I’ve written about the importance of product adoption. Getting a return on something that no one regularly uses is pretty tough. Adoption isn’t the only important factor related to products; ownership is as well.
A common factor among successful martech stack components is clear and dedicated ownership. Ownership doesn’t necessarily mean the product owner is in senior management or is paying for it out of their own budget. Depending on the component, there is a wide variety of potential owners. For instance, an SEO tool that costs $100 a month may have a junior staffer as its owner while a CDP or CRM that costs several hundred thousand dollars a year (or more) is likely “owned” by someone with more authority and influence on the senior leadership team.
Project management and change management are two key frameworks that can help define product ownership, and while they’re closely related, they address different facets of an organization.
The implementation of Scrum project management in the Agile methodology includes a role named product owner. Some of the product owner’s responsibilities include representing stakeholders, prioritizing tasks, helping to define requirements and developing deadlines. It’s their job to take a high-level view of the product to ensure that value is delivered to users/customers. The Scrum framework places important responsibilities in this role to help the product perform well and provide a high return on the investment.
Through years of research, the Prosci methodology in change management has determined that the top obstacle for successful change is insufficient sponsorship. This sponsorship is typically provided by someone in senior management. Thus, a crucial part of change management is engaging, educating and enabling sponsors to exhibit ownership over a change. In a martech context, this could be a vice president defending and advancing a migration from one CMS to another. While the main sponsor may not do a lot of the day-to-day work, they support the change with their authority and ability to prioritize resources (time, money, staffing, etc.) as well as recruit coalitions within the organization. If that’s not ownership, I don’t know what it is.
The project and change management fields view product ownership differently, but there is a significant overlap. Both make it clear that ownership is an action word that requires consistent effort to champion a product.
In order for products to succeed, both frameworks need advocates to:
- Find the project the resources and attention it needs
- Ensure that users stay abreast of changes both to the product and the various fields it falls under
- Adjust it to remain in alignment with evolving institutional needs and goals
- Monitor and finetune its performance
- Evangelize its usefulness to relevant stakeholders
Harnessing the methods of both project management and change management to foster effective ownership certainly helps, but in settings that are small or where project management or change management are new, the simple act of assigning specific people to own products should serve as an important early step. When a person understands that they’re responsible for a product, they can start making moves to ensure the product is set to succeed. Implementing specific frameworks like Scrum and Prosci can increase the chances of success, but a person must first adopt and accept the responsibilities to own it. Thus, I argue that ownership is crucial to effective martech management.
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