The Importance of Product Success Management

The successful management of products will become increasingly more important in the future for one simple reason – if a company fails to manage its products well, that company will stumble or fail.

One need only points to the fact that approximately 35% of the companies listed on the 1965 Fortune 500 list have either gone out of business, been acquired, or are a fraction of their prior size. For instance, Kodak, which dominated the film business, is now worth less than a billion dollars.

It is not well known, but the job of the product manager is the most important job in the company. But seldom understood.

Too many think that a new product is somehow is handed down from inspiration, technology or an idea from brainstorming or innovation. Successful products do not come from those things. They do come from product managers or from people that do the job of a product manager. Inspiration, technology, ideas, and innovation come later.

The profession of product management actually started in 1932 at Procter and Gamble, a consumer products company, at the dawn of the industrial age. In 1938 when Hewlett-Packard (HP) was founded, they adopted P&G’s “brand management” as a model giving a person effectively the full authority and responsibility for a product and/or a product line. HP called it “product management” and “product marketing management.” That role, for all HP products, contributed significantly to the fact that HP grew 20% per year for 50 years. Quite a feat that is currently unmatched by any other company I can think of.

In short, HP recognized, and over the years, as so have thousands of companies, that the “product manager” or as I prefer to call them the “Product Success Manager” is critical to product success, company success and individual success. That means what you are reading here will determine your future success.

I happened to be lucky enough to get trained as a product manager at HP and was recruited later by Apple because I was an HP-trained product manager. Based on what I knew how to do, I rose quickly through Apple’s ranks to become the Apple /// Business Unit or General Manager at the same management level as Steve Jobs.

As companies learn more about the vital role of product success managers, they will understand that by having that role in their business, they can significantly reduce the rate of product failure which is currently running at about 40%. These product failures waste over $1/2 Trillion of the earth’s human and natural resources. Every year and is growing. Such an unnecessary waste.

Every president of P&G, since they invented the role of a product success manager, has come from that career field. You could also start as a product manager and then grow in your career to be the president of a company or even your own company. But the “hot” words these days are an “entrepreneur” and “growth hacking.” The word entrepreneur is just French for a product manager, oops I mean product success manager. Growth hacking is marketing by another name, not some secret sauce.

Some people think that if they go into finance that is where the money is. But all the finance people do is count what product success managers do. Or they might use the results of product success managers to convince investors to invest. But generally, they do not create value. Product success managers deliver value, especially when teamed with excellent engineers to create the product.

If you aspire to be successful and/or rise to senior management positions, there is no better career field than starting as a product success manager. In fact, over the past ten years, the profession has begun to come into the limelight. While there are dozens of conferences in the area, and workshops and courses offered by training institutes and universities, I find the curriculum offered by most of them missing most of the critical topics. Most training programs tend to be “let’s do it this way because that is the way we did it before.”

Such “hand me down” training, especially in light of the digital transformation, social media, instant communications, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles to name just a few will tend to lead faster to product failure than to success. Don’t believe me, think how well agricultural practices would have worked in the industrial age. Or how well industrial age techniques work in today’s information and digital age. Industrial age finance still says that people are a liability and property is an asset. Really?

I know, as perhaps the oldest still working product success manager who has trained thousands of Product Success Managers at such companies as Cisco, Samsung, Capital One Bank, Botswana Telecommunications Company, Dell, Phillips, and others. With my more than 48 years of experience on over 75 products and 11 startups. I have written about those experiences in my books “Building Insanely Great Products” (http://amzn.to/2gLxVcI) and in “Foundations in the Successful Management of Products”.

While organizations are in need of product managers, it is also true that these organizations do not want their product success managers to learn on the job. But most do.  They want to hire them to hit the ground running and get the job done.

One way to do this is to take the Spice Catalyst courses either online at or in person.  For more information go to https://spicecatalyst.com/courses/. The key is to do the workbook which can then be used as a portfolio to prove one knows how to to do the job.

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