Product Management: 10 Question Challenge

Product Management: 10 Question Challenge | The Sterling Woods Group

This article is the third in a four-part series on the digital superfecta: the four things all companies must get right in order to maximize their growth potential. Read on to learn more about the third leg of the digital superfecta, and find links at the bottom of the article to the other three legs.

We’re in the middle of the digital superfecta. Over the past two weeks, we looked at developing online strategies to capture qualified sales leads and convert your visitors into customers.

The third leg of the superfecta is product management. What do we mean by product management? We define it as full ownership of a product or service through its entire lifecycle.  Product management cuts across ideation, development, launch, ongoing marketing and sales, and constant and never-ending improvement.

Ready to see how solid your product management efforts are? Answer these ten questions to see how you stack up against the competition.

  1. Does one person own the bottom line profitability for each of your products?
  2. Do you follow a structured new product development process?
  3. Do you launch at least one new product or service per year?
  4. Do you incorporate customer research into your ideation and development processes?
  5. Do you use a dashboard that tracks key metrics?
  6. Do you base your business decisions on real-world data from experiments and customer behavior?
  7. Do you use Net Promoter Score to capture customer feedback?
  8. Do you seek partnerships to scale your business?
  9. Do you utilize an agile development methodology?
  10. Do you have a formal issue-tracking and prioritization system?

How Did You Do?

Give yourself one point for each “yes” answer.


10: Congratulations on being a world-class product management organization! We’d love to feature you and your advice in a blog article sometime. Contact us!

8-9: You’re almost there! Work on your one or two gaps, and I bet you will notice improved results quickly.

6-7: Consider plugging in additional resources to address the opportunity areas. You are leaving a lot of potential on the table.

<5: It’s time to take a step back and ask if you have the right strategy, team, and processes to be successful in the digital world. Right now, you’re at risk of your competition disrupting your business. You could have fewer headaches to manage and more bottom line profitability if you made changes.

Score Lower Than You Hoped?

All is not lost! Rather than despairing that your strategy and processes aren’t where you wish they were, start taking systematic steps to improve. You won’t be able to fix everything overnight, so start with one weak point and work out from there.

Organize Your Data

So much of great product management is about data. Data is critical in the early planning stages to help you understand the needs of your existing customers. This data helps you to create a product that you think will best address their needs. Once you launch your product, data helps you track results so that you can lean into what’s working and quickly address any issues.

That’s why organizing your data is crucial in improving product management across the board. If your data is all over the place, consider investing in a data management platform like a customer data platform (CDP) to get your data to a place where it can be useful.

Create Structure Around Your Development Processes

Developing a new product takes a lot of time, effort, and focus. If you don’t have a clear process in place, your team will find themselves missing deadlines, duplicating efforts, and otherwise growing frustrated with the lack of direction.

That’s why developing a concrete process is so critical for successful product development and management. Consistent product creation, development, and management is essential for business growth (you’ll note that one of our questions above was about how frequently you launch new products). Without a clear system in place, it will be near-impossible for you to get a new product up and running at least once a year.

Assemble a Smart, Empowered Team

Having an engaged team is the other major component to ensuring successful product management. The first step here is hiring a team that is digitally-minded. You want to assemble a group that’s intellectually curious, business-savvy, and technically up to snuff.

If you have a team that doesn’t understand the value of data, can’t keep up with the latest digital trends, or is stuck in past processes or ways of thinking, you’re going to have trouble getting them on board with new, innovative products.

The other piece here is to empower your team. The business owner shouldn’t be the sole person concerned with the success of each new product. Asking all of your team members to get involved in the product development process—getting feedback from sales and marketing, engaging your programmers and designers in the actual build, and asking leadership to champion each initiative—will ensure that the project stays on track during development and that your team remains invested in its success long after it’s launched.

In short, you need a growth mindset. Want to see how you compare to others on this dimension? Take the Growth Mindset Assessment to find out.

If you’d like to learn more about the digital superfecta, check out Leg 1: Qualified Lead Generation, Leg 2: Three E-Commerce Conversion Gaffes, and Leg 4: Don’t Be Scared of Analytics: A Seven-Step Plan.

About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC

The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to predictably grow sales. We apply data science to help you optimize your sales funnel, improve your marketing ROI, launch new products successfully, and enter new markets profitably.

We use a hypothesis-driven, data-supported methodology to discover insights that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right sales strategies, marketing plans, technologies, and resources to seize this opportunity.​

About the Author

Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Starting his career at McKinsey, his focus has always been on embracing digital technology and data science to spur strategic growth.

Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.

He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.

Rob lives outside Boston, MA with his wife, Kate; daughter, Leni; and black lab, Royce.​