Product manager vs. project manager: who is what, and why is each important

During our first 2 weeks of class, I have been assessing how my company handles project management, and where to find our PMO group. Regrettably, our company does not have a dedicated group that handles all our company’s projects. This led myself to re-assess how our company operates under its current organization, which based on our customer needs, Hotwire serves to be a fun, spontaneous travel site that attracts advantageous travel geeks. Our goal is to develop a great travel experience, and this hinges on product development. Product development has similarities with project management, developing a scope, executing on the deliverables, quality control, and completion. So I searched what was the main difference between these organizational groups, and found an article that describes how a product manager sees the difference (listed at the end of this post).

The article discuss the differences between product and project management. Product management is “focused on the end-to-end life cycle of an identified value-proposition”, and I see this group supporting an on-going goal. Ultimately, product managers serve the purpose of delivering products to its customers. The article breaks down project management simply as having a “narrower scope, delivering an outcome defined by someone else”, and which gives the impression that project managers have a purpose based on around strategic decision makers.  The article gave me the impression that product managers are miss understood, and should have a clearer view of their role in the organization.

So, I as reflect on the author’s view of product management and project management, I see the similarities with my own firm, but in the reverse. Project managers have an unclear role in our organization because of how our company organizes it’s priorities around product development. As a Hotel Account Manager, I work closely with our product teams, who oversee different functionalities on our site. These functionalities include product placement, special tagging, promotion features, and specialized amenities (like free parking or complimentary breakfast). In addition to these different product types, our product teams are organized into different categories like mobile, supplier tools, content, pricing and email marketing.

When it comes to our company’s project managers, they are involved in new product releases, technology conversions, and having ownership over key initiatives. Some of these initiatives are related to our companies score card that track different strategy goals, and our project managers are either key senior managers or proven contributors assigned to a special project. To give further insight, our team assigned one of Regional Managers a project to oversee a conversion of a sister travel site. Our Regional Manager led the project for 3 months, and after completing the project, continued to manage his region. Ultimately, I believe our company is set up for success, but I wonder how we could be a better organization with a dedicated PMO team.

Does anyone see a similar project management set up with their organization?


NFL Life Cycle

After reading the product life cycle of bacon, I thought of other products that have similar product cycles. The first product that came to my mind was the product life cycle of the National Football League.


The National Football League began in the late 1800s. When the NFL was in the introductory phase, the most popular form of American football was in the collegiate level. It wasn’t until the 1950s when collegiate football stars began to play in the NFL that the NFL began to gain some relevance among American spectators. In the 1960s other football leagues popped up and rivaled the NFL. These other leagues almost ended the product cycle of the NFL prematurely but the NFL persevered.


In the 1980s the rise of the NFL was unprecedented. It became the United States most popular spectator sport above Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association. Although it was already at the top it was still only in its growth phase. Currently the NFL is still the most spectated sport with raging fanatics and no sign of stopping. The Super Bowl is the most watched event in the United States and the National Football League is looking to expand to eighteen games and adding an expansion team in London. NFL teams are on average worth more than a billion dollars. Depending on whom you ask some people still believe that the NFL is in the growth phase. With all the success surrounding the NFL it is hard to dispute that. Although the NFL is continuing to experience all this success and continuing to try and expand there are many obstacles that could ultimately lead to their decline.


Recently the NFL has been portrayed negatively in the news because of the waythey handled the Ray Rice domestic assault charges. Women make up a large portion of their fan base and the way they handled the situation can only negatively affect it. The NFL also faces criticism because of the way they handle player safety. They have received strong criticism for not having a stronger concussion protocol and because for a while they neglected to acknowledge the damaging effects of concussions. Many parents are worried that concussions can really negatively affect their child’s life and are not letting their kids play football anymore. The reason the NFL is so popular is because they have very talented athletically gifted players. A decrease of children playing football can negatively affect athlete pool available for NFL teams, which could make NFL games less exciting.


Although there are many criticisms once the NFL season starts those are pushed aside and all people care about is their teams’ chances of making the playoffs. Do you believe the NFL will lose popularity and enter its decline phase if they continue to face more of these criticisms? Do you think expanding is a good idea even though player safety is a very major concern and will that have any effect?

