Conquering a Category is Product Management

Michel Feaster, CEO of Usermind, shares her approach to building and managing a portfolio of products, prioritizing opportunities, and conquering a category.

Michel has 20 years of enterprise product management experience. The expertise she’s developed during her career is unique in that she’s focused on building and managing a portfolio of products in order to become the leader of a new market opportunity.

Managing a portfolio of products has a unique set of challenges. Particularly, when it comes to developing product roadmaps, making resource allocation decisions, and managing teams.

Michel’s approach to making key product decision takes into account the short and long-term goals of of the company. She uses a four quadrant framework to decide how to allocate resources:

  1. Sales: What do you need to win deals?
  2. Risk: Is there a competitor or disruption that could hurt you?
  3. Time to Value: What do you need to accelerate the results your customers can achieve?
  4. Keep the Lights on: What do you need to keep your current customers happy and your team functioning effectively?

When you’re managing a portfolio of products, you have to make these decisions at the portfolio level, instead of simply at the product level. That means Michel needs to make hard calls about which product teams receive resources and which do not. It takes courage to make these hard calls because it can be demoralizing to a product manager to lose resources or have their product shut down. However, Michel believes that making these hard calls is what distinguishes the best product leaders:

“Successful PMs make the hard calls, and they do fewer things better, and they take the pain and the heat of saying no to all the other things.”

Michel also incorporates M&A into her strategy for conquering a category. Her approach to M&A is unique in that she emphasizes the importance of knowing your strengths and weaknesses before identifying acquisition opportunities. For example, if you’re a large company with established sales channels, you’ll want to make sure you’re acquiring products that you can sell through those sales channels.

You’ll learn a lot from Michel about leadership, product strategy, and decision making.

Here are the highlights:

  • How conquering a category informs Michel’s product strategy (5:45)
  • How Michel builds a portfolio of products to lead a market (8:45)
  • How Michel makes strategic decisions when managing a portfolio of products (12:40)
  • Michel shares the leadership lessons that have most contributed to her success (20:20)
  • How Michel approaches M&A decisions (26:15)
  • What it takes to be successful in enterprise product management (32:40)

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