Next PM open house: Agile in tech companies

Since our first Forrester open house for product managers and product marketers was a success, we're going to start scheduling them regularly. Like, say, once a month.

The topic that has received the most votes in our topic survey is, How does Agile affect the company, outside the development team? Other leading topics include:

  • What's the state of the art in requirements?
  • How are other companies structuring their PM teams?
  • How do companies make a successful transition to a new business model?
  • How do other teams handle sales support?
  • What are some strategies for handling the product roadmap?

We're leaving the survey open, so please, vote for the topics that most interest you.

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The Heretech, episode 28: April Dunford on product marketing

April Dunford, who writes the blog Rocket Watcher, explains the product marketing challenges in the tech industry, and the special problems facing startups. We also talk about how PMs can embrace social media without a huge hit to their schedule. Plus, a juicy tidbit from the upcoming research document on requirements. (c) 2009 Tom Grant

Remember the KISS principle?

This morning, I had a briefing with McObject, a tech vendor that specializes in embeddable databases. From cars to set-top boxes to web sites, there's a near-universal need to put data somewhere, retrieve it, and manage it. In these use cases, the simplest database technology is the best.

Their product strategy is interesting to the readers of this blog for at least a couple of reasons. First, there's an unstated assumption in many technology companies that complexity is inescapable. If you want to keep pace with your competitors, you have to keep pace with their feature set.

Keeping the roadmap simple
Pshaw. If you look carefully at McObject's roadmap, you don't see crazy amounts of new features. Instead, their product strategy focuses on the essentials. Provide logical database devices as a layer of abstraction above the actual storage (on disk, in memory, etc.). Take advantage of the performance improvements in 64-bit architectures. Give the developer an optimistic concurrency option.

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Sometimes, you measure commitment by the hour

During a breakfast meeting this morning, someone asked a very sharp question: Are businesses really operating differently because of social media? I then jumped in the car, drove from San Francisco back to our Foster City office, and heard how Cisco has used social media to change product launches.

The obvious change, of course, is lowering the cost, if you're not renting out the Moscone Center for a big launch party. Slightly less obvious changes include the ability to reach more people in more countries. , the virtual launch also makes it possible to reach more people, in more countries, than Cisco could with traditional face-to-face events.

So far, we're just considering changes in capability. Doing product launches cheaper, faster, better is an important innovation, but it's not a sign that a company is operating or thinking in a significantly different way. You might buy a cheaper, better, and faster car, but you might not change your driving habits one bit, or take more care to follow the traffic laws.

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The Heretech, episode 27: Rob Koplowitz on SharePoint adoption

Forrester's Rob Koplowitz tells us how organizations adopt SharePoint, and the lessons learned for other technology vendors. But first, a recap of last week's open house on "social product management," and some musings on the product strategy for Google Wave. (c) 2009 Tom Grant.

And when Mr. Customer gets angry, PEOPLE DIE!

Not every unwelcome change is necessarily a fiasco. It's how you handle the transition that determines, to a large extent, whether people perceive it to be a fiasco.

Case in point: Oracle's transition from its creaky but familiar Metalink support site to the new support portal. I'm sure that anyone who has ever been involved in the transition from one web application to its replacement has learned just how many unexpected glitches can creep into the process. Certainly, Oracle has faced similar scenarios, such as when it switched the main corporate web site from a custom-built content management system to a new infrastructure based on Oracle Portal.

Unfortunately, the corporate web site, where people go to find high-level marketing information, is not the same as the support web site, where people go to get problems with mission-critical applications resolved.

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Is "social product management" for real?

Here's an important rule of thumb, if you're a researcher such as myself: Don't name something unless it really exists. That sounds fairly obvious, but unfortunately, in the history of the technology industry, there's a sad history of failed neologisms. In some cases, these phrases exaggerated the importance or complexity of some relatively mundane aspect of the world. That's how the superheated usage of the term knowledge management turned into a four letter word. In other cases, people use neologisms designed to describe things that might (or might not) exist in the future as if they already existed now. I've heard some presentations about the Semantic Web that certainly fall into that category.

Therefore, when I use a phrase like social product management, believe me, I'm using it very carefully. Over the course of the last week, I've had occasion to use it on several occasions, most recently at last night's open house for PMs in the Forrester Foster City office. (Thanks to all who attended, by the way.)

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Reminder, open house on social PM is tomorrow

Just a quick reminder that the "open house" for product managers and product marketers is tomorrow at 4 PM PST at Forrester's office in Foster City, CA (click here for a map). As my earlier post explains, the intent is to kick off a series of informal conversations about topics of interest.

For this first open house, we'll be discussing how social media are changing the job descriptions, priorities, deliverables, and required skills for PMs. All are welcome, the event is free, just come on down.

The Heretech, episode 26: Brian Drummond on Agile at Yahoo!

Brian Drummond tells us how Agile adoption worked at Yahoo! How did it start? How did different teams share best practices? How do you make Agile the status quo in a big software company? Plus, news of the first PM open house at the Forrester office in Foster City, CA. (c) 2009 Tom Grant