Long Live Rock n’ Roll: How Heavy Metal Has Saved the European Cruise Industry.


As we are all aware, the cruise line industry has been struggling recently. Between ships capsizing and passengers being stranded for days with no food or running water, the cruise industry has taken a huge hit. Recently, however, one European line has come up with a strategy to pique customers’ interests again.

After the 32 deaths that resulted from the Costa Concordia tragedy, European operations managers have been seeking to regain their client’s trust. Since these recent mishaps have taken place, passenger growth rates have decreased by 4, 9, and 18 percent in Germany, Italy, and Spain, respectively. TUI Cruises (which operates between TUI in Europe and Royal Caribbean in Miami) had an operations loss of $14.2 million as of March 31. Cost cuts have been implemented which could include dropping at least one of its five ships if things do not begin to improve.

In an attempt to broaden their client basis, Europe’s $48 billion industry has begun offering cruises targeted at special interest groups, ranging from nudists to food junkies. Among these new cruises is the Full Metal Cruise, on the luxury cruise liner Mein Schiff. This line features heavy metal bands on board including full-fledged mosh pits, rock concerts, on board tattoo artists, and after-hours heavy metal karaoke. German heavy metal band, Kreator, was among some 20 other bands booked by TUI. url.jpgAlmost 2,000 fans booked this rock n’ roll cruise, with most of them being first time cruisers, says company spokeswoman, Godja Soennichsen. The goal of this cruise was not only to generate income to make up for the recent loss, but also to gain publicity and counter the negative press. Managers also wanted to reach a demographic that may have previously never considered a cruise.

Overall, the strategy has been successful. The rock n’ roll themed cruise sold out, with the average passenger age being 39- which is significantly younger than the typical European cruise demographic of 45-65. The ships port, Germany, was also the fastest-growing market in Europe for 2011, providing desirable vacation-goers, because they spend more money on board than any other Europeans. Beer consumption on the metal cruise was also up from the average cruise, at 16 liters per person. This is six times more than your typical cruise.

The bottom line is that for whatever reason, the cruise industry seemed to be reaching the decline point in its product life cycle. However, through the use of differentiation as a product strategy, companies such as TUI have been able to counteract this decline and may be at the beginning of another growth stage.

Do you think that this strategy to gain new customers is one that will last over time or is it just a quick fix for a dying industry?

Is there a special type of cruise that you would like to go on or a certain special interest group that you think should be targeted for these types of cruises?

The King Delivers: Burger King’s New Delivery Service

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The world of fast food has always been about convenience for customers in terms of pricing, locations, accessibility, etc. Burger King has decided to take it a step further by introducing a delivery service in major U.S. Metropolitan areas. The service is now offered in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Customers must order a minimum of $10 worth of food to be eligible for the delivery service.

Ordering food for delivery has been trending for quite some time now thanks to websites like Grub Hub. Although delivery service has been around for many years at places like Pizza Hut and Dominos, it has risen in popularity with more restaurants offering it as well as providing convenient ways of ordering such as via the phone, Internet, or mobile app.  Out of the major fast food restaurants (McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Wendy’s), Burger King is the first one to test the market for delivery service.

Currently, Burger King is in the maturity stage of its product life cycle because its competitors are well established and they are focused on innovation. They are forecasting a positive return for their delivery service and hope to be the trendsetters among other fast food giants. The very popular drive-thru option was introduced in 1975 at both Burger King and McDonalds and became a standard at fast food restaurants. McDonalds is clearly untouchable in terms of competition with sales four times greater than Burger King, but Burger King’s delivery service strategy can help them get a step ahead and be the first company to introduce it.

I believe that Burger King is going to have some success with their delivery service with their already established, loyal customers, but will not have a lot of impact on irregular consumers. Although America has always been a nation of fast food, the new trend is eating healthy and being fit. Healthy lifestyles are more and more promoted and gym memberships are on the rise. Burger King’s delivery service does not align with the new trend, but instead makes it easier for people to eat unhealthy.

