Ultimate Guide for Internal Product Management

Unfortunately, the field of product management does not focus enough on the product management of internal products. These internal products (aka admin portal) are used by almost all software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies so support their customer-facing (external) products.

For example, you are likely familiar with buying products on amazon.com  or ebay.com – their external customer-facing product. However, when you have an issue with your order and contact customer-service, they interact with an internal tool (aka admin portal) to assist you.

The focus of this guide is to provide a guide for those internal products for current and aspiring internal product managers.

Ultimate Guide for Internal Product Management
Ultimate Guide for Internal Product Management

What is internal product management?

The outcome of internal product management is you solve problems of users internal to your organization (partners, employees, customer service etc) OR enables your organization to satisfy the needs of your customers. – KPB Media

What is the different between internal and external product management?

There are fundamental differences between internal and external product management.

Internal product management focuses on:

  • Customer is the “Internal User” – These are usually the internal users (employees, customer service etc). Thus, they become the persona/user to focus on delivering value to. For example, the customer service might need a tool to quickly process returns for the customer.
  • Cost and Time Reduction – To goal of the product is make the job/task of these internal users easy by reducing the time (and cost) it takes to finish that task.

Whereas “external” product management focuses on the customer and increasing revenue. For example, amazon.com and a buyer/customer. For additional differences and similarities in internal and external product management, read this article.

Obstacles and Challenges for Internal Product Managers

Internal product managers come up against unique obstacles when demonstrating value internally and for their career growth. Specifically;

  • Demonstrating business Value – Since internal product managers do not generate new revenue, they are sometimes have a harder time demonstrating value. This value is needed to ask for more headcount for resources (developers, QA, etc).
  • Lack of “Marketing” of the Internal Product – Unlike the customer-facing product, internal products do not have a dedicated marketing team and don’t end up being celebrated like the main product does. Thus, the internal product mangers must take the role of “marketing” and ensure they make the company and executive realize the wins.

For additional obstacles that internal product managers face, read this article by productfocus.

Career Growth Advice for Internal Product Managers

Internal product managers face unique career growth challenges. This article by productfocus gives practice advice to navigate such challenges. To summarize;

  • Clearly demonstrate your value (in metrics) to the stakeholders
  • Become the marketer and evangelist of your internal product
  • Create case studies and stories to share internally

Podcast on building internal solutions as an internal product manager

Fortunately, internal product managers are uniquely equipped to come up with creative solutions to company-wide problems. This podcast by “This is Product Management” highlights the skill of “Building Internal Solutions”.

Project types and skills for Internal Product Managers

Internal product managers can handle a wide variety of projects from simple to complex. This post by Rich Mironov highlights the various projects and tips for handling such projects for internal product managers. Furthermore, it starts from fundamentals of types of internal projects and focuses on skills and best-practises on each of them.

As I continue to build my career in product management, I hope to write down learnings and post them here in the near future. If you have things you would like to add to this guide, please comment below.

5 comments On Ultimate Guide for Internal Product Management

  • Hi- I was just wondering if you developed this thinking further? Happy New Year!

    • sbdurcan, good timing. I am planning to post more of my learnings about internal product manage in February 2018. Please subscribe or send me an email so I can let you know when I am done that. It will be nice to get your feedback.

  • Hi Jawwad… Have you posted anything furthe on this topic? Would be great to network with you and delevop this thinking further to share with others. Thanks

    • James, thanks for posting and keeping me accountable. I do have drafts ready for a few more blog posts on internal product management. I do plan to post them here according to my priority list. If you want to work together to speed that up, please connect with me on social media (links up top) to chat.

  • Isn’t “internal product management” and “internal customers” terms that are thrown around so that infrastructure teams can demand higher salaries within their org?

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