This article is aimed at founders, leaders of a product practice or folks looking to set up a product practice within a new or existing organisation. If you’re looking for more general information about what product management is, we have resources to cover that here, here & here.
Being in the product management consultant game for some time now, we have a good idea of the types of problems our product management consultants outperform internal employees at, these are including but not limited to:
- The need to overcome inertia or momentum & launch a new product
- Move to be product-led (as opposed to sales, marketing, founder-led) org
- Increasing product maturity
- Overcoming some type of internal challenges or inertia
- Training, coaching, mentoring of product & adjacent teams at all levels
- Proposing & implementing new ways of working
- Running workshops to create cornerstone artefacts e.g. roadmap, mission/vision, ideation, customer journey mapping etc
On the flip side there are certain things that we strongly believe should be handled by an FTE including but not limited to:
- Creating and maintaining relationships across the organisation including with acquired companies & satellite offices
- Forming real meaningful relationships, understanding & empathy of your users
- Developing and building an understanding of the space your product/business operates within and monitoring for shifts that risks or opportunities
The next few paragraphs talk about why we believe engaging a consultant as opposed to an FTE – should be your next move.
Internal Vs. External Product Management
Many businesses believe that their full-time product management team has the time, capacity and skill set to handle all the company’s product development and management initiatives. And in some cases, that can be true. There are, of course, benefits to having a full internal product team. In-house employees already understand both the ethos of the company and its long-term goals. For another, an internal employee can be better prepared to work across a wider range of functions if required.
However, those strengths can all too easily turn into weaknesses. Working strictly within a company’s established workflows often leads to stagnant, in-the-box thinking. Meanwhile, splitting a product manager’s focus can impact the success of the product. As such, objectivity, independence, and focus are more valuable. And that’s exactly what you’ll get with an external product management expert.
What we’ve seen is internal teams really do come in all shapes and sizes. You may have a few product managers who have been around for a while, a few that are new to the team/org. Some product folks with relevant exposure to the industry your product serves and others without. Within the team, there are often varying levels of product maturity (mindest, process, toolkit), soft skills & EQ. Further, we typically find product teams are often time-constrained, “excess” capacity is quickly utilised – typically, the focus of the team is split across multiple initiatives requiring frequent context switching.
As a result, we often see inconsistent ability to carve out time for connecting with customers, product discovery, desktop research of competitors, risk and opportunities. Often we see teams that started from a good process point of view, or have great process documentation – but for one reason or another, do not utilise this process (or any) causing inefficiencies.
Internal teams coming off a period of rapid growth or transformation might still be more “pirate” than “navy” and need help overcoming that mindset.
We’ve seen instances where the team has not internalised the mission & vision or, the product initiative vetting process is not robust or complete to match the current state of the organisation – as a result, what’s built doesn’t work in the real world.
All of the above are descriptions of situations in organisations large and small that our consultants have helped improve. External consultants can jolt the process, prompting out of the box ways of thinking & working whereas your next product hire might instead look to adapt to the way things are done currently leading to suboptimal results.
Product leaders benefit from having an independent perspective when they leverage our product management consultants’ experience in a variety of industries & contexts. Discussions with our consultants during an engagement can help you make better decisions about the structure, makeup, operation ethos of your product team(s).
8 Reasons to Hire an External Product Management Expert
The advantages of hiring external product managers don’t stop there. In fact, eight other key factors usually contribute to companies hiring expert consultants. Check the benefits out below, which include expertise, agility, and cost-effectiveness.
1. (Generalist) Expertise
Some of the very best external product managers are expert generalists. In other words, they have a broad range of knowledge that they can apply to your business. Now, you may believe that the niche thinkers of the world have more to offer. But, in reality, product management is most successful when it’s steered by people who understand each part of the process.
Development, design, and delivery implementation are all exceptionally deep knowledge bases. The field in which your product is positioned is likely to be intensive, too. So, rather than looking for someone who specialises in one single area, consider a consultant who is experienced in every element.
2. Industry Experience
As well as their wide-ranging bodies of knowledge, consultants can offer first-hand industry experience. Crucially, with industry experience comes an understanding of industry best practices. So, by working with external product management experts, companies have the opportunity to learn from the sector’s biggest success stories.
With the help of an external product manager, businesses are able to deliver a product that surpasses competitive standards. From there, they can take what works and apply it to future products, goals, and cost-saving initiatives.
As mentioned earlier, external product managers are not strictly beholden to their clients’ ways of working. Resultantly, they have far more scope to be independent, creative thinkers. This might not sound like much, particularly within a business that puts a lot of stock into its day-to-day processes.
However, there’s a lot to be said for a product manager that doesn’t worry about colouring inside the lines. They aren’t confined to a single perspective and, as such, are more likely to bring fresh ideas to the table. For companies struggling to conceptualise or deliver a profitable product, such insights can be invaluable.
Generally speaking, product management consultants are well-versed in all the major software platforms and technologies used in their field. This allows them to adapt to the processes that work best for your business. It also allows them to offer up suggestions for different approaches that have the potential to accelerate progress.
So, in being so adaptable, external product managers inject a sense of malleability into new workplaces. This is very often a boon to business agility, giving companies the chance to continuously evolve as their product takes off.
Another major advantage of hiring an external product manager is that they can be objective. They don’t have to be embroiled in office politics or concerned about who they tick off. As a result, they’re far better placed to identify redundancies within a product’s lifecycle and do something about it.
