Launch pad: Taking successful product management to the next level

In today’s fast-paced, consumer-driven market, having the best product or technology doesn’t always equal success. In fact, companies are faced with mounting pressure to define, develop and launch the right products and services at the right time and in the right market. Product managers are at the forefront of this evolution, bringing together business and consumer needs while articulating strategy, defining requirements, and being involved in on-going delivery.

A new Product Management program through UC San Diego Extension addresses these challenges and changes by offering students a comprehensive look into the elements and skills necessary to transition into a product management role at their company. The Product Management program provides the real-world tools necessary to be a successful product manager, from learning the phase-gate process critical to product management success to the team and leadership skills necessary to lead a cross functional product management team. Coursework ranges from in-class lectures to field trips and guest speakers, as well as hands on cases, projects and market simulations. The program kicks off on Feb. 9, 2017 with an opening dinner, followed by the first module on Friday, Feb. 10.

While developing new products and managing them through their life cycle is the lifeblood of companies, especially those in technology and science, new product development is risky and most new products ultimately fail. The goal of the in-depth UC San Diego Extension program is to improve a company’s ability to bring successful products to market and maintain that success throughout their lifecycle.

“Product management is in greater demand than it’s ever been because the pressure on companies to be innovative, especially technology companies, is as high as it’s ever been – somebody sitting at home watching a football game can impact a whole industry by creating an innovative app,” said Carlton C. O’Neal, program director of the UC San Diego Extension Product Management program. “The only way for a company to be systemically innovative is to have quality product managers following a world class product management process.”

“Product management, especially in smaller companies and even some bigger companies, is typically not managed as a separate function with an iterative phase-gate process – a series of phases separated by approval gates. It’s necessary to balance a bunch of different priorities, from trying to innovate or fail quickly, to using limited resources, and getting buy-in from all different departments,” he said.

The program has been designed to benefit a wide range of employees, whether in engineering, marketing, sales, finance, operations, customer service, or manufacturing, who might want to move into a product management role, as well as current product managers who want to sharpen their skills and learn the latest product management techniques. Throughout the course, students learn how to collect new ideas, and launch and manage products throughout their lifecycle. The comprehensive program covers product management for the full life cycle of products including overall fit with the company strategy, as well as new technological developments. Students are even introduced to various product management tools, such as innovative product roadmap tools.

While this is a holistic approach to looking at a company’s strategy and product development, O’Neal said it’s critical that organizations also be flexible in the creative process.

“The challenge is that senior executives and companies are under increasing pressure to be more innovative and more rapidly create a new product every two years instead of five years or a new software release every six months. But if you are too efficient, you won’t be as innovative,” said O’Neal, who has 25 years of product management and marketing experience and designed the program based on industry best practices across a wide range of world-class companies. “The challenge is how to maximize creativity and innovation while at the same time being efficient and successful with new products.”

For vibrant tech regions like San Diego, such a program could give local companies the boost they need to remain competitive. In fact, the UC San Diego Extension program was designed based on input from several local CEOs.

“San Diego as a growing city is constantly upgrading its professional community. One of the fastest and best ways to enhance the San Diego business community is to have companies be more innovative and more successful with their new products,” O’Neal said. “UC San Diego Extension’s mission is to help businesses very quickly improve their new product development approaches and to be more innovative and more successful in growing their companies. We are a local resource; for only a few hours a month, we can greatly impact the success of local businesses in terms of innovation and launching new products.”

The UC San Diego Extension Product Management program includes six training modules, including: Product Management, Planning and Innovation; Team Building and Decision Making; Financial Considerations for Product Managers, Marketing and Sales; New Product Process including Phase Gate; and Product Portfolio Management and End of Life. For more information about the program, call (858) 534-9148 or visit


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