Why a Product Management Consultant?
You’re probably facing one of these common problems:
“We’re making better decisions, faster”— Apple Executive
- Products don’t delight customers
- Products don’t meet financial objectives
- Product management and product marketing roles lack clarity
- Products are late due to changes in requirements
- Product managers and product teams are burned out
Product Management Consultants can be a solution for this typical set of problems that plague organizations and their and product teams.
Benefits of Engaging with Us
Our clients have reported measurable improvements in business performance following our engagement, including:
- Cutting Time to Market
- Exceeding sales forecasts
- Improving product profitability
- Improving product development predictability
- Increasing innovation in their product portfolios
- Fostering an agile environment
Why Hire a Product Management Consulting Firm? – Five Reasons
A Product Management Consultant can help your company improve its product development performance – by improving revenues, increasing margins, and reducing churn. Here are five specific reasons why companies often reach out for help:
- Improve Product Development Strategy and Product Portfolio Management
- Implement Product Management and Product Development Processes
- Clarify Roles & Enhance Organizational Effectiveness
- Reduce Time to Market
- Accelerate Innovation
If you want to improve the product management in your company, should you consider a product management consultant, or train your product management team?
In general, if you need to improve execution in the product management function, you should consider finding a product management consulting firm to help you focus on the particular problem.
Examples of when you should consider a consultant include: trying to break free of derivative products through innovation; improving product definition; improving the clarity and usefulness of Product Roadmaps; or helping you to create a “Product Mindset.” A consultant will help you focus and pick the improvement area with the greatest impact.
If you need to see improvement across the entire organization, you may wish to perform product manager training. That way you can upskill your whole product organization and have it operate more effectively.
Another approach is to designate an interim role for a marketing executive. Or a company may place a co-founder in that role until a permanent solution can be found. Note that Product Management Consultants are (or should be) skilled in recommending this option.
On the other hand, if you are missing key customer insights or distribution knowledge, industry experts can be invaluable and they may serve as an interim product manager. Finally, if there are process elements that extend across functions, such as product management documentation, you might want to consider product development consulting.
Product Consulting: Product Portfolio Management, and Product Management
How to Engage with TCGen
- Schedule a no obligation call. Book some time with us. Find out more about how we can help you.
- We will write it up. We will send you what we learned from the call and suggest options for working together. If it meets your needs, we can send you a proposal.
- Kick off Project. We will work with you to design a tailored Kick Off to initiate the engagement.
Our Product Management Consulting services help you achieve your product goals by increasing revenue and profit margin by building great products. We will help you tune up your strategy so that it is clearly stated, and ties to the vision, the product roadmaps, and the budget. A clear tie between each of these, ensures that the resulting product portfolio mirrors corporate objectives, which maximize growth and profits. A good Product Management Consultant will work with your product managers and program managers (yes, they are different) as a team member, to deliver the best and lasting results.
Building Great Products Through Discovery
One of the most important aspects of being a product manager is their role in growing revenue through new products – defining the vision and then mapping out a product plan that fulfils that vision through building products (as opposed to product marketing that maximizes revenue from existing products). The best product managers integrate this vision as a strategist, with grounded customer research to produce a product roadmap that is based on real customer needs.
Product Strategy and need-finding (Discovery) are critical functions of product managers and they can be enhanced by using external expertise; these outside experts often view the opportunity set without pre-existing biases (these are two examples of the most powerful uses of consultants).
Product Management Consultant: A Broad Remit
Product Management Consultants also help your company align your products with strategy and include key stakeholder involvement, to enable you to build products that lead the market. For example, if your vision calls for an intense concentration on a technical product, then your product development process must include a crucible for R&D innovation. This extends to product design and user experience functions where the minimum process is not zero, but puts in guardrails to ensure progress without risking creativity. Product Management taps almost every dimension of management skills – but given the length of the piece, we will focus on top 5 ones most likely to make a difference.
Best practices must include frameworks for capturing the best ideas, for vetting and prioritizing them, and for nurturing them on the long journey from raw technology to marketable products. There is no substitute for direct user research with the design team visiting customers in the environment of use.
For example, we have helped sales and marketing teams leverage Design Thinking to improve innovation; and we’ve helped a technology firm to implement a Discovery process and the related organization.
We believe a product leader (or head of product) is the best description of the expansive roles that product managers play in today’s Tech world. In many cases we see the management skills of the Product Manager and the Product Owner both aspiring to achieve their goals of leading Product Management.
Managing Product Management function is one of the very most complicated topics in all of Marketing, The career path for product management consultants is challenging because Product Management is viewed with with some distain by some leaders. However, improving communication skills and issuing certifications (even if by email) will be at the top of your list.