Is there a team that isn’t contributing to a product’s overall success? Are there workflows that are delaying the process of bringing that product to market? If so, a consultant will have the distance and impartiality to put changes into action.
6. Data-Led Growth
Regardless of the type of product your company develops, data will be pivotal. Always remember that product management is as much about the consumer as it is about the business. There’s no way you can deploy and deliver a product that enjoys consistent success without tracking their engagement.
When you hire an expert consultant, they will take care of the data capture and analysis. And, with so much experience behind them, they’ll know exactly what to do with their insights. So, you can be sure that any findings will be used in service of sustained progress.
When companies look to hire external product managers, they have the benefit of doing background research. Before making a final decision about who to hire, they can look into track records and reputations. In doing so, companies can easily find trustworthy consultants that have proven experience in the relevant field. And that’s all without having to conduct lengthy job interviews and provide in-house training.
Finally, many people decide to hire external product managers because of how cost-effective outsourcing is. While the upfront fees may appear higher than hiring an in-house employee, there are far fewer overheads. Not to mention the fact that consultants are likely to bring more to the table than hired employees.
With an external product management expert, you don’t have to provide company benefits. You also won’t need to cover the cost of training, equipment, and office space. Plus, a product manager can be retired at any time. So, once your product is well-established, your company no longer has any obligation to keep them on board.
Is Hiring an External Product Manager Right for You?
External product management experts have a lot to offer businesses of all types. They can bring a wide range of experience, a broad knowledge base, and an adaptable approach, all of which are invaluable when delivering new products. Not to mention the fact that their objectivity and adaptability can contribute to much sought-after business agility.
In many instances, and for all the reasons mentioned above, hiring an external product manager is likely to be right for you.
Product management is where company goals and customer value meet. It’s become a common organisational function over the last several years. Product management focuses on successfully growing a product from its inception and guiding its growth to maturity based on consumer needs. Done right, businesses are able to build stronger customer experiences, tap into more sustainable growth, and boost their top-line and bottom-line.
While it may seem logical to train an in-house product manager, bringing in a consultant is often far more beneficial. External product managers will already have a wealth of expertise at their disposal. Plus, in helping your company to deliver quality products, they could also save you money.
Read on to find out if hiring an external product manager is right for you. Whether your business plans to develop a niche digital product, widely adopted mobile application, a non-digital product or anything in between, here’s what you need to know about hiring an external in-house product management expert.
Curious about what an embedded Product Management Consultant within your team looks like?
Let’s take a fairly typical example where Product Rocket is engaged to elevate product maturity within a new or established product team.
Get started by reaching out to Product Rocket, you can call 0422 710 710 and speak to Gavin or, drop us a note via our contact page and we’ll carve out time to meet, virtually or in-person when allowed. We work through our ‘product maturity assessment’ with you – a set of questions taking around 30-45mins to work through. This assessment gives us (and you) insight into areas of strength & areas for improvement. We re-run the assessment after the engagement to quantify the extent of improvement.
Around this time you’ll meet a few of our consultants. We’ll only put forward folks we think will suit this engagement. You can then choose to move forward with an embedded engagement based on your schedule and the availability of our consultant. Engaging one or two consultants in a way is engaging all of them, our team of product managers collaborate regularly to discuss pros, cons and approaches to client problems.
Phase 1 – Immersion
Phase one is about building context, setting more concrete goal posts and frequently communicating with our key stakeholders who engaged us as well as other important stakeholders. Think of this as a rapid onboarding period lasting up to four weeks.
Once we’ve sorted out the contractual agreements and lined up a starting date we begin immersion. Immersion is where our consultant shadows our key internal stakeholders. Invite your consultant to WIPs, Agile sessions, Planning sessions etc – our consultant will seek out folks from these meetings to interview and build context around the areas you’ve highlighted as key ones for improvement. Additionally. Our consultants will be taking note of other areas for improvement which you may not have considered or have visibility off.
Phase 2 – Recommendations & approach
Phase two is about surfacing the findings from phase one. All the intel which has been gathered around the areas you wish to focus on as well as adjacent areas identified by our consultant is tabled. Here, we’re looking for robust discussion and prioritisation of areas to work on.
This period may last 1-2 weeks and here, we firm up the artefacts to create, processes to impact, roles to hire for – whatever is required.
Phase 3 – Implementation
Phase three is about executing. Though your consultant has likely participated in the product development process, strategy, goal or initiative setting/prioritisation already – phase three is where we look to make the most impact on your produce practice.
An example of what our consultants have done in phase three includes but is not limited to:
- Running one or more squads
- Interviewing product, design & engineering talent
- Coaching across existing product, design & engineering
- Process design
- Roadmapping with executive level, founders, board-level stakeholders
- Mission/Vision setting/evangelising
- And much, much more
What Is Product Management All About?
Product management is all about creating products that will perform well when brought to market. From conceptualisation to early-stage planning, positioning, and pricing, product management experts are there every step of the way. At each one of these stages, it is their job to balance company targets with what the consumer expects.
To do this job effectively, a product manager needs to have two key things. First, they must have good knowledge of the product, including why it’s needed and how it works. In addition, they must also have an understanding of the product’s market. Only with both ingredients can a product management expert create products that consumers really want.
Other teams will be responsible for specific stages in a product’s lifecycle, such as marketing and development. Product managers, however, are involved throughout. Their exact process may vary depending on how the product evolves. Regardless, they must always keep business objectives in mind, particularly customer-led ones.