How to Make Sure Your Product Leadership Team Will Boost You Up - Not Drag You Down
As business advisors and executive coaches, we've worked with dozens of CEOs to help them build and grow their product leadership team as they scale their company. People always think that product managers operate this very critical, high-leverage function that, when executed correctly, greatly facilitates the leap past prototypes into a steady return of profits.
What we’ve noticed instead in the startup world, is a lot of people become product managers by default rather than design. They often lack the tools to succeed in their jobs. While the product manager’s ability to think strategically and execute with confidence and efficiency should be the driving force to the company's success, unfortunately, businesses fail to provide them with the tools and resources they need to succeed.
So how can an organization increase its odds of success? Getting external support, such as product management consulting, can help establish the product leadership team responsible for nurturing and guiding the product team.
What Is Product Management Consulting?
A product management consultant acts as a coach and a mentor to their clients, providing the frameworks that guide them toward developing the roadmap and making the best product decisions. It’s about presenting the client with the best ways to gather input from the team, collect consumer insights and validate market needs.
Consultants aren’t just listening to the problems within the company, but within the product, the team and their dynamics. They go out of their way to identify the product’s most important mission, ensuring all of the best ideas are heard and that all client-side stakeholders are engaged in the product lifecycle management. Product management consulting is all about unpacking any challenges the client faces, building new insights and gathering information from every perspective.
Consulting doesn’t mean instructing a CEO and the product leadership team how to run the company. As a coach and mentor, the product management consultant shows support and transparency about how they view the state of the product, including any challenges or opportunities. They guide their clients through the entire process of how to bring the next innovative product features within the company.
What Do Successful Product Management Consulting Firms Have in Common?
Within a company, product leaders (i.e. director, VP, executives and above) are there to help product managers accelerate the company’s growth and achieve the next financial milestone. The product leadership team has to use product strategy, market and user research, UX design, technology scoping and data analytics to prevent stakeholders from blackmailing product managers into implementing lesser solutions.
Behind every product leadership team lies four key responsibilities:
- Designing, building, and nurturing the product team
- Driving product strategy, processes, and tooling
- Growing cross-functional collaboration and trust
- Working with C-level execs on strategy and goal alignment
But deciding how to go about building your product leadership team and whom to bring on can be difficult to achieve on your own. This is where product management consulting firms step in to help.
How Product Management Consulting Firms Can Help
While the main focus of a successful product management consulting firm is to establish the product leadership team and its processes, there are other major benefits to bringing in this type of external help. The experts of those firms are there to offer process consistency and sustainability, risk reduction, product clarity and organization as well as to eliminate any obstacles that might come your way. They can also help with:
- Building roadmaps: The roadmap is essential to ensure the right feature is delivered at the right time. It also gives direction and motivates stakeholders and teams.
- Transitionary leadership: A company may have leaders in place, but many lack the maturity and experience to move the organization to a new level.
- Mentoring and coaching: Product managers won’t necessarily learn these skills on their own. Consultants act as coaches and mentors to expedite the process.
- Improving workplace relationships: Listening and making people feel heard and included, opening a safe space for brainstorming to increase productivity.
Below are some examples (depending on your location) of companies that specialize in providing product management consulting services. This list excludes independent consultants as well as management firms providing limited product consulting services.
15 Examples of Product Management Consulting Firms
Location: San Francisco, California
Description: "The best companies go about building great products differently. Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG) was created to share lessons learned and best practices about how to build innovative products customers love. We are industry veterans who have each held executive-level positions at major Silicon Valley firms where we have been instrumental in the development of leading products. We know how great products are built. And we can help you build them, too."
2. 280 Group
Location: Los Gatos, California
Description: "280 Group is the world’s leading Product Management training and consulting firm. We help companies and individuals do GREAT Product Management and Product Marketing using our Optimal Product Process™. We have been in business for 20 years and serve clients around the world. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, CA, we are named after the famous Highway 280, a corridor that houses the world’s most innovative companies and links San Francisco and the South Bay Area. Our products and services include consulting, contractors, training, certifications, recruiting, templates, coaching, books and a Product Management optimization program."
Location: San Francisco, California
Description: "Mironov Consulting brings deep, hands-on experience to a range of product management and product leadership problems. We can help you refine your organization; improve agile product processes; interview potential new hires; mentor and teach product managers; adjudicate cross-functional issues, and keep the focus on building great products."
Locations: France, Spain, Australia
Description: "Thiga is an international consulting firm, pure-player of Product Management. Through strategy and product organization consulting as well as the immersion of Product Managers, Product Owners and Product Designers of Excellence, we help companies build successful digital products."
