Leading expert predicts where Ireland inc. will source its new business leaders

Patrick Ward, Microsoft; Angela Hatton, Tactics Consultancy; Nicola Mortimer, Three; Charley Stoney, Alternatives

We predict that Product Management will be the next sourcing ground for Ireland’s future CEO’s. In an era where assessing and delivering the needs of the customer is absolute, there’s a robust argument for saying that business talent working in Product Management will have all the key commercial skills needed to become economic drivers of the future.” That’s according to Charley Stoney, Managing Director of The Alternatives Group, providing the best marketing, digital & leadership talent which recently hosted a discussion on the Changing role of Product Management. 


The panel of industry leaders who spoke included:

6th April 2016. Alternatives Marketing - The changing role of Project Management, breakfast briefing.

6th April 2016. Alternatives Marketing – The changing role of Project Management, breakfast briefing.

  • Angela Hatton, Director, Tactics Management Consultancy Ltd., UK
  • Nicola Mortimer, Head of Business Product, Marketing and Operations, Three Ireland
  • Patrick Ward, Developer Evangelism Lead, Microsoft Ireland




Challenges & Opportunities

In terms of the qualities needed to be an effective Product Manager, the panel was in agreement that they need to be both entrepreneurs and product managers. In addition, it’s vital that they are fully resourced and supported within the business in which they operate and have clearly defined responsibilities and authority.  They need to demonstrate a range of skills from project management, technician, analyst and stakeholder manager to being a business planner, problem solver and excellent communicator. Innovating new ways of working and developing new business partnerships are core to the work of those in product management.

In responding to the question “What Do Product Managers Do? Nicola Mortimer summarised it neatly by answering: “Everything, your job is never done and the role will keep evolving.”


Architects of Competitive Advantage

Specialising in strategic management and marketing, Angela Hatton, senior consultant on the Alternatives Panel, works with clients including News International and Tetra Pak.  According to her: “Marketing has evolved so dramatically in the last number of years that business leaders now need to come from a wider talent pool. For instance, the basics of business success have changed. Now, to win competitive advantage, it’s essential to understand how the customer has changed. They no longer want the same thing and the philosophy of “One Size Fits All” simply doesn’t apply. Brands needs to develop solutions that reflect multi-faceted needs.”

Based on her insights, the key factors for success in 2016 and beyond can be distilled into three elements – Relevance, Differentiation and Believability.  To achieve this Angela believes that product managers are increasingly charged with responsibility for determining who should be targeted and with what offer. This involves a more strategic, planned and evidence based perspective. Describing Product Managers as Architects for Competitive Advantage, shaping the value proposition and optimising product performance through the life cycle. Angela strongly believes that they should be responsible for markets and not marketing.


Product Management is a Team Sport

With responsibility for building and managing Three’s business product portfolio, brand and operations and as a graduate in Micro Electronics and Electrical Engineering, Nicola Mortimer combines her technical understanding with her sales and marketing skills to succeed in a highly competitive market place.

From her viewpoint “Keeping Fresh, keeping Relevant and keeping your Customers is what it’s all about. The marketplace has changed dramatically. Now more than ever, it’s important to be fast and agile. That’s where the Product Manager has a critical role. We’re in an era where there’s a much shorter development cycle from concept to product delivery. Commercial partnerships (working with like-minded businesses on co-developed products) are more important than ever. The recent 3 Connect product is an example of a partnership in action which shortened the time from inception to launch.”

Nicola believes that Product Management is a team sport. Why? Because it touches every point of functionality in the organisation from data protection, legal, IT, technology to customers, channel management, marketing and sales plus much more besides.

In addition, tenacity should be a key characteristic for any product manager as it’s a role with many highs and some lows. However, it’s also a career building job in that it allows the practitioner to develop a set of transferable skills that work across industries, allowing them to consider working at CCO, COO or CEO level.


6th April 2016. Alternatives Marketing - The changing role of Project Management, breakfast briefing.

6th April 2016. Alternatives Marketing – The changing role of Project Management, breakfast briefing.

The cloud is transforming software

The move to the cloud is having a huge impact on Product Management in the software industry, according to Patrick Ward, Developer Evangelism Lead, Microsoft Ireland. “At Microsoft, we’ve recognised the need to be more nimble. Products like Windows 10 and Office 365 are continually enhanced, rather than being upgraded in 3 year cycles of old. As a result, customers get the latest innovation with a constantly improving product.

From a Product Management perspective, customer insights are key. Our Windows Insider program is a great example of this. Customers can sign-up to use pre-release software and provide feedback via an App. We have more than 10 million customers on this program now, and even before we released Windows 10, we received more than 15 million individual pieces of feedback text that was invaluable in the development of Windows 10”.


In this era of Customer Centricity and product management being led by key customer insights, what advice do you have to offer other businesses?

At Three, Nicola Mortimer believes that a net promoter score tool is highly valuable for customer feedback, “allowing the brand to take the pulse of customer reaction to our products and services at any one time. We have also found that Case Studies and Blogging Thought Leadership content is an important way to create engagement and dialogue between Three and our customers.”

At Microsoft, Patrick Ward believes: “It’s essential to capture customer insights across different market segments. What’s important to a consumer is very different to the priorities of a CIO – different market segments have different requirements.”

Meanwhile, Angela Hatton is forthright in saying:” Data analytics are very important in providing insights but be careful not to confuse your Customer data with insights into the total market.”


How do joint ventures and partnerships work for your organisations in developing products that meet your customer needs?

Nicola Mortimer says: “Joint ventures and partnerships are an opportunity to get to the market quicker and faster than before – it’s a juggling acting so it’s important to have the internal structure in place so that the process from start to end runs smoothly and to the satisfaction of both parties.”

At Microsoft, Patrick Ward says: “Microsoft has always taken a partner-centric approach. We’re now working with high-potential start-ups to support their go-to-market plans to bring their innovation, hosted on our platform, to our customers in Ireland and beyond.”

Angela Hatton added; “There’s a new way of working that’s emerging – it’s far more collaborative than before both internally and externally in many organisations and that can only be a good development.”

Alternatives Marketing