A Product Management Evolution

Collaboration. It’s what gives me energy and gets me to work each day. But collaboration is not always easy. It takes a common understanding and aligned vision. It takes effort. At Prime Therapeutics’ 2012 annual client advisory meeting, I explained to our clients what I wanted and how I envisioned us working together—then I asked for their support. At that point, they didn’t have much insight into our product vision or roadmap. If I had asked them if we were missing anything, I never would have gotten off the stage.

Back then, our organization, which manages pharmacy benefits, had this perception that the product team was about back-end fulfillment. For example, if someone needed a product enhancement, he would ask the product team to deliver the new feature. The product role was about tactics, one-off requests and operational support, but little strategy. And, clearly, there was not enough collaboration.

To further complicate things, our product team had a melting pot of experience in healthcare, project management and business analysis, but some team members lacked traditional product-management experience.

We brought in Pragmatic Institute to create that more strategic function and to unite our skill sets to bring consistency and standardization to our work. That was really the beginning of our journey.

From the first day, we were able to establish a common language to rally around and build a new set of skills we can use together to evaluate and build products. Processes that used to take more than 30 weeks can now get done in as little as 8 weeks, because of that common foundation.

We’ve changed our approach to client collaboration. Rather than putting a list of things in front of clients and hoping that they’re going to like it, we’ve changed the dialogue to ask them about the problems they’re facing. We now agree on what we need to solve for first. Then we go back to the customers to discuss some of the solutions we think could address those market problems. When our products are done, instead of selling our clients on it, we can go straight to talking about implementing it. Our clients love that, and so when we ask for additional time with them, they are happy to provide it.

Because we understand our market problems, we’re also not losing time debating among ourselves what we should do or why we’re doing it. Instead, we spend that time making sure things are technically sound and delivered on time, in scope and as expected.

Flash forward to this year’s client advisory meeting. We had worked with our clients to create a three-year product investment roadmap, and after presenting it during the meeting, I asked: Are we missing anything?

The room was silent. As I expected, we had made our clients part of the process, and any holes had been addressed as we worked together. Pragmatic Institute provided the fundamentals to build deeper collaboration and to proactively solve market problems.

In one year, we’ve elevated our product team’s reputation from being viewed as a back-office support function to being seen as strategic product leaders. We have the right tools, we have a vision and we have collaboration. But we are not yet satisfied. It’s not about what we have done, it’s about what we will do tomorrow.


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