Product Managers Need To Know Who Their Internal Customers Are

Product launches are one of the most difficult things that product managers are called on to do. The reason that they are so difficult to do well is because no matter how detailed of a product development definition you’ve created, there are still a large number of moving parts that are involved. It can be very easy to focus on the target customers who you are hoping will select your product. However, it turns out that there are even more types of customers that you should be worrying about: internal customers.

Sales

Let’s face it: your product will never be a success if the sales team does not go out and sell it. What this means for you as a product manager is that you need to make sure that you take the time to communicate with your sales teams long before the product get launched. Get this right and you’ll have an important addition to your product manager resume.

This is an area where you need to make sure that you are not guessing. What does your sales team really need from you? You could end up creating all sorts of presentations and brochures for them; however, if this is not the way that they sell your product then your time will have been wasted.

Instead, you need to have a talk with sales. Find out how they expect that they will be selling your product. If it’s possible to do so, go out with them and shadow them as they visit customers. Discover what customers want to know about your products and then equip your sales teams to provide it to them.

Support

Right after support, the next internal department that is going to contribute the most to the success of your product will be your support team. Once the product has been sold, these are the people that will be getting the calls directly from the customer in order to get answers to questions and to get issues resolved.

One of the most important things that a product manager can do is to make sure that the support team has plenty of advance notice about a new product. You need to ensure that there will be no surprises. They need to know what the product does and any limitations that you know about before it goes out the door.

In addition to making sure that your support team knows what is going on, you need to make sure that you’ve reserved enough time for them to get trained on your product. You want them to be intimate with how the product works before they get the first call from a customer about your product.

Finance

One department that many product managers forget to think about as an important internal customer is the finance department. This is a mistake. The finance department helped your product to get off the ground, it’s now critical that you keep them in the loop as the product is launched.

One area that will have the interest of the finance department has to do with the decisions that you make during the product launch regarding pricing. The initial pricing of the product, the proposed discounts, and the actual discounts will all have an impact on the company’s bottom line.

Before, during, and after the product launch you need to be working with your finance department. The two of you will have to be watching your profit targets, and the product costs so that you can ensure that your product will be profitable.

What All Of This Means For You

There is no one thing that will make a new product a success. Ultimately it comes down to a number of different, but interconnected, items. All too often a product manager can focus on the customers who will be buying the product and forget about the internal customers whose support is needed in order to make the product a success. Working closely with these internal teams should be a part of every product manager job description.

There are many different internal groups who make up your internal customers. The sales teams are among the most important. You need to work closely with them to understand what they need from you and to provide them with it. The support teams will have the most contact with customers who purchase your product. Make sure that they know what the plan for launching the product is. Finally, your finance team is not always considered when launching a product, but they can be key to making sure that you have any additional funding that you need and supporting your next product launch.

No, being a product manager is not an easy job. However, understanding all of the various parties from whom you need support in order for your product to be a success is a key step in being a successful product manager. Make sure that you take the time to meet the needs of your internal customers and they’ll be willing to help you to make your next product launch a success.

Get Promoted at Work Quickly by Enrolling For Online University Programs

Factors Contributing To The Need For Online Education
The increasing cost of education is causing students the world over to postpone or give up on their dream of furthering their education in order to work for their tuition. Furthermore, the increasing competition in the job market, especially now as the world economy is facing rough weather, is only adding to the woes of the students. While many professionals with a number of years of experience are being forced to return to classrooms or opt for online university programs to improve or enhance their education qualifications.

Changing Demographic Structure
As a consequence of the above three factors, there has been a paradigm shift in the stereotypical version of students. No longer are students enrolled in degree programs aged from 18 to 23 years only. Today’s student is aged from 18 to 40 or even 50 years. The demographic change can be attributed to the changing trends in higher education and increase in the number of online university programs being offered by various educational institutes.

