Product Management for Platforms with Salesforce PM

This week our #AskMeAnything session welcomed Michael Peck, Product Manager at Salesforce, to talk about Platform Product Management at Salesforce and how to transition into Product Management.

Michael Peck is a Process and System Designer, Product Enthusiast and Agile Delivery Expert currently working as a Product Manager at Salesforce. In his position, Michael is in charge of delivering a portfolio of Digital Experiences & Marketing Technology products globally through multiple dedicated engineering scrum teams.

Before breaking into Product in 2016, Michael was working as a Consultant for over 7 years, performing product and project delivery in Agile environments, digital transformation practice, and process improvement. Michael has been described as an effective PM who has high ability to organize and make engineering language more accessible to stakeholders for better internal communication and collaboration.

Michael graduated from Indiana University of Bloomington with a BA degree in Anthropology and from Kelley School of Business with a Master of Science degree in Information Systems

Platform Product Management at Salesforce

What career outside of PM would you love to be doing (not considering pay, benefits, etc)?

I’d love to be an airplane pilot! I’ve been learning for my private pilot license and I truly love that you need to do the best you can in 2 seconds!
And good enough is enough.

You’d think it’s about being a perfectionist, but there’s just no time for that…instead it takes prioritizing and knowing that you’re always learning and integrating new information to your next decision. Plus it’s a great mix of excitement and relaxation (if that makes any sense 😉).

How do you define actionable metrics with every new release of Salesforce, and how you track them?

I work in technologies that service the web so we make dashboards that regularly check us before and after releases. These at least drive our performance and engagement metrics quite well.

Otherwise, a lot of what we track is done via user testing and acceptance. I think the key is realizing that a dashboard should be all sorts of “data” not just quantifiable, but survey responses, efficiency metrics, etc…

What are the every day tools that you use for managing your work ?

You’d cringe about my spreadsheets 😉 But outside of that, we use a Salesforce product similar to Jira, which I do a lot in.

Personal work, I use a pad and pencil with the front page being what I’m doing now, the next what I need later, and the third what is far out. I’m taking notes on all the pages behind those and pulling up line items constantly.

How do you define product strategy for your company ?

We use a portfolio approach. Since I manage technical marketing products as well as end-user web experiences, there is never an apples-to-apples comparison. Instead, it’s about investment in an overarching set of goals (operational efficiency, speed to market, content relevance, website speed/performance) and taking those tenants as your lens – you always look at opportunities through those benefits and then invest!!

It’s just like good money management there. It may seem a bit “anti-agile” but really it just inspires the right conversations. If pieces of the portfolio need adjustment, you’re forced to discuss why! And meaningful points for conversation is soooo agile! 😉

How do you strategize/benchmark KPIs with Salesforce versus its competitors?

I got very good at ROI and comparisons during Masters work in a business school + doing consulting at Deloitte.

In short, it’s all about frameworks! As long as you can structured comparisons, you can own what’s valuable while still making sure you’re making fair comparisons.

I think KPIs are very relevant to each product and its end-users so I can’t comment to all of Salesforce. For me it’s a quick list of 5-6 per product where if users are different, it is its own thing (and requires its own metrics).

When you’re transforming and improving a process within a team, how do you get buy-in so that everyone gets and stays on the same page?

Behavior change is always easier said than done, of course. It’s all about objectifying the issues and the path forward. When process change is discussed, it’s easy to make it personal because really we are just individuals behaving. However, the key is to show the process is at fault and everyone is rationally functioning in an irrational system or one which needs improvement.

Pilots to get buy-in are HUGE for product features because it makes people feel safe when learning how valuable it is. Pilot internal workflows etc… too! It’ll help ease the concern of “It’ll be changed forever!” as well as give clearly aligned measures for success. You can say, if it looks like this by the end of the pilot, we should keep it like this right?! And that will help.

Salesforce just acquired Tableau – What is your view about it and how do you see it as a PM?

I see Tableau as an opportunity to continue Salesforce’s goal to democratize tech and data. Tableau has done a great job of making something scary (like data) accessible to a broader audience.

Many competitors have had similar investments which are more relate-able to them (think Looker for Google). Tableau is more mature and good for our B2B footprint right now. We will see!

How do you best incorporate UX processes in an agile environment?

Hi For me, I have some great UX partners and it’s about getting them into the ceremonies and activities of development. Rather than asking for finalized documentation and doing some translation work and handing it to my teams, I prefer to have the conversations with everyone in the room and come up with some collaborative vision for the work.

On a more practical level too, we bring users in and test prototypes, we make quick and dirty versions of things and test them against a portion of the traffic. In other words, we align on concepts and know delivery is a bit subjective so we test and test and then pull the trigger (but all together!).

