5 Minutes with Holly Vaughn, Head of Product Management Practices (SITA)

I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Holly Vaughn speak at the 2010 Product Management Leadership Summit in New York in May. Holly is from an organisation called SITA, the leading provider of telecommunications and IT solutions for airports. Some of SITA’s offerings include a 24 x 7 global command centre that monitors and manages air-to-ground, airport, data centre and network support systems for 300 airports and 2000 airlines.

I was extremely keen to interview Holly because she had an unusual role in Product Management. Holly does not actively manage a team of Product Managers with product accountability and P&L responsibility. She has an unusual role in Product Management. Holly heads up a group of people that supports Product Managers through the management of best in class Product Management practices.

A role such as Holly’s indicates that SITA is committed to Product Management and have provided their Product Managers with a support structure that they will enable them to carry out their jobs effectively.

Here’s our interview with Holly.´╗┐

1. What is your role at SITA?

My role is to lead and have overall responsibility for the Product Management best practices across SITA, including the governance, principles, processes, standards, policies, guidelines, tools and methodologies required for managing the product portfolio.

2. How do you contribute to the success of Product Management at SITA?

I contribute by continually learning the better practices of Product Management and applying those that are relevant to the SITA Product Management community with the intent of strengthening our business.

3. Can you describe the Product Management structure at SITA?

At SITA we have five levels of product managers, each with growing levels of responsibility. They are Associate Product Manager, Product Manager, Senior Product Manager, Portfolio Manager, Senior Portfolio Manager.

These levels and responsibilities are documented on our intranet site along with the required criteria and suggested learning path.

4. What advice would you give other organizations when creating governance and structure for their Product Management teams?

It starts at the top. There must be support and engagement from senior management as well as representation from all functional areas on the governance bodies. Product Management cannot stand alone without the support of the other functional organizations.

5. Given that you have a global Product Management team at SITA, what are some of the ways that you have to encourage communication across countries and time zones?

This is not easy, especially in today’s economy when the cost of travel must be limited. We have created a product management virtual community culture. The Product Managers share their experiences and lessons learned in multiple means of communication. We have internal webinars, video conferences, and quarterly newsletters, all as a means of communication to the Product Management community.

Thanks for your time Holly.