A way that the company can utilize the delivery service is to introduce healthier menu options. They can then combine the two ideas by promoting the delivery of new salads or other products. Other than that, I do not see this service surviving in the long run. I also do not think that McDonalds will invest in it because if deemed to be successful, then the number one fast food chain would have tried it a lot sooner.

Although Burger King’s delivery service is in the trial stage, they are still following their commitment to convenience for customers. May the odds be ever in their favor.









Let’s Start a Business…Maybe We’ll Make Money

Has anyone ever considered how the product life cycle would apply to a business?  I am not referring to the product of a business but simply the business; the “business life cycle.”  The business life cycle follows the same path as a product life cycle starting with its introduction, followed by its growth and maturity, and finally the decline.  How would it feel to start a business and never make it past the introduction phase?

In the last month, a group of successful entrepreneurs got together to talk about the issues that came up while starting their businesses.  There were a few conclusive points that don’t really get mentioned too often in the news.  The common themes were the constant shadow of failure, and how failure can effect founders later.  The start up of a business is very pricey and can take quite the toll on your financial position at first.  The obvious goal is that the money you invest into your start up will at some point return back to you at a profit.  How would you feel to have the constant thought that your business may not make it?  After all the time, money, and energy that you put into trying to make a company successful only to find out a few years later that the only thing that came out of it was a pile of expenses and a bad reputation for yourself as a leader.

This was never something I thought about too deeply but these are the problems that founders deal with all the time.  Many people have dreams to start their own businesses, but how many have thought about the emotional side that comes along with the start up   You are constantly haunted of failure inside but need to keep a hard shell and show your confidence on the outside.  It’s particular hard for the founder as they have no escape route.  Employees can always quit and find a new job, but a founder quitting before seeing the company mature means failure; failure that will follow you forever.

Who do you go to for help when everything starts heading down hill?  “When people at your company go to lunch, they have a common theme — they can complain about management. But you are management. You can’t go to lunch and complain to anyone” (Forbes).   At this point it seems that pending failure is unavoidable.  As a founder, what do you do?  It seems that you have three main options: throw in the towel and accept defeat, change your business strategy and hope your new one is better, or wish for the best.

Has anyone ever wanted to start a business? If so, how much thought did you put in to the possibility of failure or was it simply never a possibility?

If you never had the desire to start your own business, what do you do when failure is inevitable?


Audio Innovations-Growth Stage

Rock-It 3.0 OrigAudio

We have learned in our Management 301 class that every product is subject to a life cycle. In its early stage, called introduction, the product is designed, developed with attention to quality, short production and limited models. The next stage is growth, where forecasting is critical, the product goes through competitive improvements, and distribution is enhanced. Then the product goes through maturity, in which standardization takes place. Finally, the product declines, where there is a lower product cost, differentiation decreases and capacity is reduced.

There are several products in the market that we can see going through the life cycle, but I have found an interesting article that makes reference to good examples of products on growth stage. They are the OrigAudio products, such as cardboard speakers, headphones and golf-ball-size amplifiers. According to the article in the Chicago Tribune by Ronald White, these OrigAudio products started being developed by Chicago entrepreneurs Jason Lucash and Mike Azymczk. These two marketers got their products in the market and successfully accomplished to be listed as one of the best inventions in 2009 by Times Magazine, just after a short period of time of their introduction (White, Ronald).
During the introduction stage the process design and development were critical, as well as they had short production run. The article mentions that since they are marketers, they don’t know about engineering, so they have been looking for people that can complete their team by helping them to bring their innovating ideas to life. Now, in the growth stage the entrepreneurs have been working on enhancing distribution. One of their most important decisions was moving to California. According to the article, by moving closer to the Pacific, great benefits were acquired by OrigAudio such as; decrease on transportation costs of inputs from China. But mostly, because the region with core surf and skate crowd represents a good market for them, to increase sales. In order to accomplish their goals they have been and will continue hiring more employees. Also they are working in more innovating designs for their speakers, headphones and amplifiers (White, Ronald). Finally, they are forecasting to have $5 million on sales this year, a totally different amount than in 2010, when they had just $700,000 in revenue (White, Ronald). But it makes sense since they had $3.5 million revenue in 2012 .
Some other OrigAudio products in the market, mentioned in Ronald’s article, are:

  • The Fold and Play speakers, which looks like a Chinese restaurant, take out box.
  • The Rock-It, which according to the article, includes a piece of the size of a marshmallow peep candy.

