Yesterday I listened to Barbara Tallent of LiveBinders deliver “Why are there so few good product managers: a CEO’s Perspective.” She has been both a CEO and product manager and had interviewed 6 CEOs to prepare for this webinar. As I listened, I couldn’t help but put on my competitive intelligence hat, as many of the traits that make a good product manager also make a good competitive intelligence manager. Yet the jobs are so different!
Product managers have all the responsibility for the product, yet none of the authority. The best product managers need to understand the customer’s world. Don’t filter customer’s input based on what you believe. A common question product managers ask executives is “what keeping you up at night?” to get focused on what the executive needs immediately. That is the same question I ask executives during the competitive intelligence needs analysis process, and for the same reasons.
Another big one was LISTEN. While you need to be an excellent communicator and deliver insightful and engaging presentations, you need to know when to stand back and listen. That is a key competitive intelligence skill as well, and one of my key cooperative intelligence practices, since in any profession our communication too often is expressing our opinions without carefully listening to the other person.
Don’t let the appearance of process become more important than the outcome! Your career will advance once you prove yourself, just not today! Put the success of your product first and your career will follow!
Desirable traits for product managers include good communication, smart, articulate and dogged. I would add “curious” for a competitive intelligence professional since we do a lot of digging!
Here is what was different. While CEOs may be critical of product managers, they expect future leaders to have product management experience. Product management is more a career advancing position. Product managers typically look to round out their background, so after a few years in the job are more apt to take jobs in marketing or development–somewhere new that moves them up the organization. Few competitive intelligence professionals have a progressive career path. And CEOs don’t look for leadership to have competitive intelligence experience!
Like product managers, competitive intelligence professionals rely on others in their company for support who do not report to them. Both jobs require that delicate balance of gaining cooperation from others by pushing the organization where it needs to go while being constructive and NOT creating an adversarial role with other people. Product managers focus on a product or service. Competitive intelligence professionals often do damage control and prevent companies from making the wrong moves and present opportunities for growth.
Competitive intelligence is a behind the scenes profession whereas product management is a visible position. Every company has product managers, and everyone knows what product management is. Many don’t know what competitive intelligence is, or who is spearheading the company’s initiative. In this weak economy many companies have laid off their competitive intelligence managers, so various employees in sales, marketing, product management, strategic planning, R&D and engineering are doing competitive intelligence as part of their job, and more companies are outsourcing competitive intelligence: they are not outsourcing product management!