Growth Of Non-traditional Students
With the demographics changing, higher education is no longer the domain for only those who wish to get a well-paying job in a reputable company. Today higher education has moved from brick-and-mortar classrooms to virtual world classrooms, without any compromise on the quality. As more and more non-traditional students flock to virtual classrooms seeking higher education, the emphasis is no longer on time and money for good education.

The focus has now shifted to offering affordable and accessible degree programs that cater to a range of students including working professionals, students, and even stay-at-home moms etc; basically anyone that is interested in boosting their career and gaining knowledge in an attempt to better utilize their time and intelligence.

Easy Accessibility, Increasing Interest
The easy accessibly to higher online university programs, thanks to the reach of the Internet, has prompted the government officials and more education institutions to make sure that people from all ages, levels of experience, and background get an equal opportunity to educate themselves. Today, several universities and colleges, not just in the US, but also in other countries like the UK, Asia and Europe are offering degree programs in various disciplines. They are also offering programs for skill enhancement and augmentation. The world is now borderless and has become a common platform for any person to achieve better education.

Changes To Promote Online Education Programs
Most of you who may have tried the virtual education medium may very well know that the systems of higher education offered virtually aren’t without their fair share of issues. From lack of personal interaction to outdated information and lack of proper instructions, any prospective student may easily end up frustrated and disillusioned despite the hype and promises. Therefore, it is very important to promote changes to ensure an increase in popularity of such education programs. Changes should include ease of admission, payment options, enrollment information, affordability, and depth of syllabus amongst other things.

Really, Really Complex Products: Is PLM Software The Solution?

There are a lot of products out there that need product managers. However, there is a special class of products that needs a special type of product manager – the really, really complex product. These things have too many parts and subsystems for any one person to keep straight. Maybe it’s time to bring in the big guns: Product Life-Cycle management software?

What The Heck Is A PLM Package?

Remember those big ERP software packages that every company seemed to be running around and installing in the 90?s? Well guess what, a PLM package is sorta the same thing, but it’s focuses on managing really big products. The purpose of installing and using a PLM system is to allow a product manager to manage just about every part of his / her product’s life-cycle. This starts with the concept / design phase, goes to manufacturing, into maintenance and (depending on the product) may even include managing its eventual disposal. Generally speaking, PLM packages contain three separate components that are designed to automate the development and eventual production of products:

A CAD system that allows the product to be designed in detail. This allows each of the components that makes up the product to be inventoried and tracked.
A digital manufacturing system which allows your firm to simulate how they are actually going to manufacture the product (it’s a lot less expensive to simulate first, and then build-out the factory second)
A Product Management Data System (PDMA) which provides you with a single place to put everything associated with your product: CAD drawings, parts lists, specifications, etc.
So What’s Wrong With PLM Solutions?

I can almost hear the little gears in your Product Manager head clicking as you come to the conclusion that one of these really expensive PLM systems is exactly what you need your company to get their hands one. Hold on a minute. It turns out that, as with everything else in life, a PLM solution is not the silver bullet solution that you might initially think that it is. It turns out that there are three main problems that can pop up when you use one of these systems:

Software Compatibility: this is a tricky issue that can show up and bite you at any time. If one half of your team designs your blue widget using v3 of the PLM CAD program and the other uses v4, there’s a good chance that the two parts won’t fit together. This is the problem that caused Airbus’ A380 superjumbo airplane to be delayed for two years.
Missed Errors: since the PLM system allows you to live in a virtual world, product managers stop creating real products for testing. This means that errors in design can be missed that won’t be caught until manufacturing has already started.
Bad Data: the ability to maintain a data warehouse that is both current and accurate and which does not contain any bad data can easily turn into a full-time job.
What All Of This Means For You

Every product manager would like to have a dedicated assistant. When you are responsible for a very complex product, this becomes an even greater desire. Sadly such assistants are few and far between. However, the good news is that PLM software packages can provide you with a lot of what you are looking for. However, these sophisticated product management tools come with their own set of challenges. Issues such as software compatibility, testing products, and the scourge of bad data can interfere with the successful launch of a new product.