How to Build a Product Management Team From Scratch

Introduction

  • When I started at Pepperjam, the first big objective was to build out our product management capabilities. At the time, I was a new people manager, a new product team manager and the product team was starting from scratch. While we had some staff, we needed to hire more, while we had an existing product stack, we needed to completely revamp it, and while we had an engineering team, the product team wasn’t working as well as it could with engineering to build new products.

  • Before my first day, I did as much research as I could on best practices and product management to supplement my personal experience in technology and engineering background, but I never found a highly tactical playbook of how to build a product team from scratch from a leader that had actually completed the task.

  • Most posts were about improving a specific aspect of product management or were too strategic to be helpful to someone in an actual operational role.

  • I hope this post (and it’s subsequent links) can serve as the guide I wished I had on my first day of building Pepperjam’s product management machine. This will serve as the master post, and I’ll continue to update the links as I finish each segment.

PM Team Guide Target Audience

  • This guide is meant to discuss, step by step, how to build a product management team from scratch. It is by no means perfect, but it is practical.

  • Feel free to jump around, but it is constructed in what I believed to be a logical and sequential order.

  • Most posts will be at a very granular level of detail and focus on implementing a certain aspect of the product management machine.

  • This guide will also contain knowledge I have gained from working in Private Equity - a couple of examples include presenting to your board and how to produce go to market analyses.

  • Ideally, you are a VP/Director/Manager of product management folks and have some ability to dictate processes.

  • If you are an IC/Individual Product Manager, what is detailed in here is great fodder for 1/1’s with your department lead and will hopefully give you an idea of what you need to understand to make it to the next level.

  • Regardless of your starting place - I’d love to hear from you, especially if this guide has helped you build great products!

PM Team Guide Non-Target Audience

  • This guide will not be geared around high level instruction commonly seen on the internet. Ex - Why product management is important or 10 tips for faster product releases.

  • It will not focus on ideological debate between Agile/Scrum/Pick Your Development methodology, but it will focus on the problems the methodology you elect should solve.

  • This guide also assumes basic to mid-level awareness of product management terminology and what a product management organization is trying to achieve.

  • If you are looking for an introduction/overview of product management, this guide is way too detailed and tactical. There are several great introductory resources that have covered Product in very helpful ways:

How to Build a Product Management Team From Scratch

  • Part 0 - Concepts, Terminology, and Tools for High Performance Product Management Machines

    • BOSS - Business Operations Support System

      • Firing Lines

      • Change Management

      • Principle Over Position

      • Set Others Up for Success

      • Wildly Important Goals

        • Wildly Important Goal Updates & Frequency

      • Important Over Urgent

      • Best Practices

        • Triggers

        • Best Practice Template

    • Product Management Principles & Thinking

      • Articulating the Value of the Product Team to Your Organization

        • Value of Product Management

        • Value of Design

        • Value of User Research

          • Ten UI/UX Guidelines for the Practical PM

      • Product Team Principles

        • Cost of Process in Product Management

        • Integrating Remote Employees & Remote Workflows

        • Why Working Quickly is a Non-Intuitive Competitive Advantage

        • Maker vs Manager Schedules for the Product Team

        • Mental Models Relative to Product Management

        • Rules for Making Good Decisions Relative to Product Management

        • Decision Making Factors – Incorporating Impact & Cost of Failure On Product Decisions

        • Decision Making Biases Relative to Product Management

      • Software Product Design Principles

  • Part 1 - Setup the Product Management Machine

    • Determine Product Management’s Responsibilities & Tasks Within Your Organization

      • Product Management Interaction with Engineering

      • Product Management Interaction with Sales

      • Product Management Interaction with Marketing

      • Product Management Interaction with Finance

      • Product Management Interaction with Account Management & Services

    • Build the Product Management Team

      • Product Team Roles & Responsibilities

      • Hire a Partner Product Manager

      • Hire a Product Manager for an Existing Product

      • Hire a Product Manager for a New Product

      • Hire a VP/Director/Leader for Your Product Management Team

    • Team Culture

      • Reward Good Decisions, Not Good Results

      • Extrinsic & Intrinsic Motivation

      • Tough Situation Handling - Mistakes, Bugs & Data Errors

      • Affirm the Absent

    • Select & Configure Team Software Stack

      • Product Management Software Stack

      • Knowledge Management Software Stack

    • Select KPIs & Determine Method of Measurement

      • Cohort Analysis For Product Teams

      • Additional Business Metrics for Product Teams

    • Create Initial Product Team Artifacts

      • Competitive Landscapes

      • Market Maps

      • User Stories

      • Customer Personas

      • Product Vision

      • Technical Debt Assessment

      • Go To Market & Target Market Analysis

      • Product Pricing

      • Product & Feature Priority Queue

      • Product Roadmap

      • Partner Ecosystem Strategy

      • Product Requirements Document

  • Part 2 - Deliver Value to Customers with Your Product Management Machine

    • Update & Maintain Product Team Artifacts

      • Update & Maintain a Product Roadmap

        • Share Your Product Roadmap: How, When, and With Whom

      • Manage & Prioritize Technical Debt

        • Manage Stakeholder Technical Debt Perception

    • Product Management Meetings

      • Individual Contributor & Manager

      • Product Management Team Meetings

      • Cross Functional Team Meetings

    • Product & Feature Releases

      • Determine Optimal Release Frequency

      • Release a New Product

      • Release a New Feature

  • Part 3 - Improve, Optimize & Refine Your Product Management Team

    • Evaluation & Performance Reviews

      • Evaluate Individual Contributor Product Managers with Scorecards

      • Evaluate Product Manager Leaders

    • Developing Product Team Member Skills

    • Organization & Board Management

      • Estimate Product Management Costs & Return On Investment

      • Create a Organization-Wide Product Update

      • Create a Company Board/Investor Product Update

    • Continuous Team Improvement & Hazards on the PM Highway