5. In-Life Product Management

This stage is where you see the true return on investment from following methodical evaluation and launch processes. You now get to see the product perform as you expected or are able to articulate any differences in a meaningful way.  The resulting analysis is a key product management performance indicator.

My view on this area of collaboration is similar to my view on customer satisfaction in general. Assuming you ask customers for feedback, the question is whether you gather any feedback from your teams regarding customer performance with specific products. For instance, has the resource to install and support the product been as expected? What has arisen after multiple deployments? What could be revised to improve customer performance etc… They are actually more likely to answer on the finer detail at this stage than customers, who are normally either happy, or not.

Win/loss Analysis

Product management and sales should be working closely together ensuring every sales cycle outcome is analysed for its key factors.  These can then be broken into themes to guide next steps.  Here are some examples of levers at the early stages of win/loss analysis when underlying information may be sparce:

  • Poor sales ratio levers: review internal training, accuracy of demand, competition and segmentation research, marketing plan
  • High sales/low discount: review price and marketing strategy
  • Poor deployment performance levers: review internal training & documentation, adoption curve and staff turnover
  • Poor price performance levers: review sales training in full value of proposition, review accuracy of demand, competition and segmentation research
  • Poor software performance levers: review sales training to set the correct expectancy, level of field testing, technology stability versus qa standards, 3rd party integration issues.

Development Request Management

The staggered marketing and adoption approach discussed in Blog 4 also helps you make wise enhancement choices rather than responding to early, unhappy customer threats if you don’t develop what they are demanding.

If the enhancement is not commercially viable you are in a much stronger position to decline, as long as you explain the process and how you evaluate requests.  Strong brands can do this because of the diligence that has led up to this point and the fact that an intelligent product management methodology exists.

There are also some great guiding principles here which could be considered as product management best practice.  They are really checkpoints before you invest time fully defining and delivering developments:

  1. Is the request in a universal format with relevant questions answered including value of the change?
  2. Have support staff agreed that there is no suitable alternative within the product?
  3. Has a commercial person agreed the change offers incremental wide-scale value?

If the answer is yes to all 3 of these questions now is the time to find evidence of similar requests and gain a high level development indication, then  the concept evaluation process (blog post 1) can begin.

Later in life

The importance of win/loss analysis does not diminish over time as new competitors and new technology will appear and trained staff will leave. You need to know as soon as the former effects your performance, if not before, and you or your technical teams should be constantly analysing the latest technical possibilities.

Depending on the specific factors within your market, such as degree of bespoke systems, you may wish to adopt later life-cycle phases as follows:

  • Twilight – New developments are not added, compatibility with new operating systems not guaranteed
  • Legacy – All above plus support resolution is not guaranteed

When the time comes for you to take action because of any of the factors above, there are some simple golden rules which help:

  • If you are ending a product always outline an alternative and why
  • If you are exiting from the category or market segment, but want to maintain your brand reputation, why not devise an ITT for your customers and potentially even do some supplier validation work for them in advance and see if you can gain some preferred terms for them.
  • If you are moving all customers from numerous old versions to a single platform, be honest, share how your organisation will be more efficient and robust and the benefits for them.

In-life management is part of the fundamentals of product management.  If your portfolio was launched through processes similar to those in our blogs, the win/loss analysis is just the next stage of the process. If that’s not the case you can start by inviting feedback from internal teams on the existing portfolio in a defined way. Essentially you need to know the following things:

When we sell product X, this happens (i.e. nobody can install & support it like experts anymore) and the consequences are this (i.e. consultancy overspend, customer pain, cancellations, brand damaged, compensation given etc…), possible resolutions include (training investment versus remove product and focus on those aligned with core competences).

Once you combine the feedback with sales history you will quickly be able to evaluate pain versus revenue enabling you to remove, refine, re-train or replace.

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