Accelerate Innovation and Build Great Products
Help with hearing the voice of the customer is another service that Product Management Consultants provide. Nothing is as essential to effective inbound marketing than the voice of the customer. Superior Product Management Consultants may help your company establish innovation programs such as Design Thinking or Market-Driven Product Definition, methodologies for capturing and leveraging the customer’s voice – note that often they come from a technical background. When building products, especially ambitious new to the world products, getting the voice of the customer is challenging but a requirement.
Building Products That Feature AI
Digital Transformations and leveraging Data Science to produce breakthrough products is the new normal. But these projects often involve unpredictable schedules because they are inherently probabilistic. The ideal product management organization will have SMEs in digital products. But don’t focus exclusively on data analysis; the best product managers integrate all inputs (qualitative and quantitative). As consultants, we are on the lookout for ways our clients can leverage Machine Learning to produce game changing new-to-the-world products. These skill sets are frequently used by consumer and SAAS products alike.
Enhance Organizational Effectiveness (Beyond the Product Manager)
Initiatives to clarify roles and responsibilities is another area where Product Management Consultants can help. In too many companies, Product Management and Product Marketing are not distinct functions. Product Marketing Managers are responding to customer needs while they’re also managing the longer lifecycle of products (often called outbound marketing). At the same time, Product Management is not always differentiated from User Experience design. Similarly, product management is distinct from project management, but often roles are not clear. Product Management is very rarely a part-time role.
Consultants can help companies define these roles more carefully, smoothing out misunderstandings, speeding decision making, and helping to power products to market.
Exceed Business Plan Goals.
Improve Product Marketing Leadership.
Ramp your revenue.
Approach to TCGen’s Consulting Services
Although each engagement is unique, most of them are variations of these types:
Regardless of the specific consulting area, TCGen’s approach typically begins with a thorough assessment of your organization’s needs and follows it with focused training for team members and their managers:
- We first highlight the pain points (usually product definition and delays).
- Then we agree on goals and KPIs to improve in product management.
- We then identify a small number of the most effective levers of improvement.
- We associate each of these product management levers with a metric.
Because we want to leave you with a new capability that employees will now have, we typically pair up with a senior level individual contributor (note this is not a full-time assignment, but it’s a high priority).
TCGen’s Product Management Case Studies
TCGen Founder John Carter, co-inventor of the BOSE Noise Cancelling Headphones, has led Product Management initiatives across industries (from Fortune 500 companies to startups). He has been active in tech companies, including software products and software development. Contact us if you would like to discuss work we have done in your industry or our product management experience in general.
- Apple: TCGen founder John Carter designed and implemented the Apple New Product Process (ANPP), a process used throughout Apple’s product divisions.
- Bio-Rad: TCGen worked with an Agile product team to design the next generation platform of diagnostic testing systems for this healthcare company. We implemented a unique customer visitation plan to develop our user stories. The results: a platform launch that was the most successful ever for Bio-Rad and has been an enduring winner for them over many years.
- BOSE: John managed the development of products such as the BOSE® Wave® Music System and Noise-Cancelling Headphones, enjoyed by millions of customers world-wide.
- HP: We worked with general management marketing and engineering to understand gaps in product management and how to fill them. We helped management to better fund the product marketing team and increase the number of dedicated resources to each of these teams. The result was a positive impact in customer satisfaction and increased predictability.
The TCGen Difference Yields Successful Products
TCGen’s approach differs from the others because we listen. We drive deeply into the culture and challenges of the organization including in management and the development teams, as well as product management.
Unlike firms that are focused on training, we take an approach that there can be a range of deliverables you would like to see. Some companies are best served by training, others by consulting, and a few are best served by research or benchmarking. Although recruiters would differ, using a product management consultant as opposed to hiring a product manager can make a bigger impact, faster because they have change management experience.
Our Project History approach captures the voices within your organization and enables you to learn from the past, as you imagine your future.
In a dialog with senior leadership, we then define the key results you would like to achieve. We craft a customized approach to define our engagement with you.
“John has that rare combination of brilliance and pragmatism that truly sets him apart. John is world class.”— Dan Keller, HP Executive
We do not believe in a “one size fits all” approach and we are data-driven to work on the most important problem first. Our Product Management Consulting engagements enable you to select only the approaches that work for you. Too many consultants complicate processes to no end, or turn all engagements into a big Digital Transformation. We’ll help you implement only the approaches that make a difference.
TCGen is also different in that you will work directly with someone with deep, first-hand knowledge of Product Management. We won’t hand you off to a recent MBA recipient. You will get the benefit of working with someone who has developed products enjoyed by millions of people.
Product Management Consulting Rates
Product development consultants come from a wide variety of backgrounds and from a range of different services from individuals to established product developers. The following summary table of product development consulting rates provides broad guidelines.