It looks like these entrepreneurs from Chicago are doing a good job in the growing stage of their products, since they are working on the competitive improvements and options.
Do you think they will be able to stretch their products’ life cycle enough for OrigAudio to earn and keep a good place in the market?
What would be your recommendations for these entrepreneurs to maintain their business growing?


Social Media: A Business Maker or Deal Breaker?


Social media is everywhere. For our generation especially, the Internet and networking sites are a part of our daily lives. People use social media to communicate with one another on both personal and professional levels. Businesses have begun using social media as a means of advertising and promoting their companies, so it’s no surprise that people are starting to consider it a tool for competitive advantage rather than something to do in your spare time.

Consulting firm Vivaldi Partners recently ranked a list of companies based on their use of social media and its effect on consumer awareness and purchases. Among the top 10 companies were household names like Amazon, Google, Target, and Dunkin’ Donuts.  These companies are smart in recognizing that social media is no longer just a small department within the company, but rather a main way to conduct business. And while it is true that larger firms (such as those mentioned above) have more economic resources to fund their social media sites, the true key to success is using your resources wisely.

Three big tips have been given to businesses that wish to improve their social presence and it’s effect on profits. The first is to have a strategy. Many companies get easily discouraged once the initial excitement fades away and immediate results aren’t seen. However, by planning ahead and tailoring your approach so that it will yield the results you want to see, one can easily increase their odds of success. To create an effective strategy, companies must consider not only the characteristics of the organization but also those of the audience, and tailoring their strategy to the social media site that best supports those characteristics.


The second tip is to have plenty of content. In the fast-paced world of social media, companies must be able to bring new or unique ideas to the table almost daily. Content development strategies are absolutely necessary to keep your presence known online. By establishing what you want to accomplish and how you will get there, businesses will be able to allocate necessary positions to achieve this presence.

Finally, businesses must understand that success doesn’t happen over night. Social media presence may take months or years between design, installation, growth, and maturity. Companies should elect individuals to be in charge of watching trends, content development, calendar creation, writing, editing, photography, and video production, etc. Social media is extremely time consuming, with 43% of businesses stating it takes up 6+ hours of the workweek, every week.  Most likely, social media will become it’s own department in the coming years.

Overall, it’s obvious that social media is ever-present and is only going to continue to grow. Similar to operations, social media has become a product with a life cycle that has no foreseeable expiration date. It will continue to go through these cycles until a new product or platform is introduced.

While there are plenty of ways for social media to make your company, are there also ways in which it could break you? What are the disadvantages to having a presence on the Web?

The Return of Furby’s

Furby’s were the must have toy when they surfaced around 1998. In 2011, eleven years after the Furby stopped being made, Hasbro was thinking up the Next Big Toy for the upcoming years and after much consumer research and focus groups, the decision was in the reboot the 90s class of the Furby.  The toy that has the ability to change personality by the way the user interacts with it.  Looking back, this gremlin-like toy is probably one of the most terrifying things to give a child, but as the world will have it, Hasbro is recreating the toy for the new younger generation.  Wal-Mart and Toys R’ Us have both put the new and improved Furby on their Must-Have lists for the upcoming holiday season.

New vs. Old

To modernize the Furby, the product designers are connecting the concept of a Furby with the “app toys” that will interchangeable work with Android and Apple devices by way of an app to connect that so many children are playing with these tech devices.  The Furby isn’t the only toy redesign Hasbro is working on.  They have a number of on going projects to retarget their toys to correspond with a higher tech level so they are more desirable to children.

An interesting thing to consider is that the Furby was introduced in 1998 and quickly went through the product cycle until the cease of manufacturing in 2000.  Furby’s could definitely fall under the category of all the other “fad” toys that came out in the late 90s and early 2000s that were always the must have toys of the season.

