Wednesday

Product Management and Knowledge Sharing


Sources of knowledge for Product Managers: knowledge within people.

If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times as profitable stated CEO Lew Platt.

Companies where knowledge exists in discreet islands (business units or departments) seldom benefit from the synergy of everyone knowing what everyone else is up to and even more important sharing of experiences with one another.

I worked for a company several years ago that had half a dozen R&D labs located around the south of England. Each lab was pretty much a business unit in its own right. Product Managers were located with the R&D teams. This meant they we were close to where the products were being designed and had the opportunity to monitor progress and get close to the technology. The company then took the decision to move all Product Mangers to a central location – this was aimed to help us all share cross product knowledge. Then it moved us back with the R&D teams and finally, just before I left it centralised us again. The point is where Product Managers should sit as to best facilitate knowledge sharing.

My current company, up until recently, had all the Product Managers sitting at one end of the office and the development teams sitting in their product groups occupying the rest of the office. A few months ago we had a total reshuffle, principally due to the fast pace of growth resulting in the number of people joining the technology department.

Now the Product Manager teams sit among their development and test teams. This has improved knowledge sharing and has promise of improving productivity. It will also aid in the new agile scrum methodology that we are adopting.

The implementation of scrum (an agile development method) also promises to improve knowledge sharing as product owners meet for sprint planning and sprint review meetings. The daily 10 to 15 minutes sprint meetings also means that fresh snippets of market knowledge will be periodically and informally fed directly to the development teams. This can only aid in ‘the team’ gaining a better understanding of the markets.

Knowledge sharing is important for the profitability, success and ongoing growth of products.

I will report more on scrum and the knowledge sharing benefits as time goes on.


  • Do you have any experience in scrum fostering knowledge sharing that has resulted in improved products or features?

  • Where do Product Managers sit in your organisation – among the developers or some where else?

Please feel free to post a comment or two.

See: sharing knowledge for more information regarding the benefits or knowledge management and product management.

9 comments:

  1. Knowledge Sharing is extremely important in my opinion. Even if you do not do SCRUM your PM should find a non-intrusive way to stay updated with current R&D situation.

    In our small start-up we do not really have a PM per se.
    A guy who owns applications consulting/sales engineering/technical marketing responsibilities also drives the PM process together with head of R&D and head of marketing. So you may say he is our PM also who is very close with R&D, marketing, and sales (on a daily basis using the product and constantly giving feedback). But that is a small organization.

    So in my opinion the closer the PM to the actual process within R&D and client support the better it is for the product.

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  2. I agree, Alexey, that PMs have to stay up to date but the bigger the company the harder it is to know what is going on internally. I have worked for a small company (head count of 50 to 60) – information and knowledge seemed to be in the air – you just picked it up in an informal way as you walked around the place. I have also worked for SME and currently a large company – I have found that the bigger the company the more the need to implement processes and formally meetings to enable knowledge sharing.

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  3. Derek,

    What tools did you use to support those processes and knowledge sharing? Wiki's or something else?
    How about release planning?

    In my previous company (~60people) alot of things were tracked through a bug-tracker and some internally developed intranet site. One big missing capability was product/support knowledge management system.

    -Alexey

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  4. It doesn't much matter where a product manager sits in an organization if the VP knows how to use product managers strategically. If not, product managers become support for that organization. Ideally, a product manager has technical knowledge combined with market savvy for better business decisions at the product level.

    For more on my take on this issue, read where the product manager belongs on productmarketing.com.

    Cheers,
    Steve

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  5. Kees van Grieken1 April 2007 at 10:04

    In our company the product managers (12 people for 6 different product lines) are located together to stimulate the synergy between the products and to learn from each other to improve our product management skills. And there’s another reason. A product manager is working in close cooperation with customers, sales, marketing, logistics and R&D. In my opinion sitting close to R&D lead to too much internal focus.

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  6. Hi Alexey,
    We had very little in terms of formal process or tools. We had an open office and team meeting (customer support, project management, sales) tended be held in the open - everybody overheard discussions, meeting and telephone calls. This enabled you to follow through with the relevant people concerned or just keep the information in your head and make the appropriate decision if and when need be. We used MS office to store all the sales and project records.

    Hope this answers your question

    Derek

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  7. Hi Kees van Grieken
    Seems like you have a good set up at your company - 12 Product Managers to 6 product lines - this sounds like a strong team! Is it 2x Product managers per line? What type of products are you managing – and what is the split of responsibilities?

    Derek

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  8. Hi Derek,
    We are in the industrial automation business and developing our own hardware and software. We split the responsibilities also in hardware (inclusive embedded software) and PC-software (tools en management applications). In my opinion a logical split because the life cycles in both worlds aren’t running parallel.

    Kees

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  9. Hi,

    I blogged not too long ago on this topic. Take a look at:

    http://onproductmanagement.wordpress.com/2007/08/09/how-to-be-a-great-product-manager-part-5/

    Saeed

    ReplyDelete