Ayub Yanturin I am a London-based Product Manager with over 8 years of experience in the field. I also run a blog on Medium called Productology, where I write about the science behind product management.

Improve operations with a product management maturity model

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Refine And Improve Operations Using A Product Maturity Model

Product management is typically a long-term focus for organizations, rather than a short-term priority. Aspiring product organizations often work to refine and improve their product management processes as part of their overall strategy, with the goal of achieving a high level of maturity.

Various models evaluate the maturity of a company’s product management practices. These models typically outline the different stages that a company goes through as it improves its product management approach, moving from a less structured and strategic approach to a more organized and focused one.

The number of stages in these models can vary, with some having three stages (like the Product Focus Maturity Model), and some having nine (like The Pragmatic Marketing Framework). Regardless of the number of stages, these models all measure similar areas, such as leadership, people, tools, and processes.

By regularly assessing the state of product management within a company and identifying areas for improvement, organizations can work towards consistently delivering high-quality products and achieving success in their product development efforts.

Peter Drucker, one of the most widely-known and influential thinkers on management, once said:

“You can’t improve what you don’t measure”

There are numerous metrics that can be used to track the progress and maturity of a company’s product development efforts. In this article, I will cover the product maturity model as a concept, as well as the various levels of maturity available, what criteria to evaluate against, and questions to ask to define the state of product management within a company.


Table of contents


What is a product management maturity model?

By comparing your role and responsibilities to those of your peers in other organizations, you may notice differences in the way that product management is approached. As a company’s product management practices mature, certain characteristics tend to emerge, such as the way that products are planned, built, and delivered.

To assess and improve product management practices, many companies have adopted the use of product management maturity models. These models provide a framework for evaluating a company’s product management practices and identifying areas for improvement.

Why use a product management maturity model?

The product management maturity model is a useful tool for companies in two ways. Firstly, it provides a practical way to assess a company’s current level of product management and understand how well its product management practices are performing. This allows the company to identify areas for improvement and build a roadmap for improving its processes.

Secondly, the maturity model allows a company to compare its product management practices to other organizations and see how it compares in terms of performance and maturity. This is especially useful for organizations that manage a product portfolio and want to maintain consistent standards across all of their products.

By using the criteria outlined in the maturity model, companies can ensure that their products are planned, built, and delivered in a way that meets their standards and the needs of their customers.

Adapting a product management maturity model

If your company is looking for a way to evaluate the performance of a specific product and the processes that support it, it may be helpful to adopt a product management maturity model. These models provide a framework for assessing the maturity of a company’s product management practices and identifying areas for improvement.



The most common models are the following.

The Pragmatic Marketing Framework

This model consists of nine stages, ranging from chaos (no clear product management process in place) to world-class (highly structured and effective product management processes).

The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) Maturity Model

This model consists of four stages, ranging from reactive (product management is reactive to market demands) to proactive (product management is proactive and anticipates market needs).

The Product Focus Maturity Model

This model consists of three stages, ranging from ad-hoc (product management is informal and reactive) to strategic (product management is strategic and proactive).

The Gartner Model

This model identifies five stages of product management maturity, ranging from intuitive (no formal product management process in place) to optimized (highly efficient and effective product management processes).

How to choose the right product management maturity model

Each of these models has a slightly different focus and uses different terminology to describe the stages of product management maturity. Companies can also choose a model that is customized to meet the needs of an organization. The levels, parameters, and terminology of a maturity model can be adapted to suit the specific goals of the organization. Some of the key factors that may influence a company’s decision include:

Company goals and objectives

Different maturity models may place a greater emphasis on certain aspects of product management, such as strategy, processes, or customer focus. Companies should choose a model that aligns with their specific goals and objectives.

Current level of product maturity

Some maturity models may be more suitable for companies that are just starting to build out their product management practices, while others may be more appropriate for organizations that have more advanced product management processes in place.

Resources and time available for implementing the model

Some maturity models may require more time and resources to implement than others. Companies should choose a model that fits within their available resources and time constraints.

Industry

Different industries may have different expectations and standards when it comes to product management. Companies should choose a maturity model that is relevant to their specific industry.

By considering these factors, companies can choose the product management maturity model that is best suited to their needs and goals.

Product management maturity model template

To have a perspective on the overall state and assess it from various angles, I compiled a simple questionnaire in Google Sheets to help evaluate the state of the product management. Here are the steps:

  1. Open the PM Maturity Questionnaire
  2. Go to File Make a copy
  3. Add the company name at the top
  4. Choose the answer from the drop-down. Skip if you don’t know the answer

Based on your answers, the questionnaire will provide two metrics:

  • The evaluation of the product management state for a company
  • The estimation of confidence

The more questions you answer, the higher the estimation of confidence will be. Do keep in mind that this is just a tool for evaluating the PM maturity state. It’s not 100 percent accurate, but it’s enough to inform you on a high level.

