Tag Archives: product manager India

E-Book Review: Strategic Role of Product Management

Book SRPM

What is it About?
This is a short e-book by Pragmatic Marketing about the strategic value of a good product management team to any technology organization.

Who should read it?
It is a good read for PMs who are not sure of the tasks they handle in their company. It offers compelling arguments for the strategic nature of product management activities. It also clearly distinguishes the roles of sales, marketing, finance and product management in the technology organization. It should be circulated among the senior management staff in offshore R&D centers to make them comfortable with the role of product managers.

Key Takeaways

  • Product Managers understand and try to fulfill market needs, not customer, engineering, finance or sales needs
  • The Product Management team has a variety of tasks, and product marketing, product line managers and technical product managers can co-exist within the same team, working on different aspects of the product portfolio
  • Product Management is a strategic role, and PMs should not report to engineering or other functions, but directly to the CEO

What is Missing?
The e-book does not discuss the software engineering process, and the role of product owners. Agile is relegated to the task list of the technical product manager. It offers little insights into how an offshore product management role could be structured or how someone should work in that role. Finally, there is little information on how to train product managers on the flawless execution of their various tasks.

Relevance for Indian Product Managers
This is an excellent e-book to share with the organization, if you are new to the function, or if the role of product managers was introduced recently. It also evangelizes the value of product management, so getting stakeholder buy-in should be easier once they read it. Finally, if you are in offshore product management (enterprise or consumer) you can expect only the role of technical product manager to be relevant to your work.

Final Thoughts
Read the e-book, share it with everyone whom you are trying to influence, and learn from the examples given in it. Attend the training that they organize, if it happens in India.

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5 Reasons Why Product Managers Should Get An MBA

Product Manager with an MBALong story short, you should definitely do an MBA if you wish to grow your career in the field of product management in India. Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. The Network: If you get into a good, full-time MBA program at any of the top 10 colleges in India, you will become part of a ready network of alumni. Pretty much every large tech. firm in India has one or more IIM/ISB alumni working in a senior role today.
  2. The Knowledge and Skills: I have previously written about the challenges of becoming a one-dimensional product manager. Obtaining first-class training on marketing, strategy, finance and organizational design will have a huge impact on your ability to contribute effectively in many more dimensions. Additionally, strategy formulation, project management, statistical analysis, linear programming and soft skills such as negotiations, effective presentations  etc. are not necessarily learnt in IITs/NITs or on the job. Doing a full-time MBA forces you to practice these skills.
  3. The Job Interview: End of the day, everyone wants to be a part of a top notch product management team at a top organization such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Yahoo, IBM or others. An MBA from a top college will make it easier to get your resume shortlisted, when you are starting your career. It will also open doors when you want to change jobs and you have the relevant work experience.
  4. The Safety Net during Recession: Ignoring the contempt about GOMBAs (Grossly Overpaid MBAs) and their lack of skills, the MBA is the preferred degree when you are laid off, in a recession or likely to face salary cuts. They have the most mobility within the organization and across companies and roles if facing involuntary movement from product management.
  5. The Confidence: Let’s face it, wearing the hat of a product manager every day while dealing with every department in the company can be daunting for most of us. Gaining admission to a top MBA program and surviving it will give you the edge when you are dealing with anyone in the workplace.

If you are not able to get into a top MBA program, it does not matter. There are still plenty of organizations where you can hone your skills and gain practical experience while looking for career growth opportunities.

A part-time MBA can also be useful, but I would be extremely cautious while evaluating the B-school, the maturity of the program and the subjects and quality of course work it offers. Do not join the program just because it’s cheap or because it allows you to work while you study.

Finally, if you graduated from an IIT, NIT or another top college, you can probably continue in your career without an MBA. But even then, you should consider a part-time MBA or a Masters in Technology for the skills and advanced knowledge they provide.

Web Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 2

Times of India has the requirement of a product manager. However, the hiring firm is actually called Times Internet Limited.

Online Product Manager
Location: Delhi
Desired Qualification: Graduate/ B.E./ B.Tech
Desired experience: 2 – 5 years

The full details of the advertisement are given here.
So what should a prospective candidate analyze from this information? Here a peek:

  • It’s about the subscription pay wall design and how it is implemented around the world, so it’s a very specific role
  • Competitive research is very important, the depth of research will depend on the type of report generated and the audience
  • Website launch is another key requirement, so this role will probably be less important after 6-9 months

Here are some insights on the role based on the advertisement:

  • Its more about business analysis and launch and not product design. MBA from any good college will be useful
  • A very junior level role, compensation will probably be between 4-8 lpa
  • It is possible to grow from this role in to more customer facing roles, such as business development or partner management
  • The role requires little to no technical knowledge, basic smartness and research skills are important
  • The role does not report into engineering leadership, so a software engineer may not fit this role
  • You can expect good opportunities in the job market after this, in online advertising and media
  • Monetization and content management will be other product management roles that are part of the same team
  • Times of India is a great brand in any résumé, and will be a strong plus for career growth
  • Marketing skills are important, but cross functional co-ordination or project management is not.

