Your Product Managers Need Budgets For Research
by Betsy Burton
I’ve been speaking with a number of product and program managers at technology/service providers (TSP) regarding needed features, capabilities, and enhancements. Many of these product managers are trying to develop future-state focused market requirement documents that will help their company compete in their markets, and service their customers more effectively.
The problem, however, is that most product managers don’t have a budget for research. Access to research firms for real research is controlled by analyst relations teams or senior executives. And, in many cases, AR teams don’t want product managers asking analyst questions that might expose their current weaknesses.
No Budget Leads to Following the Market
Without a budget for research, most product managers rely on input from current customers, and depend on publicly available information from the press or releases from competitors.
The problem with relying on current customers is that they end up focusing on solving the tactical issues and challenges of current customers, versus focusing on the future-state needs of future customers. As a result they are unable to understand and define capabilities that might expand their markets.
The problem with relying on information from press or competitors is that they easily fall into the “me too” mode; defining capabilities and features to simply follow or catch-up with the market. Even gathering information from open consortiums will lead to lagging the market, since most industry consortiums are led by other TSPs.
Product Managers Need Time and Investment to Innovate
To develop products and services to support their future market needs and future customer needs, product managers must be given the time and money to research what is needed in the future. This means:
- Budget to hire specialized consultants to help them understand the future and needed capabilities.
- Time and money to research innovations in universities, laboratories, and think tanks.
- Money to run focus groups that include future target customers as well as current target customers.
- Direct access (not just briefing access) to relevant analyst firms—inquiry, conferences, webinars, research notes. And, not through an AR librarian or using AR as a host; real direct access to ask questions.
- Investment of time and money to visit customers, specifically future-state target customers (industry, region, size, demographics, etc.) to understand their strategies and needs.
- Budget for continuing education on both business and technology education. Support PMs attending advanced marketing or technology classes at universities or education providers.
You Get What You Pay For
It is funny.
Companies readily pay for engineering/ development resources and education.
Companies budget and pay for sales training and development. They budget for sales travel and client engagement/entertainment.
Companies pay for marketing (digital, conferences, advertising, presentations, etc.).
The one role that helps to bind these investments together—product and program managers—is often left to scrounge for any information and research.
If you want to compete in future markets, and if you want to develop innovative features/capabilities, you must invest in and budget for your product manager’s research.
Keeping a controlling gate between product managers and analysts, researchers and customers will limit your ability to compete in the future and will lead to dissatisfied/frustrated product managers.
Invest in product managers as much as any other product development, marketing, or sales team.