You know, sometimes I wonder why I’m not working in consumer products. Not consumer software, but consumer products.
I’ve joked about this with my software product management friends before. Life would be a lot easier it seems. Forget about all the detailed technical work, and all the efforts to keep pace or leap frog the competition, and all the tedium of ensuring compatibility with 3rd party products. Just make the packaging bigger, or smaller, or add a nice lemony scent, or blue dots or something else, and launch a big new campaign to get customers!
We do have an equivalent in the Big Honkin' Technolkogy (BHT) industry. It's called product marketing.
The second product management survey is now officially started. What are the most common tasks and responsibilities for PMs? How much do these job descriptions vary across the technology industry (TI)? How big is the difference between what PMs think they should be doing, and what actually consumes their time? If Jack and Kate got off the island, what happened to Sawyer?
I confess, I can't really help you with that last question. We should have some interesting and useful answers to those other questions, however. If you want to be part of either or both surveys, just drop me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Christina (email@example.com) an e-mail.
The other day, the good people at Enthiosys were kind enough to let me sit through part of one of their product management seminars. They use "serious gaming" as a very serious product management tool, an idea that gets a strong thumbs up from me.
This short introduction to Enthiosys drove home a "meta-point" about product requirements. During a matched pair of games, the participants played both customer and product manager. Starting with a cryptic customer comment--and how many hours have we spent deciphering those--the PMs were responsible for understanding why someone might be unhappy with a pair of headphones. (Whispered aside: I'm passionate about my choice of headphones. I've gone through at least a dozen before finding some that work for me.)
The first survey, covering PM tool usage, is underway. We'll be running it for a few more weeks, so if you or anyone else wants to join it, don't hesitate to ask. Just contact me via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details. The results are already pretty interesting, but I'll keep my mouth shut until we get a larger sample, lest the statistics gods smite me. ("Oh Anova! Oh Sigma! Oh Quartile! Guide me, lest I deviate in the standard ways...")
We're putting the finishing touches on the second survey, covering PM job descriptions and common tasks. Fingers crossed, we should be starting in the next couple of days.
Of course, after declaring my happiness that the survey had started, the gods had to punish me for my hubris. We had a glitch with the web survey tool that didn't appear during our testing. Apologies to everyone who encountered this problem.
You can't research every topic, but there's nothing stopping you from thinking aloud. While we investigate PM tools, it's hard to miss the shadow of another question falling across us: Is the information management part of product management getting harder?
Naturally, my own experience in product management is part of the inspiration for that question--but only part. There are "grand historical" forces at work in the technology industry (TI) that, I suspect, increase the inherent complexity of product requirements, release management, product marketing, and other aspects of the PM's job. Off the top of my head, here are just a few:
The first in our series of product management-focused surveys is now live. Woo hoo!
The topic for survey #1 is, "What tools do product managers use, and how effective are they?" We're using the term tools very broadly to include everything from high-powered requirements management tools to Microsoft Word. The truism, "The right tool for the right job," has an extra twist for product managers, given how many different jobs PMs might do.
The results should be verrrry interestink. (Wow, that pop culture reference certainly dates me. We'll give a coveted No-Prize to anyone who can identify the source.)
There's an interesting discussion about personas at the On Product Management and Cranky Product Manager blogs. While I agree, personas should zoom into the important details, and ignore the fluff, I wonder how many development teams actually use personas at all when making design decisions.
That's not a knock on personas as a requirements tool. Quite the opposite: Know thy end user better than thyself should be the motto of product management. However, I'm not convinced that a lot of development teams have seen the value in this tool.
It's a hard cultural or mental change for some development teams to make, something I've witnessed first-hand. How many development teams have crossed this particular chasm? And are there tips of the trade about making this transition to be learned? I have no idea. (Potential research topic?)
First, thanks to everyone who volunteered to be part of the PM-focused surveys. The door is always open for new people to join, so tell a friend! And a special thanks to the Product Management View, who kindly posted a notice about the survey on their blog.
For those who haven't read this blog before, I'll extend the invitation again to tell us about the topics in product management that are important to you. Product managers are busy people--so busy that it's hard to find the time to investigate how to do the job better or more easily. If you have a topic that's important for you, please post it in the comments, or drop me a line.