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for Times Internet and their website, timesofindia.com. This post is only provided to prospective PMs to show how to interpret job ads for product managers

If you have applied/joined somewhere for a web PM role similar to this, then drop me a comment, and we can discuss the same.

5 Social Networking Recommendations for PMs in India

network cablesOne of the vital dimensions of Product Management is the skill of networking and the ability to connect with different people. This includes people outside your department and company. A strong network of contacts can often help in getting the next job, increase your visibility in the industry or give a boost when you are among the dozens of candidates vying for the coveted Google or Amazon product manager role. And no, the network cables shown here are not going to help you in that effort.
So how do you expand your network of online contacts? Well, there are three sites where you must have a well-developed profile:

1. LinkedIn
This is your most important professional network and you must have a complete profile here. Start inviting everyone in your firm who you interact with to connect on LinkedIn. As a rule of thumb, after every month on the job, you should have at least 5 new contacts here. Additionally, if you meet other product managers, or interact with them on social media, they should be invited too. However, a premium account is not necessary.
2. Facebook
This is the place where you invite people whom you meet socially and regularly in the workplace. They need not be peers or bosses, but perhaps someone you share a lunch with. As always, don’t post anything you would not want your parents to read.
3. Twitter
Start following people who have similar professional interests such as product management, product design, UX and top people from the industry. If required, keep 2 twitter accounts, one for professional reasons and the other for personal interests. However, it is not recommended to link Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

Additionally, you should:

4. Express online opinions
If you have opinions on product management or about your industry, you must share it with bloggers. For example, someone actively in promoting social media for PMs must be aware that the Desi PM is writing about it, and should post a comment here.

It is strongly recommended that you post it in your own name, unless it is controversial and you would rather do it under an alias. In any case, you must track these forums and share your opinions.

5. Join internal networks within the firm
If you work for a large firm, there will be tools such as IM, SalesForce Chatter, Jive and others in use. You must create a strong presence there. However, the downside is that their usage is totally predicated on the presence of senior management, and the culture of the firm.

Today, almost every recruiter does a Google search or views LinkedIn on potential candidates before processing a résumé. So you can actually consider your online presence and your networks as extending your résumé, irrespective of whether you are searching for a job or not.

In the resources section, I am adding links to real world events such as Unpluggd, IPMA meetings and TIE meetings that can be good source of contacts too.

Web Product Manager Recruitment Ad – 1

drawingHere’s a look at a job ad from a prominent web firm (People Group) in India

Shaadi.com
Position: Product Manager
Location: Mumbai
Basic Function: Product Manager is primarily responsible for strategic product planning, defining, delivering and continuously innovating Internet based consumer products and services. Product manager should strive to create world-class products that are marketable and should be instrumental in getting the same implemented.

The ad goes on to further mention the job responsibilities, position requirements, necessary skills and good-to-have attributes.

So what should a prospective candidate analyze within the following information? Here’s a peek:

  • What are the products within Shaadi.com that he would be working on
  • What does “Training and mentoring teams as and when required” mean
  • How can he “ensure timely delivery of projects”
  • How can a product manager not be a “team player”

Here are some additional insights into the role solely based on the advertisement:

  • Its a junior level product management role (4-6 years experience), so expect compensation between 8-15 lpa, based on experience, non-MBAs can expect less
  • “MBA from top B-school” is written to mainly reduce spam resumes, anyone from from the top 25 schools can apply, or any engineering graduate (IITs, NITs etc) working as a web PM can also apply
  • There will be little ownership of products or sections of properties within the website, so this is a good role if you want an all round education into different tasks in the web PM space
  • Formal training and support for further education is not to be expected
  • Shaadi.com has a large user base, so expect to design many UX solutions, experiments, wizards, that focus on client issues and interactions
  • Web analytics and the metrics they provides will be used to gauge the success of the solutions
  • Competitive analysis against other sites such as jeevansaathi.com is paramount, specially for the solution you will create on the job
  • There is little to no budget for user studies or market research
  • As the role is mainly about feature performance, roadmapping and creating specifications, you are likely to fall into the trap of one-dimensional product management. However, neither Agile nor Scrums are mentioned in software development, so the question mark on ultimate accountability remains.
  • This role does not report to engineering head, so there will be independent appraisal of PM contributions. PM will probably have to track feature development and learn project management.
  • Growth from this role will likely be to Senior Product Manager, and in rare cases, into Product Head. You can expect good increase in market value if you stay within the role for a couple of years.

Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for People Group and their website, shaadi.com. This post is only provided to prospective PMs to indicate how to interpret job ads

If you have applied/joined somewhere for a web PM role similar to this, then drop me a comment, and we can have a quick discussion.

The Product Manager and Analytics

AnalyticsWith analytics seen as the game changer both within the firm operations and support support functions as well as for sales and marketing, it is important that the PM get a good grasp of analytics as a subject and the associated tools. The Wikipedia entry for Analytics calls it “the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data.” Additionally, wikipedia entry for Google Analytics calls it “a service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visits to a website.”

