Skip to main content

Evaluating a Product Manager's Performance

In a previous entry, I argued that companies should not evalute a product manager's performance flatly in terms of product revenue. How should, then, a company evalute a product manager's performance?

One way that Steve Johnson mentions on the productmarketing blog is in terms of the number of on-site visits to prospective and existing customers. The Pragmatic Marketing folks advocate basing bonuses on the number of on-site visits. I believe that on-site visits (in particular, one-on-one interviews) with customers are the single most effective way for a product manager to gain an understanding of the market. I have observed also that companies tend to underestimate their value.

However, I don't believe on-site visits quite get at performance. On-site visits are a means to an end. That end is an in-depth understanding of the market that a product manager successfully communicates to developers, sales, and marcom. If developers, sales, and marcom then do their jobs right, the product will likely succeed.

A company should evaluate a product manager's performance in terms of how well she communicates an understanding of the market to the development, sales, and marcom teams. I propose that a company can measure this performance by surveying the staff of those departments, asking them how well the product manager has imparted information about the market. Ask sales how well the product manager has profiled the different buyers. Ask development how effectively and convincingly the product manager has communicated the requirements. Ask marcom how clearly and credibly the product manager has defined the key messages to use in marketing programs.

Comments

Unknown said…
A 360 degree audit is a good idea but don't forget that sales, marcom, and development are often expecting tactical product support rather than market information. I'm not sure I want them determining my income so subjectively.

Here's a thought: what if we bonused product managers on next year's revenue?
Roger L. Cauvin said…
Important points, Steve.

Expect a couple of entries in the future refining the 360 degree audit idea to address the "tactical expectations" problem.

In the meantime, can you elaborate on your idea to bonus product managers on next year's revenue?
Scott Sehlhorst said…
Interesting stuff. I went back and updated an article I wrote about this (from Jan 2006). I do agree with your emphasis on customer engagement.

http://tynerblain.com/blog/2006/01/30/five-measures-of-product-manager-performance/

Popular posts from this blog

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Use Case as a Black Box

Consider the following use case: Purchase Items Actor: Purchaser Precondition: Purchaser types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40. Postcondition: For the average Purchaser acting at full efficiency, the number of seconds elapsed is no more than 30 + 20 * n, where n is the number of items purchased. The name of the use case represents a functional requirement. What does the product do, or enable the user to do? Purchase items. What are we to make of the preconditions and postconditions? What relationship do they have to the requirements for the product? Answer: the preconditions and postconditions are the nonfunctional requirements attached to the functional requirement . Another way of expressing the nonfunctional requirement would be as an attribute and associated constraint: Usability: For a Purchaser who types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40, it shall take no

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the