A checklist to evaluate product management training providers

Product management training providers – how do you choose between them?

This question might not be top of your priority list, but perhaps it should be.

If you’ve ever asked yourself the question as to whether you’re any good at your job then I’m sure the answer would be ‘yes’.

But a second question ‘Are you as good as you could be?’ is likely to give a different answer.

We all feel we could learn more and be better at certain aspects of our job. No one is perfect (even my wife tells me that).

The product management and product marketing roles are at the centre of any company with products. And when we do our job better it has a ripple effect across the whole company. Products are more successful and the company makes more money.

But these roles are broad and there is a bewildering array of traditional and newer approaches to be considered when tackling any task. How do you keep up with best practice? How do you understand the big picture and know what to prioritise?

Good training can give you insights into the various options and help educate you on the best approach to take in your circumstances.

From our survey, we know that around half of us have to learn ‘on-the-job’. Maybe we have a mentor, maybe we read up on things – maybe not.

Learning by doing has its place, but it’s not always the most effective way of learning. It can be slow, we make mistakes and it doesn’t help us with what world class looks like.

Based on our experience, we believe the fastest, most effective and engaging training is face-to-face in the classroom.

If you’re considering training, then to help you make a decision on what’s best for you we’ve created a checklist of things to consider when selecting a training provider.

It’s in our Product Management Journal Issue 11 and reproduced below to help you evaluate your options.

1. Credibility

Has the training provider been around for some time? Is their focus purely product management and product marketing? Are they active in the industry doing research and publishing articles? Do they have independent reviews of their performance – the sort of thing you can see on our website?

2. Content

Does the course cover all the areas you need – now and in the future?

3. Course maturity

Is the course well established and has it been honed and improved over many deliveries? Are the instructors experienced in delivering it?

4. Course philosophy

Some companies focus on the theoretical and are formulaic in their approach to product management. It’s their way or it’s the wrong way. Others focus on how to apply a range of tools, ideas and approaches. You need to decide which is most useful for you.

5. Certification

Is it an option? A certification shows delegates have attained a certain level of knowledge and is good for their CV. Revising for an exam helps embed what’s been taught.

6. Course style

Does the provider talk about the style of delivery? Will it be ‘death by PowerPoint’ or will there be lots of interaction, exercises and discussion to keep you enthused and engaged?

7. Flexibility

You might have specific objectives not met by off-the-shelf training. In a private onsite course or workshop is your provider willing to change things to focus on what’s important for you? Do they have a library of content and exercises they can use to create a tailored course?

8. Instructors

It’s important that the instructors have done the job themselves and have a wide range of experience they can bring to the course. Are the instructors up to date?

9. Instructor to delegate ratio

Once you have more than around 14 people in a classroom there is less time for each delegate and some people struggle to fully engage. Some training companies try to pack in as many people as possible while others have strict limits on the number of attendees.

10. Relevance

Does the provider know about your industry or sector? The course will be more relevant and you will get more from discussions with the trainer and other delegates.

11. Post-course follow-up

What else is offered following the training? Can you contact the instructor with questions? Are there follow-on courses? With a private onsite course are there additional services available to help implement and embed what’s been learned?

12. Location

If you’re running an onsite course you can make sure the location suits the team. If you’re attending a public course is it somewhere you can get to easily? Is there a good choice of hotels? It’s a bonus if it’s somewhere you’d like to go anyway!

13. Venue

Is the venue conducive to a great learning experience? Is it purpose designed, with airy rooms and good food? You don’t want to be stuck in a hotel basement with no windows for 3 days!

14. Tools and templates

Does the course provide a soft copy set of tools, templates and checklists that you can adapt and use once you’re back at the office?

15. Value for money

Does the course cover everything you need now and in the foreseeable future? Some training companies split product management into various parts so you need to attend a whole series of courses to get the full picture – which can be expensive and time consuming.

You probably only have one shot at attending a course or running training for your team, so choosing the right provider is really important. Price may be the most visible factor, but choosing solely on price risks wasting time and money on a poor quality experience.

When you think about product management training providers – what is the most important consideration for you?

Andrew Dickenson
Director, Product Focus