What criteria do we evaluate against? Examples of common maturity models

Different product management maturity models have different criteria that are used to evaluate a company’s product management practices. For example, The Capability Maturity Model includes six categories:

  • Strategy
  • Organization
  • Metrics
  • Process
  • People
  • System

The Product Focus categorizes the criteria into five:

  • Leadership
  • Organization
  • People
  • Tools
  • Processes

The model adapted by Gartner categorizes the criteria into four:

  • Requirements approach
  • Product vision
  • Innovation approach
  • Business strategy

These categories represent different aspects of product management that the model uses to assess the maturity of an organization’s product management practices. My PM maturity questionnaire evaluates based on the Capability Model with six components.

Maturity model in practice: Step-by-step guide

This is a step-by-step guide on how to work with product management maturity in practice using your chosen model:

First, familiarize yourself with the details of your chosen product management maturity model. For example, Gartner’s model consists of five levels: instinct-driven, requirements-driven, customer-experience-driven, market-driven, and strategy-driven.

Then, identify the key areas of product management within your organization. These may include product strategy, product planning, product development, product launch, and product performance.

Next, assess the current state of each key area. Consider factors such as the level of standardization and documentation, the level of collaboration and communication, the level of integration with other functions, and the level of metrics and measurement.

Here’s an example of the assessment from Gartner:

Requirements approach Product management organization is characterized by market-driven initiatives instead of inside-out product plans.
Product vision The organization has gained deep expertise in the market — including competition, business models, and business dynamics — shapes and forms product strategy and product management priorities. Market leadership objectives inform partner strategies.
Innovation approach Quantitative and qualitative insights inform market-driven decisions that impact the organization’s profit and loss structure and ratios.

Routes to the market include understanding the routes the customer wants to buy from and developing the product so partners can add value.

Business strategy Partnership metrics and methods drive partner strategy, alignment, and execution. Methods are used for positioning the core product or portfolio within its target markets.

Data-driven investment decisions arise from relying on market forecasts, pipeline analysis, and cross-selling heat maps. Data insights inform priorities, including those of other functions.

Determine the maturity level of each key area using the chosen model as a reference. According to Gartner’s model, the example given above would be classified as a Level 4, market-driven product management maturity.

The next step is to identify areas for improvement. Consider what actions can be taken to move the organization from its current level of maturity to the next level.

Then, create a plan to improve the maturity of the product management function within the organization. This may involve implementing new processes, establishing clear roles and responsibilities, improving communication and collaboration, and establishing metrics to measure progress.

The goal for our example is to reach a Level 5, strategy-driven product management maturity to meet the following criteria:

Requirements approach The product group strategy role has veto ability on the release or plan for any offer.
Product vision The organization has gained deep expertise in the market — including competition, business models, and business dynamics — shapes and forms product strategy and product management priorities. Market leadership objectives inform partner strategies.
Innovation approach Formulaic approaches are developed for market adjacency expansion or disruption.
Business strategy Themes for product releases are grounded in strategic objectives for the business, offering, or portfolio. Partner strategies are informed through wilful intent, including disruption. Data-driven investment decisions arise from relying on market forecasts, pipeline analysis, and cross-selling heat maps. Data insights inform priorities, including those of other functions.

Finally, regularly review and assess the maturity of the product management function to ensure that it is continually improving and evolving.

How do companies enable teams to optimize product development processes?

There are several ways that companies can enable teams to optimize product development processes:

  1. Implement best practices and standards. Establishing best practices and standards for the product development process can help teams work more efficiently and consistently. This may include using design thinking principles, establishing coding standards, or using templates for documents and reports
  2. Use data and analytics and establish clear goals and objectives. Gathering data on the product development process can help teams identify areas for improvement and optimize their work. This may involve tracking metrics such as cycle time, defect rate, and customer satisfaction. It’s important to have a clear understanding of what the team is trying to achieve with the product development process. This includes identifying the target market, defining the product features, and setting performance metrics
  3. Streamline communication and collaboration. Teams should have efficient and effective channels for communication and collaboration, both within the team and with other stakeholders. This may involve using project management software, holding regular meetings, or using agile methodologies
  4. Foster a culture of continuous improvement. Encouraging teams to regularly review and improve their work can help optimize the product development process. This may involve establishing a process for continuous feedback, encouraging experimentation and innovation, and providing opportunities for learning and development

Conclusion

A product management maturity model helps organizations assess and improve their product management processes and capabilities. It consists of a series of levels or stages, each of which represents a higher level of maturity in product management practices and outcomes. Organizations use a maturity model to comprehensively assess and enhance their product development practice.

Product management maturity, like product management responsibilities, is not clearly defined across the industry. Organizations can adapt the levels, parameters, and terminology of the process to fit their specific goals and needs.

Regardless of the specific model used, it is important to identify gaps or areas for improvement to drive product and company success. Utilizing a maturity model or product management maturity questionnaire can help an organization understand its current state and work towards improving it.

Featured image source: IconScout

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Ayub Yanturin I am a London-based Product Manager with over 8 years of experience in the field. I also run a blog on Medium called Productology, where I write about the science behind product management.

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