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WTF is…Product Consulting?

Hint: it's a little more than putting up post-its. Don't believe us? Read on! Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

Hint: it’s a little more than putting up post-its. Don’t believe us? Read on! Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

Alright, let’s get right to it: 

As a consultant, you support someone or a group of people in achieving something or improving their skills, and of course this can also be applied to product management. 

Notoriously, typical areas of product consulting are coaching, trainings and workshops, usually aimed at a specific area such as product/market fit, product discovery, product analytics, implementing an operational framework, hiring a team…you name it. 

Just the jist? Here are our TL;DR Key Takeaways again:

  1. Considering yourself the greatest expert in your own domain is a trap — don’t fall for it! It can very much help to bring in an outside opinion when you might already be operationally blind. Especially when these opinions come from people who’ve already been involved in many different projects in different companies.
  2. Don’t place the entire burden of education & growth on the staffed PMs, but rather bring in external consultancy to speed up their personal growth process — at the very least, participants will learn new perspectives.
  3. It’s also great to bring in external talent to run a valuable project or assessment that your staffed PMs don’t have any bandwidth for. It’s not that they couldn’t do it, but in a healthy product org, they’ve got key results that they need to focus on. So, it’s not the best idea to dilute their focus by e.g. placing them on a lead for something else, and moving them towards a burn out by giving them the burden of even more todos.

Let’s put meat on the bone now.

Mom, where do product consultants come from?

“Imagine you’ve worked in a profession for a long time, my child…”. Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Independent product consultants

Imagine you’ve worked in a profession for a long time, and have worked in a variety of 

  • organizational designs, e.g. cross-functional and agile teams vs. functional and corporate, waterfall setups vs. network organisations, etc.
  • industries, e.g. telecommunication, energy, education, finance, insurances, etc. 
  • types of products, e.g. e-commerce, marketplaces, SaaS, PaaS, comparison platforms, etc.

And you’ve seen so many different situations that can happen in those combinations! Each of them unique in themselves!

At one point, the knowledge and tricks you’ve learned hands-on are so valuable that you could use them to guide someone or a group of people to solve their own problems faster and better

That’s the moment when you realize: “Hey, I could start consulting and help others in a bigger way!” 

You can go two ways from there — become an independent “solo” consultant, or join a consulting firm.

What about product consulting firms?

There also are product consultants working for consultancies who’ve worked together with many different clients on many different projects.

These consultants understand your situation and find ways to navigate through your very special situation quickly. Most of the time; they’re able to guide your whole corporate (yes, talking about medium-sized and big companies) organization, even through transformation projects. 

Yes, transformation projects also exist in product management.

Whether independent consultant or consultancy; product consultants train your people or get projects moving! Because they’ve been there, done that, and are passionate about helping your team to help themselves and grow:

Consultants are guides.

But my Senior Product Manager could educate the team, too?!

Looks like something that could’ve been an email. Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Well — yes, and no.

Of course, you have talented Product Managers who can educate each other — but the curse of Product Managers is that they’re always busy:

  • Calendars are full with meetings 📆🌪
  • Spare time in between is used for getting things done ⌚️🏃
  • Their heads are busy with juggling multiple tasks at the same time to make sure they’re building a great product 🔢🛠

When should they have time for upskill others if they might not even find time to upskill themselves?

The most that your product managers can learn is by looking at their peers. That’s good in its own right, but at the same time it’s one-sided and limited learning. 

If you want to make sure your product managers have a broad set of knowledge and tools in their toolbox to maximize their effectivity, you’ll benefit from an external professional who shows them other perspectives.

And maybe — just maybe — a specific skill is missing entirely in your team, which you need or want them to build up. How do you do that? You got it: Get a consultant to teach them! 

Consultants are educators.

We know what we’re doing, we don’t need any support!

Teams don’t win by circling around themselves, bud! Photo by gerhard crous on Unsplash

Absolutely! But –

You might want to consider getting support though, when you run into the same issues again and again and are still struggling to find a way to solve them.

Or maybe, you know what you want to do but not how.

Or maybe, you as a leader in your company or your team is super busy and would like to delegate important work that needs to be done urgently but can’t get done without risking burn outs, to someone who’s done these things before, like running discovery projects, helping to set up dashboards for product analytics, setting up goal tracking systems, etc.

Think about getting inspiration from consultants, or even hands-on support. Because daily business and being in the business deeply might have built up blind spots that you’re not aware of anymore.

Consultants are supporters.

So — WTF is a product consultant?!

Product consultants are product professionals who can help you to ask yourself the right questions to get to the answers that help you get unblocked and build great products.

They help product leaders, founders and product managers to upskill within a short period of time. Maybe you want to bring in some expertise in product analytics, a cleaner way of setting up roadmaps, different prioritisation techniques, product discovery habits, etc.?

They run important tasks and projects while educating your team on how to do it themselves the next time. Maybe instead of a workshop, you need someone to run product discovery while setting up a continuous discovery process and establish a discovery driven mindset in your company? And this is only one example.

They bring important new perspectives and learnings into product work at your company. While working with you or your product managers, they can share real-life examples, different ways of thinkings from other industries, and examples from their own experience.

They help transforming your team to bring in more product thinkingThis might be the case when you notice that you’re not building the right product, that nobody wants your product, you’re stuck in a feature factory, you’re not able to find product/market fit, and the like. 

Product management is a team sport. And a team is only as strong as its weakest player. Level up the game!

So, how about it?

Are you a product consultant? Feel like we missed something? Or are you in the market for support, and would like to know more about what consultants could do for you? We’d love to hear from you, please leave us a comment below!👇

Interested in more stories around freelancing in Product Management? We publish regularly to our Freelance Product Manager publication & would appreciate a follow! 👆

And as always,

Thanks so much for reading!

We acknowledge that with the 6 minutes, you could’ve literally done anything else, and we’re very honored that you decided to dedicate them to our piece! ❤️

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