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Projects-to-Products: The Most Overlooked Skill Set in Making the Transition

By Brian Nathanson posted Oct 28, 2019 04:30 PM

In my last two posts (here and here), I alluded to the fact that modern product management incorporates many product marketing concepts.

In my opinion, product marketing is the single most overlooked skill set in making the project-to-product transition. Simply put, most stakeholders traditionally involved in engineering (i.e. developers) or finance (i.e. PMO) do not have much, if any, experience in this area and -- as a result -- are ill-equipped for the demands of addressing customers using a product perspective.

The rationale for this statement is rooted in the difference between projects & products as well as the psychology of your typical consumer/customer:

  • Projects are, by definition, one time events that have a definitive end. Almost any individual or group can get excited or focused for an effort for a relatively brief period of time. We commit our attention to accomplish the goal, pat ourselves on the back, then go back to our regular business -- the idea being that the job is done and that any additional work is somebody else's responsibility.
  • In contrast, Products are enduring assets that result in ongoing relationships with stakeholders, especially customers. Maintaining excitement and positive energy about a product requires an entirely different approach as you will ask your customers to (re)focus on you regularly to allow you the opportunity to demonstrate the value you continue to add. This is a long game and the ability to regain people's attention becomes critical. That's where product marketing approaches come in handy.
I elaborate on this distinction is great detail in a later post since I believe understanding this difference is a key factor in successfully making the projects-to-products transition.

I will spend the next few posts discussing a few high-level product marketing concepts that have worked well for me in navigating our own product management challenges. The statement made above was significant enough, however, that I felt it deserved its own post.

Feel free to disagree. If so, please let me know by voicing your opinion in the comments.