It should be clear now that analytics comprises of statistics, reports and patterns in data generated from different sources. Additionally, in the software world, analytics is also used to identify features of interest, and in some cases, especially for web products and apps, analytics actually becomes an important module (to track feature and product usage) to be developed in the product.

So what does a product manager need to know about analytics? Well, first of all he should understand the type of analysis that is useful to clients, senior management and engineering teams (web analytics, customer segmentation, product performance reports, product usage reports or something else). So here’s a glimpse of the analysis that is useful:

  • Product performance/usage reports (how many people use the product, what segmentation is possible etc)
  • Product sales reports (customer profiles, segmentation, geographies etc)
  • Website usage reports (if its e-commerce, then products looked at, purchased etc, for other sites the browsing patterns, exit pages etc)
  • Website experiments (A/B tests, multivariate testing and so on)
  • Customer surveys and forum post analysis (to identify features of interest, trouble areas etc

Something that is clear here is that all this analysis must be performed periodically, at least once a quarter and must be an important input in future product planning. And this also means that product managers must a) gain expertise in statistical analysis and b) build a good rapport with the analysts or analytics team.

So how does one learn about these different analytics domains?

Here’s one suggested route.

  1. Start with a book or online tutorial on statistics and learn the fundamentals from that
  2. Download some free statistical software such as pspp (or use MS Excel) and go through the some hands on exercises available on the net there
  3. Add Google Analytics tracking code to your personal website or blog and start viewing the reports available. Then read the entire GA help documentation.
  4. Read some good books on website design to increase your knowledge of experiments on website usage
  5. Learn SQL, a vital tool for querying databases and getting aggregate results
  6. Finally, read articles, books and tutorials on Business Intelligence and Dashboards

The “resources” section of the blog has links to various useful software, tutorials and books. You can use them as a reference.

If you spend “An Hour A Day” on these every weekday, it will take you a good 3-4 months to get to the final part. After completing these, you should be in a position to talk meaningfully to the analytics teams, create useful performance reports from raw data, and support your feature specifications using live data.

All this will definitely turn you into a Data Driven Product Manager, which is an immensely vital skill for product management today.

Note: There is a strong relation between Big Data and Analytics, however, for most part it is not relevant unless you are either designing the big data infrastructure or you already have user access to the infrastructure.

In a future post, I will summarize the connection between product managers and analytics, given the 4 types of product managers in India.

Four Flavors of Product Management in India

Let’s face it, the product manager’s primary role is to understand the market and customers and then make judgements regarding his product(s) based on his analysis. So being in India, you have two broad categories of product management activities based on the market, the Indian market and offshore product management, typically for US as well as two categories based on the type of customers, Consumers and Enterprises.

If we represent them in the ever popular 2X2 matrix, they would look something like this:

A. Offshore Enterprise Product Management B. Offshore Consumer Product Management
Companies such as Oracle, SAP, Microsoft (some parts), IBM, CA Technologies, NetApp, Nokia Siemens Networks Companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft (some parts), Amazon (some parts), Adobe, Intuit (some parts) and others
C. Indian Market Enterprise Product Management D. Indian Market Consumer Product Management
 Companies like Onmobile, Tally and HP, Dell and some others have units with PM roles that focus on the Indian market. HP and Dell also have large R&D centers that have offshore product management roles  Companies such as yatra.com , makemytrip.com, shaadi.com, Comviva,  redbus.in, flipkart.com, Nokia, Intuit (some parts) and so on

For ease of representation, I made the following assumptions:

  1. Enterprise includes all small, medium and large enterprises
  2. Consumer includes internet, apps and ecommerce
  3. Indian market includes the subcontinent and APJ if relevant to the organization
  4. Offshore market is mainly the US with UK and EU included as necessary

Now given the vastly different focus areas of these organizations, it would be a huge folly to classify all product managers within the same bracket of skills, knowledge and experience. Actually, this classification also indicates the variety of tasks and various stakeholders that a PM will encounter in his work. For example, an Indian consumer market PM must keep track of the deals being handled by business development managers, whereas the offshore consumer product manager may never even talk to business development managers. However, one thing that remains sacrosanct is that if you are a PM in India, you must cultivate good relations with the engineering staff.

One interesting point, it is the offshore consumer product management roles that pay the highest salaries today, as PMs have a very large role in the success of these organizations both in India as well as their parent location. At the same time, these roles also have the lowest shelf life, and can quickly disappear in a downturn, re-organization or simply due to passage of time.

Today, many organizations are copying Job Descriptions directly from their US websites without a clear understanding of how different this role is in India. To give one example, the JD of the PM for a large internet firm in India and the US is the same, however, while the role in the US reports to the head of product line of a business unit, the role in India reports to a director of engineering. Obviously, both roles are vastly different.

In fact, given the lack of knowledge among recruiters about the different categories of product management, very often candidates end up in a wrong interview, being under-prepared or simply unaware of the realities of the workplace before accepting the offer. This can cause unnecessary misunderstandings which can be avoided by simply preparing a realistic job description before interview.

In a future post, I will take a sample job description from a current job posting and explain it.