A skill that comes late to many Product Managers, as it did for me, is the ability to promote your project to internal stakeholders. Your project is in competition with other projects within your organization and company. The members of your project team rely on you to make sure they have the resources to make the project a success. The project and even the jobs of the team members can be on the line.
A few key things to keep in mind:
-Marketing needs to be involved so they can help you with the financial upside of your project, what is the benefit to the company
-Support and operations need to be involved, what’s it going to cost?
-You are competing with other projects for resources
-Be clear on what you need to succeed, people, contracting dollars etc.
-Don’t be afraid to kill your project if it isn’t going to be funded to the point where you can be successful.
-Strategic or technical alignment, the hail Mary pass of project resourcing
Marketing is your best friend, they are going to help you promise the world. In the current business environment, you aren’t going to get funding unless there is a lot of upside. Work with your marketing folks on what the upside is. Then once you get an idea of what the incremental revenue will be, take that and double it, that is what all the other product managers are doing
Support and Operations
I have seen projects move forward that were direct to consumer offerings, and based on the cost of development, the revenue and the ongoing costs, it was a money loser, or no one knew what the revenue would be. Reminds me of that old SNL skit on the bank that only makes change. “How do you make money by only making change?” Volume. Another way this can happen is if you are changing a product or service and lowering costs, great for the consumer and adoption but your margins can disappear.
You are competing with other projects for resources
This is the hardest one to deal with. No matter how logical you think you are being, how reasonable your numbers are, and how confident you are in your chances for success, someone is in front of management with a hockey stick graph, promising the world. These people are all over the place, are shameless and are never held accountable. I call it the tyranny of the really good powerpoint deck. He who has the best deck wins.
Be clear on what you need to succeed
Don’t throw extra junk into your proposal, focus on what you really need to succeed. If management approved everything you asked for, could you deliver the results? Often we are so beat down before we even get into asking for resources that we ask for what we think we will get rather than what we actually need to succeed.
Kill the project if you don’t get what you need
Nothing is worse that asking for 20 headcount to deliver XX$’s and getting 5 headcount and still being held accountable for the same revenue. It isn’t reasonable and business leaders need some tough love. It is doing them a service, since leaders don’t want to kill projects, so they take a peanut butter approach to resource allocation, spread a little over a large space, and get nothing.
If it is suggested that people can contribute in their ‘white space’ or ‘free’ time, run don’t walk away. It’s the equivalent of a pretty girl telling you she wants to be ‘just friends.’ More projects should get killed, they don’t because everyone invested in a project wants to fight for it, to preserve their dream, their work, their ideas, even in the face of impossible odds. Better plan, if you have a great idea, can’t get it supported internally, leave and do it in your own.
Strategic or technical alignment
You can get a project resourced if it is strategic, so ignore the revenue side of things, or if it is using some new technology. When pitching your project look for opportunities to align along new skills, technologies, or opportunities. This could help you bypass all of the logical P+L reasoning that would normally apply to project resourcing. You can try these magical words/phrases; iPhone, Facebook, Mobile, Social Networking, Crowdsourcing, User Contribution
If all else fails, find the most self promoting pitch artist and get on their project, it’s going to get funded. Just keep in mind when things go South, they are going to bail before the project completely craters and leave you holding the bag