations increase their understanding and the standards of practice.

You can follow the final steps of this journey at our blog Take Charge Product Management. We are posting interviews with many of the contributors as we march toward launch. In fact, you’ll find an interview that I recently conducted with Adrienne and Nick there as they both contributed to this effort.

You’ll know that we have been successful in our mission when hiring managers place more emphasis on your skills as a product manager rather than your knowledge about a domain. This won’t happen overnight – but it will happen.

The first domino is about to fall…

Greg Geracie is the author of Take Charge Product Management?, the Editor-in-Chief of The Guide to the Product Management and Marketing Body of Knowledge (ProdBOK), and the leader of this initiative.

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