Thursday, October 21, 2010

Feature Boy and Demo Girl

Maybe 10 years ago I attended the Pragmatic Marketing course along with a Marketing team I was then part of.  I enjoyed it and found it worthwhile, but mostly in the context of the whole department getting on the same page about what our roles would be in launching products.  Beyond that, it was a good reminder of best practices and there were a bunch of great tips in there.

One of the cautions Steve Johnson (our inimitable instructor) gave us was to avoid becoming Demo Boy or Demo Girl -- to remember to keep our eye on the market, and not to let the Sales team bleed us dry with building and delivering demos.  Good advice, a decade later.  Since then, I've either heard or read or made up a corollary to Steve's Demo Boy/Girl caution -- that is, to also avoid becoming Feature Boy or Feature Girl.

There's a balance in both of these cautions that needs to be maintained.  Being invited to give demos gives you an audience to learn from -- time with customers and executives who can help you with your product, your market, and your career.  And likewise, learning the in's and out's of your product, either through giving demos or reviewing features closely with developers and designers gives you great insight into how well or poorly it'll actually satisfy the market needs you wanted to address.

The trouble is, if you're great at giving demos or shaping features, the people that need a demo or help with a feature will do everything they can to use your talent to their advantage, leaving you less time to do other important work.  Deflecting these requests or finding ways to scale them is a classic PM challenge, and I'd love to see comments back with your personal tricks -- I'm sure we'd all benefit from them!

Whatever your approach, remember that your job is to be the custodian of a product -- the custodian of that business -- not to be the savior of a feature or a deal.  It's the rep's job to close the deal, and the engineering team's job to deliver well-designed capabilities that work as intended.  They need to do their jobs, and you need to do yours.  Keep your eye on the problems your market needs solved, and focus on leading the organization to solving them.

All for now,


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