In class, we learned about the product lifecycle and how all products go through an introduction, growth, maturity and decline.  There is no doubt that the original Furby is well into the decline stage because Hasbro stopped making them in 2000.  Because most children who had a Furby in their childhood are now somewhat grown up, Hasbro is able to reintroduce a newly designed Furby into the market to restart in the introduction stage of the product lifecycle.  However, the new market of children is not the only one being targeted.  Hasbro is also marketing to people in 20-year range as a retro toy, even though they are completely redesigned.  The new Furby was released this fall so it will be interesting to see if the product skips the growth stage all together and goes from introduction to maturity because the company has been through the stages of growth such as standardization with the earlier model.

 Do you think it was a good idea for Hasbro to recreate the extremely profitable toy from the 90s?  If any of you had Furby’s when you were younger, would you consider buying this newly designed Furby?  Do you think that the Furby has a chance to make its way fully through the product life cycle once again?



Shell or Shock? Possible Redesign of Toyota Prius

Toyota Motor Company is considering a complete redesign of its iconic economy car, the Prius. After 15 years in production, with only very subtle design changes as seen in the design evolution pictures below. It would be a big risk for Toyota to drastically change the proven design of the Prius, but it could also open it to a large new consumer base. Since its original debut in 1997, the Prius has epitomized the movement towards environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles that run on both gasoline and electricity. The Prius has experienced record sales in 2012, with sales increasing 60 percent over last year.  The main driving factor for the possible shift to a new design is to move away from the awkward shell type platform that has reigned since its initial debut. Although the shell is an incredibly aerodynamic style, it has traditionally been seen as something of a “geek mobile” and was often ostracized by most car enthusiasts.  By shifting to a more generally appreciated design, Toyota would see its target market grow substantially, since most car buyers are always looking for the best mix of fuel economy and design appeal.

It is slightly surprising that Toyota is considering such a drastic redesign, since it is currently in the growth stage of the product life cycle. As stated in class, the growth stage is when a manufacturer needs to focus on competitive product improvements, which are needed to help it stay current with the recent  introduction of new competitors such as Ford, and the continuing rivalry with Honda. However, Toyota Prius has managed to follow one characteristic of  the  product life cycle, and that is to enhance distribution and capacity. It has managed to increase capacity from only a few thousand units in its initial introduction, to nearly 700,000 through only the first 9 months of this year. By designing a new generation of Prius to appeal to more style conscious consumers, Toyota may end up gouging its current market, since many of the current buyers appreciate the iconic shell shape. At this point it is impossible to predict the exact fate of the Prius, since the new design has yet to be finalized. However the question arises of what possible design attributes can Toyota maintain from the current model to retain current customers, and what can they change to help attract new buyers?



Extra! Extra! Read All About Going from The Printing Press to Digital!


Smartphones, eReaders and tablets are becoming increasingly popular, which is why today’s consumers want digital material. Printed magazines, newspapers, and books are becoming the thing of the past. According to a Forbes article, Newsweek magazine has decided to go digital. After 80 years of printed publication, Newsweek realized they were in the stage of decline. Newsweek’s circulation went from an estimated 3.1 million between 2001 and 2007 to 1.8 million in 2010. And by July 2012, circulation was 1.57 million. In the declining stage of the product life cycle, a company must eliminate products or services that are not returning good margins. However, despite declining sales of Newsweek, Newsweek’s   founder/editor-in-chief and CEO, Tina Brown and Baba Shetty remain optimistic. Newsweek has come to understand today’s market and the growing demand for digital media, such as, digital books, digital music, online movie viewing etc. Thus, Tina Brown and Baba Shetty have decided to take Newsweek to a digital format and change its name to Newsweek Global. According to Forbes, Newsweek Global will operate on a paid subscription and be distributed via tablets and the Internet. Andrew Sullivan a blogger advised management to make the switch from a physical magazine to digital years ago since no one under the age of 30 read printed material. On the other hand, Felix Salmon of Reuters think reinventing Newsweek is a total waste of time due to the lack of demand for Newsweek. I personally feel Newsweek has a chance of surviving. What do you think, is digital the way to go?

Check Out Forbes Article Here