Product Manager - Steering A Data Recovery Ship

Friday, May 9, 2014 by The Data Experts

Product Management has become an integral part of any corporate setting today. The best analogy for the role I’ve heard is a ship’s captain tasked with steering a vessel in a certain direction. The ship is representing the product and the product manager is the captain tasked with directing where that product goes in the marketplace. When I interviewed for the position with Ontrack, a top data recovery service, nearly four years ago, I had memorized the four Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. I basically had a robotic response to the question of what a product manager does every time I was asked the question. Boy, was I wrong?! In fact, what I learned very quickly is that product management is not only about the four Ps, but so much more…

The challenging part about being a product manager for a data recovery company is that unlike conventional markets, this is a market that is entirely reactionary. Most product managers can rely on some form of predictive analysis but the data recovery market is an ever changing market where the need for product/services comes entirely from a point-in-time incident that leads to data loss. So fair to say that a day in my life is really all over the place but I’ll try to put some structure to it by answering the question in three parts.

What do I do?

I collaborate on building products from existing ideas and developing new ideas. The collaboration side of this involves everyday interactions with Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Tech Support and Operations etc. I will typically interact with all departments during a product release cycle to ensure all bases are covered. As the primary business owner for the data recovery products and services, I am responsible for gathering and prioritizing product and customer requirements, thus defining the product vision. Back to that ship’s captain, I am the captain of my product line and in my role, I am tasked every day with directing those products to meet the needs of my passengers , aka customers. All organizations are faced with deciding what to do with limited resources and this is where product managers come into play. Every day, I am tasked with strategizing where we want to focus our resources and more importantly, why? The “why” is more of a question of what the stakeholders need/want and factoring in ROI. Lastly, our development team identifies me as a “Product Owner” which means they rely on me to articulate my vision to them frequently so they are building something on par with what our customers need.

Why I do it?

Products and Services without a product manager at the helm are like sailing without a compass. Without someone measuring the pulse from the marketplace, it would nearly be impossible to compete in the market. Every organization needs someone to not only listen to their customers, but also act upon the feedback they are getting. When organizations stop listening to their customers or neglect the feedback they are getting, they are essentially choosing to fall behind in the market. Every day, I dedicate time to understand customer feedback we’ve received and how to best incorporate this into future product/service considerations. Any chance I get, I enjoy talking to customers and it’s a big reason I’m driven to doing what I do every day.

How I do it?

Collaboration, Teamwork and Communication. It may sound rudimentary but I am convinced that these are the three magic traits that a product manager needs to succeed in any environment. A lot has to come together when a product goes from a vision to reality.  Without the peers I get to work with every day, product releases simply would not be possible. A company truly has to come together in order for products to find their way out to the market. In my role, I connect the many departments together in order to make products become a reality.