We had the pleasure of working with Nathan Moyes this year at Fairfax Digital. Nathan’s attitude to Product Management is refreshing particularly his idea that Product Directors should drive from the centre of a business unit instead of the top. Here’s what Nathan had to say about Product Management ……
Describe Product Management
Product Management is about being the one who knows what is going on. What is happening with customers, in the marketplace and inside the business itself. You throw all of this in the air and keep it there.
Often Product Managers get buried in a mix of day to day operations or project management. These are big parts of getting work done, but they need to be balanced against the need to look ahead, to think about ideas and options.
Ultimately the Product Manager is at the centre of so many parts of a business unit. They are the one who has to find a way to bring seemingly incongruous demands of different customers. Also having to balance the demands of growth and good cost control (living and breathing inside the P&L is critical), seeking to be creative and building long term strategic plans while delivering today on another critical implementation.
Product Management is about harnessing change to built better products and services for customers, which will deliver strategic results for the business.
What are Product Managers responsible for at Fairfax Digital?
Everything! FD Product Managers have to understand their market segments, what customers need, want, will pay or tune in for. They need to understand what the competition is doing and where new threats my come from. The PM must also be aware of technical changes and the opportunities that these will allow.
At the same time they need to know how to build a robust business case that will stand assaults. They need to be able to champion the case and work through the matrix of business units and business rules.
Often the PM finds themselves a project manager – a key part of the job, but it is of course operational and tactical which can feel far removed from the strategic work. Balancing strategy and implementation remains a challenge, while more often the not the PMs have to do both at the same time.
Good PMs dive into the metrics underneath the business their involved in. They become commercial managers contributing to the operational, financial and communications required for their product or service to be successful.
In the best cases, the PM embraces ownership. This convenient blend of responsibility and accountability is represented in different ways depending on the business model. Most do and make a significant contribution to the culture, creativity and success at FD.
What issues do you face as a Product Director?
In all companies that I have worked for preaching the gospel of Product Management has often been a challenge. The role invariable exists, but it is more often the case of having to explain the potential, the genuine improvements to the business of making it s product driven business.
This is not putting product in control, but allowing product to sit right in the middle of the business where it can have the most impact on success. Part of this challenge is convincing product to take responsibility and accountability, with it the chance to own processes, decisions, and risks.
Practically the issues I have faced are also the successes. More than once I have had to build a product team, hiring the right people who can stretch from strategy to tactics successfully. But it is a fantastic review to see a team established and the first time product managers now in charge and doing well. Better still when they move into other leadership positions because of the foundation built in the product team.
The challenge for Product Directors is to drive the business from its centre, and not always at the top. This means managing a vast array of stakeholders and diametric strategic and operational expectations. But that it is why it is always interesting.