I know a lot of PMs cruise through some of the technology industry forums, such as Slashdot, for the occasional useful feedback about products. However, for products like Microsoft Office, you have to go where the less techie folks hang out.
In that spirit, I thought the letters section for this post on Salon's technology blog was actually more interesting that the original post itself. The topic: Microsoft's plans to put Office in the cloud.
A quick addendum to the previous post about customer advisory boards (CABs): Badly-conceived and infrequently-held CAB meetings make the customer feel like the protagonist in this clip. (Plus, it's an excuse to post one of my favorite Kids In The Hall skits.)
In the small corner of the blogosphere devoted to product management, you'll often find musings about the value of customer advisory boards (CABs), such as this post from the Cranky Product Manager. In my own experience, CABs are frustrating beasts, which is why PMs keep talking about how to handle them:
Yesterday, two of my research interests, Agile and CRM, intersected during a briefing. The demo, which I'll describe in a moment, was a great illustration of one of my pet theories: integration will be the killer feature for software in general for the next several years. CRM in particular needs these benefits of integration.
Rally Software has a nice integration between their tools, designed to support Agile development teams, and the Salesforce CRM system. Salesforce users can record enhancement requests and product feedback that are fed automatically into the requirements component of Rally's suite of tools. Product managers then can refine this information (has anyone asked for this feature before? how does it fit into a user story? how important is it?) and add it to the backlog. The product roadmap, which now includes requests that start in the CRM system, can also have some visibility within Salesforce.
Very slick, particularly in how this example shows the value of integrating CRM with other things. As of today, CRM has a lot of untapped potential. As we discovered in the "product management tools" study earlier this year, the CRM system ranks at the bottom of requirements sources.
"Inquiry Insights: Agile Development." Interestingly, a lot of questions we get from clients focus more on the type of product and organization implementing Agile methods than the methods themselves.
Also, I have a short piece in Computing magazine about the best practices foremost on the minds of development teams. As always, your observations, applause, or expressions of mild outrage are welcome.
A while ago, I published a piece titled "Beyond Innovation: Adding Adoption To Your Business Objectives," which started with the observation that we're damn lucky in the technology business. Innovation, particularly on the software side, moves faster than in other industries because of fewer physical constraints. Oh, sure, a few hard realities apply, such as the speed of light, or the amount of heat your overclocked gaming PC generates. Those constraints are trivial, compared to the limits of physics and chemistry that innovaters in other industries face.
As good as rapid, unconstrained innovation can be, it's not without its problems. Technology companies want to give the human source of these innovations, whom we'll call The Smartest Person In The Room, enough latitude to put their talent and creativity to work. And heck, since they're smart, why not put them in charge of things needed to bring their innovative ideas to market, such as the development team? Unfortunately, there is such a thing as giving highly intelligent people too much latitude.