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Convergence of Product and Portfolio Management
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by John Mansour, ZIGZAG Marketing

It’s not that Product Management 1.0 principles are wrong. They’re just not working as well as they used to. Why? The market landscape is significantly different than it was years ago when formalized product management was much younger. If the product management function is to be influential going forward, the basic principles need to be applied more from a portfolio perspective than a product perspective.

Consider the following:

Product Management 1.0 - The Market Landscape Then

  • A higher percentage of new products are developed in-house. Most are broad in scope with mission critical implications. Companies are structured in product silos because many product categories are still relatively immature and a high percentage of customers are buying individual products.
  • Accordingly, product managers work in silos where each product manager does market analysis, competitive analysis, product roadmaps, product strategies, win/loss analysis, requirements, positioning, etc. at the product level. The high degree of redundancy across product silos isn’t much of a problem because it reflects current market conditions.
  • From a CEO’s perspective, new products get the lion’s share of resources because the revenue potential and ROI are easiest to justify. Existing products get leftovers for incremental enhancements.
  • Product companies market and sell horizontally (by product) due to the relative immaturity of many product categories plus the fact that a high percentage of customers are buying single products to address tactical needs.

Fast-forward to recent years and the market landscape bears few similarities.


Product Management 2.0 - The Market Landscape Now

  • Most new products today would be considered features of yesterday’s products, although functionality and sophistication of today’s products is far superior.
  • Bigger product companies have made a practice of acquiring smaller product companies to integrate these sophisticated "feature sets” into core product suites to reduce R&D cycles, accelerate time to market and improve competitive position. Consequently, product portfolios have grown exponentially.
  • Buyers are demanding tightly integrated, industry-specific solutions that span multiple work processes to address strategic objectives.
  • Product companies are expected to possess a wealth of knowledge as it relates to both vertical market dynamics and horizontal best practices for mission-critical work processes.


What Does This Mean For Product Management?

It means the same old silo-style product-centric product management practices will yield rapidly diminishing returns over time. More importantly, the influence of the product management function will decline if its practices don’t reflect current market trends.

If product management is to maintain or grow its influence, it will need to apply basic practices in a very different manner. Here are five key examples of traditional product management practices and how they should be applied in a portfolio-minded organization.

  1. Market Analysis
    Analysis of market trends, revenue potential, competition, win/loss, core competencies and the like are less meaningful at an individual product level but critical at a market segment level for two primary reasons:
    • Portfolio management is about growing revenue and market share by outperforming competition in key market segments with an aggregate suite of solutions. Head-to-head product bake-offs have less impact on the top line.

    • Vertical market assessments are the foundation of the overall company strategy and critical to establishing non-competing priorities across all disciplines. It boils down to determining which markets are spending the most on initiatives related to your core competencies and your ability to align with those markets.
  2. Strategy
    A single company strategy based on market segment priorities all but guarantees alignment across marketing, sales, products and operations. One #1 priority benefits everyone. As it relates to products, the company strategy includes a single product roadmap that aggregates all major product initiatives required to support market segment goals. Product strategy and market strategy become inseparable.
  1. Product Management & Product Marketing Alignment
    Product Marketing becomes more strategic with a stronger vertical or market segment focus with emphasis on marketing industry specific solutions instead of "one-size-fits-all” products. Read the related article on Product Marketing 2.0 .

    Product Management remains horizontal with close alignment to the products, but it must function to a greater degree as collaborative solution teams since the lion’s share of revenue will come from cross-product industry solutions. It’s conceivable that six new industry solutions are nothing more than two business solutions derived from the collective features of four integrated products and delivered to three market segments.
  1. Business Requirements
    The context of business requirements doesn’t change, however their one-to-one correlation with specific products will occur far less frequently when product managers approach business requirements from a holistic view of a customer’s business activities and work processes instead of a product perspective.

  2. Incremental Product Enhancements
    Every product DOESN'T get enhancements in every release cycle in a portfolio structure. Economies of scale dictate incremental enhancements will occur mostly in products that are undergoing major re-work as part of the broader solution development. Exceptions remain part of the rule though when squeaky wheels become justifiably deafening!

There’s never been a better time to make the transition to Product Management 2.0 as many organizations are forced to do more with less. It simplifies everything by bringing an unrelenting market focus and alignment across product, marketing and sales initiatives. Higher impact solutions for named markets result in higher market share and higher revenue.



About ZIGZAG Marketing

ZIGZAG Marketing ( is a product management and product marketing training and consulting firm. Our product management framework and training programs make the alignment of products, sales, marketing and operations easier than any other provider in the industry by giving product management and product marketing the leadership and execution skills to determine the markets most conducive to growing the company as a whole, creating a strategy to penetrate those segments, then delivering the best mix of products, value propositions and sales tools to execute the strategy.


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