Locations: Midvale, Utah; Raleigh, North Carolina
Description: "Veracity Solutions helps product teams and IT organizations through strategic transformation projects by removing the burden of the transformation projects and preparing the organization for life post-transformation. Too many transformation projects fail when resources are over-dedicated to the project that will enable the transformation instead of being focused on creating business value in the post-transformation mindset."
Locations: Wilton, Connecticut; Toronto, Canada; Austin, Texas; San Francisco, California; Staines, United Kingdom
Description: "SiriusDecisions provides product management leaders with a framework for identifying current and future customer and market needs to better uncover profitable market opportunities. We provide clients with in-depth advice on how to better understand their customers to give them a decisive competitive edge.
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Description: "If you are looking for guidance on how to develop a product vision, set objectives, set priorities, get buy-in, and in general how to develop a product-led practice and culture in your organization, this is definitely the right place. We help your organization get better at product development and growth through organizational design, culture transformation, and coaching."
8. Produx Labs
Location: New York, New York
Description: "Most organizations fail at product management because their Product Managers aren’t given the room they need to succeed. We advise executives on how to create a culture and process that supports Product Managers by tackling Agile adaptation, strategy frameworks, portfolio creation, outcome orientation, budgeting, and planning cadences."
9. Bain Public
Location: Montreal, Canada
Description: "When you don’t know your roadmap, you don’t know your business. Think big, transform and grow faster. Most companies don’t have a clear picture of their roadmap and that’s why many businesses fail, so the question to many business owners out there is this -- are you confident that your engineering team is building the right features? Bain Public processes and tools offer a full picture of your product strategy, tactics, metrics and roadmap all in one place. So there’s no more guessing, no lack of focus or direction. That’s why Bain Public companies grow faster where everyone is aligned, motivated, inspired, and ready to innovate."
Location: Toronto, Canada
Description: "TWG is a world-class team of 100+ product managers, designers, and software engineers, located in downtown Toronto. We work hard for our clients to build great software that launches faster, reduces waste, and delivers measurable results to their organization."
11. Apply Digital
Locations: Toronto, Canada; Vancouver, Canada; Los Angeles, California; New York, New York
Description: "By applying a holistic methodology to product development, we help you plan, design, and build digital products to help you succeed in any market. We’ll be there for the entire lifecycle, becoming your trusted partner and an extension of your team."
Location: Gainesville, Virginia
Description: "With Under10, product teams get a playbook of tools and methods based on the latest industry best practices. We combine workshops with software to customize around to your top priorities. The Under10 approach is simple. With decades of experience, we’ve identified the core elements of defining and delivering products: less than 10 key artifacts provide everything you need to empower your organization. At Under10, we help product teams apply proven methods with interactive workshops, customized to your organization's top priorities, delivered online or onsite — priced by the team, not by the person."
13. Tyner Blain LLC
Location: Austin, Texas
Description: "Tyner Blain provides product management and strategy consulting services, primarily for companies where software development is central to their product offerings. Specializing in helping companies either using or migrating to agile processes and perspectives."
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Description: "Matter works with startups to improve their products and development, and with established companies that want product innovation. We help build and manage engineering teams, implement product development best practices, and build products, prototypes and MVPs. Matter also builds in-house businesses that are designed to be self-sustaining. Each business aims to be profitable in 6 months. If not, we shelve it. We focus on niche and revenue-producing businesses."
Location: Berlin, Germany
Description: "AJ&Smart creates digital products for the best companies in the world. Whether you need to create a new product from scratch, drastically improve a product or give your team an innovative kick, AJ&Smart has you covered. Plug your company into a world-class product strategy and design team."
Every successful product management firm has the ability to fast track the development of your product team. They work with their clients as partners, sharing product leadership best practices to remove any organizational friction as well as boosting the way roadmaps add value. They’ll keep you focused on challenging industry norms and building smart products. This often means translating an emerging product strategy or vision into an innovative way to fulfil a customer need.
Bain Public is a product leadership firm that helps companies make informed decisions and deliver superior quality products that appeal to customers and achieve business goals. We offer a variety of blog posts, e-books and approaches designed to help you understand your digital strategies and establish elements of the product roadmap in the fabric of your business. A lack of strategy in planning your products is accompanied by a lack of focus and direction, which means things can quickly get out of hand. We step in to assess, clean up, and eliminate friction between people and processes to stimulate the organisation and maintain focus on creating quality products. For more information, visit bainpublic.com or call 514-442-8487.
Thanks to Loren O'Brien-Egesborg for helping write this article. Thanks to Paul Orthchanian and Gabrielle Drouin for reading drafts of this article and overseeing aspects of its publication. Also, if you have any feedback or criticism about this article, then shoot us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.