Creating a product management playbook

Back before we were all online all the time, I kept a notebook of all the living documents for my product. Nowadays I keep these documents in a shared folder but sometimes I miss the old notebook. It held my positioning, pricing, and personas; it had my business plan and the requirements for the next release of my product. My product notebook had every answer to any question. And when I was in a meeting or just walking down the hallway, people would stop me with a question and I always had the answer somewhere in my notebook.

How does a new product manager or product owner get up to speed in your organization?

Imagine you’re a new product manager. What company-specific knowledge do you need? Is there a standard template for positioning or for a business case? Where is it? Once you fill it out, how do you share it and store it? And with whom?

What you need is a product management playbook, a collection of the templates and tools tailored for your organization.

You’ll want to create company-specific versions of all your planning templates including “institutional knowledge” like where templates can be found and stored online, the key contacts in each business area, the standard distribution techniques such as distribution lists and discussion forums.

Here’s a list of fewer than 10:

  • Portfolio roadmap
  • Buyer profiles & positioning
  • Product profile
  • Financial plan
  • Product backlog
  • Marketing backlog
  • Launch plan
  • Competitive battlecards
  • Profitability retrospective

Plus

  • Distribution lists
  • Discussion forums
  • Online locations for storing development, marketing, and sales information
  • Key people you need to know with contact info

The trick is to make sure the procedures and methods are grounded in reality. Some teams create “ideal” processes that don’t work in real life. They tend to favor cross-functional teams from all areas of the organization rather than just a few key decision makers. They prefer perfect information—and who doesn’t? But getting precise information isn’t always possible.

What would you put in your product management playbook?

3 thoughts on “Creating a product management playbook

  1. I kept a similiar binder that I called “The Product Manager’s Handbook”. In additional to most of the items on your list, I also kept the highlights documents of key enhancements made by version with dates of those releases. This allowed me to keep track of where the product was, where it is today, and where it is going tomorrow all

    • Good additions. I would include the market analysis in the financial plan and persona definitions. I should add positioning and competitive battlecards to the list. But be careful–let’s keep the list as short as we can. It’s not how many but how few must you must have to keep sane.

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