Project management

How to apply project management as a product-based business owner

How to apply PJM in product-based business
I'm Marie-Louise!

In my 20 years of working as a product & project manager, I’ve got to know some great tools and gained valuable experience to efficiently develop products. I love to share my knowledge and these tools with you.

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When I worked as product manager and project manager for large organizations, I was often wearing the ‘product creation hat’ and at the same time the ‘project management hat’ during a new product development project. 

When you’re a business owner of a product-based business, you’re probably wearing these two hats as well. Here are some tips on how to apply project management as a product-based business owner when you’re developing new products.

When you look at activities focused around creating and defining new products, you’ll see that it requires other skills than the activities around managing this process from idea, through specification, development, manufacturing and launch. 

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The life of a product-based business owner when creating new products

Product creation is more focussed on defining the customer requirements, having thorough market knowledge and technical product knowledge. Next to activities like benchmarking, price setting and user experience analysis, defining the product strategy and the long term product road map are your strategic responsibilities. 

To be successful as product-based business owner, you need certain skills, like the ability to translate customer requirements into successful product propositions, to define the long term product strategy, to assure the right product design and aesthetics, creativity in discussions with engineers/developers on technical issues and how that impacts the final product, create the financial, technical and commercial feasibility of your product idea, defining the product ramp-up quantities with the factory. And so on….

Business owners need to deal with the input of many different disciplines, including third party suppliers and other external organisations. One of their main responsibilities is to make sure that during product development, the product requirements are embedded in the right way, so the end product will be delighting their customers.

How to apply project management as a product-based business owner

While wearing the ‘product creation hat’ brings a more ‘product focussed’ responsibility, wearing the ‘project management hat’ focusses more on coordinating all the activities to complete the project from idea to launch. 

This entails people management, financial project responsibility, project planning, managing manufacturing, assembly and logistics. Daily managing expectations on different levels in the business. 

Helicopter view

All these activities, require skills like having a helicopter view, having good planning capabilities, using a structured way of working, ability to convince and create leverage with stakeholders in different functions and departments, motivate project team members to give their utmost to the project. The main responsibility of the project manager is to ensure in time delivery of the project, right product, right place and within budget.

Common skills

The main common skills that are required in both roles are having a helicopter view, creating structure and good communication skills, to level with different people on different levels within and outside the organisation.

Personal experience

As I’ve experience in combing both roles, I’d like to share my personal experience and how it has worked for me.

Was it difficult for me to wear the same hats in one project? No, not really, as the responsibility of both roles was very clear and I had a lot of experience in both roles. Was there ever a friction in time management between both roles? Did one role sometimes get priority over the other? Yes, definitely. That’s where time management and having essential skills comes in.

The importance of Time management any how to apply project management as product-based business owner

Long term goals might suffer from the short term crisises that need to be tackled. In your product creationrole, working on product strategy and road mapping is very important to guarantee successful product development on the long term.

While in your project management role, managing the daily challenges of new product development needs your focus. 

Your strategic product creation activities sometimes suffer because of urgent daily project issues that need to be picked up right away. When you carry both hats during the same project, you need to divide your time. As both these roles require focus, hard work, motivation and dedication, it is obvious that this will create a time fringe somewhere down the road. 

How to implement better time management in your business when working on new product ideas.

Tip 1: Create a checklist in a spread sheet of everything that you need to do when you create new products. 

I’ll give you a few examples:

  • Define the features & benefits of your new product idea
  • Write a product design briefing for the agency
  • Write a packaging briefing for the packaging design agency.
  • Benchmark the product competitors
  • Define your product positioning in the market
  • Calculate the financial feasibility
  • Do market research on your idea.

Tip 2: Add a deadline to all the items on your checklist. 

Define how long you estimate every item will take on your checklist. Also try to take into account if there are any dependencies between the items. For example, item 5 cannot start before item 3 is finished. 

Tip 3: Add a responsible person behind every item.

If you’re the only one working on your business your name will probably pop-up a lot of times. But when you’re working with external contractors, or suppliers, add their name behind the items that need to deliver. Make sure to communicate clearly with them on your expectations. 

This spread sheet will be your basic tool to manage your new product creation process as a business owner, also wearing the project management hat. 

When your business is growing, and your team is growing this document will evolve as well. You can delegate more tasks and your estimations on how long things take will become more precise based on your previous experience. You’ll have more insight and overview on all activities that need to be taking care of. You’ll become better at managing your time.

Skills you can’t do without.

But not only time management in both these roles is challenging. What about the different skills, background, education and knowledge that are needed for both roles? Are these identical for both the product creation and project management role? Or is there a big difference? Can you excel in both roles when you create new products? 

Can you combine creating amazing products and managing this process at the same time?

My personal experience with carrying both hats during less complex projects is that this can be done very successfully. There is an overlap in skills that are needed in both roles. As a business owner you don’t have project management skills by default. But you can become efficient in managing new product development projects in your business without the need to follow a lengthy education.

Tip 4: Create processes for the different product creation and project management activities in your business.

Try to define a way of working that proved to be successful when creating new products. Use this successful approach whenever you start with a new product idea. 

Tip 5: Define templates for spreadsheets or Docs in your business and use them repeatedly.

When you’ve created a handy action list template, meeting minute template or financial calculation spreadsheet, save it as a template and use it every time. Your team and contractors will get used to the templates and it saves you time explaining everything again. It brings efficiency in your business and saves you hours of setting up your documents.

If you’re looking for a great template to capture your meeting action points, click here to download my free template.

If you feel you can use a little help creating project management templates, coming up with a logical project structure for your product-based business, sign up for my weekly project management tips for product-based business owners by clicking here.

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Hi, I'm Marie-Louise.

I help project managers and entrepreneurs become successful in managing
new product development projects.
And create space in their day so they work efficient and can manage their teams with confidence.

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If you encounter a challenge in your product development activities, please do not hesitate to contact me.