Where do you begin?

When you’re looking at a new product situation, whether you’re a leader in an investment firm, a general manager, or a product manager, where do you begin? In my recent discussions, the top three areas of concern for leadership are:

  1. revenue
  2. operations
  3. product innovation

From my involvement with Primary Intelligence, and also with Alan Armstrong of Eigenworks and Adele Revella of Buyer Persona Institute, I’ve become a real fan of win loss analysis. That’s where to begin as you look at problems in your revenue generation. Win loss analysis answers the questions: "Why do we lose deals?” and “Why do we win deals?” It’s likely you’ll find from win loss analysis some simple things to fix in sales training and coaching, sales enablement, and leadgen, but you’ll also find some areas of the product and operations that could use your attention.

“Operations” covers a lot of areas, depending on your type of business. Challenges in this area generally undermine the efforts in revenue generation. In manufacturing, you want to look at each of the steps of your supply chain. In software, you want to look at your online services, support, and professional services offerings. Cumbersome methods and mistakes in operations sap your company’s profitability.

Once you’ve got a handle on sales and post-sales support, it’s time to look at product development. But what I hear most often is not the mechanics of developing products—agile methods seem to have taken care of that. What I hear is roadmapping and prioritization. What I’m hearing is that we don’t have a product development problem; we have a product management problem.

The executive team doesn’t know what’s planned or how the choices were made, and they fear that the team is working the wrong things.

One company is moving from on-premise to cloud. They’re moving pretty slowly. And the team has focused on some not-very-interesting features first. Now, there may be some logic behind the roadmap—infrastructure before features, for example—but the exec team can’t see it. What’s happening beyond the next sprint?

For most companies, it’s best to look first at impediments to selling, next look at profit leaks in operations, and then you’re ready to take on product development and management.