Product Managers a ‘must have’ resource, says ITV Online MD

This post was first published on the AOP website on 26 January 2011.

The panel at Product Tank's January meetup - Image by Richard Stowey

The panel at Product Tank's January meetup - Image by Richard Stowey

Speakers from BBC, ITV, Guardian and Yahoo joined Nic Newman at the latest Product Tank meetup held at the BBC last night.

Ralph Rivera, Head of Digital Media at the BBC opened the event by saying product management is “not something you can learn out of a book...it's a profession grounded in practice”. With that in mind, Anthony Sullivan, Product Manager at BBC News presented his learnings from the BBC News 2010 Relaunch:

  • You will always have too many requirements
  • Audience needs are more important than business needs (see Dennis’ Alex Watson’s comment for an alternative view)
  • Most assumptions are wrong
  • Don’t follow the competition – you’ll always be playing catch up
  • Do the right sort of testing and avoid big bang launches
  • Organisational understanding is essential
  • [Success is] built on trust – and leveraging personal relationships throughout the organisation is key
  • Focus on the audience
  • Create a compelling vision

Why is product management suddenly all the rage with big media owners?

Following the presentation, Nic Newman asked the panel why large publishers now think product management is so important:

For Stephen Dunn, Head of Technology Strategy at Guardian News and Media, it’s down to the complexity of working in online – “You can’t edit the user journey.” In the pre-product era, there was no go between for techies and the people at the top, “no user needs-centred” person.

Dan Peters, Director of Product Management for Yahoo! Answers had a great definition for the discipline: “taking audience need, delivering business value,” coupled with getting the most value out of your engineering resource.

Product Managers are a ‘must have’ resource, added Robin Pembrooke, MD of ITV Online and On-Demand, and one he is instilling in his new role at the broadcaster. On user testing, he advised: “do lots early, even before you start”, citing the UK Radio Project as a good example of this approach.

As for motivating engineers, he suggested not just setting time aside for innovation (with hackdays etc.), but also making sure at least some of those ideas actually get implemented.