What are your thoughts on using the JTBD (Jobs to be done) methodology to gather customer needs?

I like the “Jobs to be Done” methodology! I think it only falls short when you don’t couple it with 5 whys or laddering or some way to ensure that you aren’t scoping these jobs to be too tactical, granular, or self-fulfilling (based on what they do now with what they have).

I’ve especially enjoyed it in my current environment where I have internal and external stakeholders because those internal stakeholders are truly captivated with high moving costs. How can I understand what they are trying to get done to help me respect and appreciate them more while making it a bit better even if I’m unafraid they’ll just “buy from the competition”.

Transition into Product Management

What Product Management book do you recommend the most?

I actually struggle with this a lot. I don’t read (shh don’t tell anyone) books about my work much. Rather, I find things I do read and learn are very applicable to my job.

Anthropology gives us lessons in culture and organizations and what is valuable and relevant which is important. Philosophy helps us understand logical structures to dig through our own thoughts and relate to the world.

I would say in my current job I do a lot of negotiation with vendors too and Art of Strategy has always been a favorite there as it seems to be helpful in broader contexts too.

What makes a successful PM in your opinion?

I believe a successful PM is someone who has truly internalized their business or customer’s needs. They have an internal voice guiding each decision from those folks. They are multi-lingual so that internal voice can be re-articulated in a manner that functional do-ers can take real informed action.

Have you met any good PMs who were engineers before? What are the pros & cons of PMs who came from development?

I have met great PMs that started as engineers! Especially in the world of integrations, APIs, data flow, and platform-like products, engineers are great at the details and interconnected parts of these.

Great systems thinkers (which is truly what makes a great PM) often are skillsets seen with engineers. I think just getting the business lingo down as well as knowing how to relate features and functionality as a value rather than their functional bits are things to invest your time in improving.

Simply taking things you “engineer” today and writing user stories against them might help you flex your brain to that space. Give it a go!

I’m currently a Data Analyst with 2 years of experience. What would be the best path to take to become a Product Manager?

I’d recommend some courses through universities. You’ll find that the network there is very helpful and you’ll learn the barrier to entry isn’t as high as you might think.

Many PMs lack the data skills to make informed decisions and rely on others to help (which is fine!) BUT they also don’t speak the language to ever get what they want.

Network and consistently show the value of what you’ve done to the PM role. I’d say sitting with QAs or BAs that get deep into functionality would help you round things out a bit too. 🙂

I’m currently a Consultant working as a Manager of Customer Success in an IIoT firm. What would you suggest if I want to transition into PM role?

You need a hook, and yours (like mine was in Management Consulting) is a specialty. Look to get a PM role in the space of IIoT. Also, practice agile in your engagements.

I always married Agile and Waterfall in my consulting engagements to show that we could pull that off in big and even scoped engagements.

Moving into true Product Management is easy then because you come from a place where you made it work in a more complex environment. That went a long way in my PM interviews.

I’m really interested in your transition from agile consulting to Product Management. What was the biggest change for you?

I think the biggest change was learning to live with others’ decisions (those who owned what I did before), and also operating under the assumption that it’s never done, and there are long lifecycles that existed before you.

In Agile consulting, you’re applying this methodology to a high velocity and pretty well packaged deliverable. Priorities shift at the story or epic level but not at a “should we even do any of this anymore?!” level.

I’ve learned to calm down, play the long game, and build relationships above all else because managing the change and chaos is the best we can do. Perfection and finish lines are not real options often. Of course, give yourself and your team boosts with celebrated milestones to fight that a tad 😉

When interviewing potential PMs, what sets a hired candidate apart from everyone else?

I’ve hired PMs and manage them today and for, me it always

A) How they conduct themselves with my cross-functional partners

B) How they frame their problem solving (not right answers but answers that I understand why they got there)

C) Someone who can integrate their experience truly to the conversation. Many can just recite bullets of accomplishments but those I’ve interviewed that say “it’s a lot like this other thing” where that isn’t so obviously related, but hey, yea it is!

Any final advice for aspiring Product Managers?

My final advice is I hope everyone sees Product Management as a way of thinking and an approach to working and that it can be a bit de-mystified but even more-so less intimidating.

Being a good PM is just about understanding the needs around you, adding a little structure, setting expectations, and making some tradeoff decisions.

Most importantly, it’s about bringing everyone along for that journey so they trust you and respect you. You’ll go a long way with that and stop sweating the small stuff. If you’re aspiring to be a PM, don’t do the fake it until you make it, rather map your true experience to what a PM is and realize you bring a lot and you can fill in the rest 😉

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