Hourly Rates for Entry Level Product Development Consultants
Individuals with product development experience coming to work as an employee in your company would typically strive to meet or beat their current salaries. For individual contributors with five years of experience at startups, or relatively small companies that lack sophisticated products, those resources would be paid at a hourly rate of $20/hr – $35/hr as employees (salary.com), and consulting fees of $40 – $70 (to $100) per hour if hired as consultants. The rule of thumb is that consulting rates are approximately 2x the hourly rate of an employee. Small businesses and their business owners might want to try a product oriented business consultant to evaluate the merits of a new product or service idea with a quick study.
Both ProductSchool and Pragmatic Marketing offer Product Management Certifications but these don’t do much more than establish a degree of general competence in the field and may not reflect real life performance levels although they are of value.
Also at this skill level you can find Product Owners that also call themselves product managers. In some companies the only difference is the title. But in most cases the focus of the product owner is on one release rather than the entire roadmap. Product Owners tend to serve an individual function while product managers often lead product strategy and supervise a product team.
Hourly Consulting Rates for Experienced Product Development and Product Management Consultants
On the other hand, at technological firms where there is a premium on cutting edge skills and technical knowledge, consulting wages can be much higher. Often the roles blur between product development and product management since, at this level, these positions have many responsibilities in common.
Due to specialization and job scope (these professionals are involved with marketing decisions as well as development decisions), the rates are considerably higher. In this case, the national average salary is $49/hr as a full time employee (ZipRecruiter) as an employee and would be ~ $100 per hour as a contractor. The employee annual salary would be about $100K in this example. Their experience can bring a range of consulting services to help meet your needs.
Linkedin can be a source of product management consulting resources at lower rates and it even has job placements for you to see typical qualifications. Often recruiters and job seekers make a distinction between independent consultants and consulting firms that have several employees. Consultant salary levels can be higher at consulting firms due to the higher overhead for these companies.
For example, smaller boutique shops, may have team members available that can help with product design and other skill sets. However, on the coasts where demand is very high, experienced consultants make an hourly fee between $200 and $400 per hour in niche areas such as AI, SaaS, and Security products. This translates to a daily rate of $1,600 to $3,200 per day. Although you might find consultants at a lower rate, the market rate in Silicon Valley, San Francisco or New York is about $2,400 a day or a monthly retainer of $50,000.
Deeply Experienced Product Management & Product Development Experts and Firms
At the top end are product developers that are in essence Chief Product Officers (internal roles) or are senior partners at strategy consulting firms (BCG, McKinsey, Bain) or are senior management consultants at firms recognized as leaders in product development such as TCGen, Product Development Consulting, and the 280 Group. Typically these organizations bring more than one resource to the job, ensuring you have a diversity of skills and an exact match to your industry. In many cases these individuals will have C Level experience (CPO, CMO, CTO).
While a little out of the scope of product development/product management, there may be assignments that focus on the skills of a marketing consultant such as price optimization or product promotion
These firms also typically have proprietary tools and models that are included in the consulting engagement and they run their own project management so they need little guidance and demand a higher rate. Sometimes these engagements will identify needs for business development to better understand the characteristics of the market and competition.
The range for resources like this is $250/Hr to $1000/Hr as independent consultants, and top flight strategy firms could earn double this rate; Partners may charge $2000/Hr. Often these consultants price out projects as a fixed fee which allows them some flexibility, while giving the client a fixed budget. Because these firms are so experienced, they know in advance how much an engagement will cost.
About John Carter
John Carter has been a widely respected adviser to technology firms over his career. He is the author of Innovate Products Faster: Graphical Tools for Accelerating Product Development. As Founder and Principal of TCGen Inc., he has advised some of the most revered technology firms in the world:
- Abbott, Amazon, Apple
- BOSE, Cisco, Fitbit
- HP, IBM, Roche
John specializes in the value creating aspects of product creation – from the strategy and innovation processes, through product definition, execution and launch. He has helped companies cut time to market, rapidly scale their product program, and improve innovation with customer led insights, leading to greater profitability, reduced costs, and improved customer satisfaction.
He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Cirrus Logic (CRUS) a leading supplier of mixed signal semiconductors where he sits on the Compensation and Audit Committees.
John was the founder of Cambridge-based Product Development Consulting, Inc. (PDC), a consultancy advising Fortune 500 companies in the areas of research, development, and marketing. During his time there, he worked with Apple to create the Apple New Product Process (ANPP) which is used in all product divisions. He has been an invited speaker at MIT and Stanford University, and a member of the faculty at Case Western’s Executive program.
Before starting PDC, John was Chief Engineer of BOSE Corporation. John is the inventor of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones and shares the original patent with Dr. Amar Bose. He was one of the initial contributors in BOSE’s entry into the automobile OEM business and led the product and business development of BOSE’s patented noise reduction technology for the military market.
He earned his MS in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a BS in engineering from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA. You can see more of John’s background on Linkedin.