Are 'Product Manager' and 'Consultant' Mutually Exclusive?

When I tell people I’m a Product Management Consultant, it sometimes throws them.

“Product Management Consultant?  I haven’t heard of that,” they say. 

Then, “how does one use a consultant to help with product management?  Isn’t product management too strategic to not be in-house?”

So first off, let me acknowledge that yes, product management is a very strategic function.  In fact, if you are doing it right, it’s one of the most strategic functions in the entire company, perhaps second only to the CEO. 

As such, there are companies are often reluctant to wholesale “outsource” the role to a consultant.  I agree with this thinking, but there are still lots of opportunities for a consultant to improve the core functioning of an strong in-house PM team – especially by shining a light on the external issues that matter the most to the market.

For example, here are some projects that can really benefit from a PM consultant’s “outsider” perspective:

  1. Kick-starting the Product Management function at a startup company that never had the function before.

  2. Coaching product managers and teaching core Product Management skills to your Product Management staff, individualized for their career stage and challenges.

  3. Analyzing existing processes used by Product Management and Engineering and recommending improvements that better align with industry best practices.

  4. Assessing a new market for an existing product -- unhampered by the product’s history, an outside consultant can often make a better judgement as to whether an existing market will address the problems in a new marketspace.

  5. Administer Beta programs and other customer feedback programs. These programs are critical, but have high administrative workloads. An outside consultant can handle the administration side for you.

  6. Competitive analysis –  Comparing a product to leading competitive products, examining the positioning, product functionality, underlying technology, go-to-market approach, and more.

  7. Product collateral such as white papers, data sheets, demos, product presntations, training presentations, videos, etc. It’s really easy to have external consultants and contractors product collateral, provided that the message is either decided by or discussed at length with Product Management.

  8. Win-Loss analysis – Lost prospects or won customers are more frank about the real decision making process with outsiders, because they are not afraid of insulting the Product Manager’s beloved product and are more likely to be candid about their Sales Rep’s performance.

Sue Raisty

Product management geek, born-again engineer, adoptive mother of boys, coach & mentor, mountain trail runner, tinkerer, no-bull communicator, wannabe writer, room mother & compulsive researcher.

Silicon Valley, California http://blog.sueraisty.com