I'm working on a report about the role of PM in an on demand setting (SaaS, PaaS, and all the other aaSes). As often happens in discussions about PM, the role is a window into many bigger issues. Since their responsibilities span both business and technology, product managers and product marketers find themselves in the middle of many fundamental questions for technology vendors, such as, How often should we deliver something new to our customers?
That question has two sides: (1) how often do customers want to receive something new, and (2) how often can the vendor deliver it. Both questions can be difficult to answer. Customers often want tech vendors to deliver value faster, but they also complain if the changes happen too fast. Vendors know that they could deliver new technology every time they do a build, but they also know that the entire company (sales, marketing, support, etc.) won't be able to keep up at that pace. There must be some golden mean between the pace of technology production and consumption, but what is it?
By shortening the distance between producers and consumers, on demand, and SaaS in particular, has made it easier to reach a meaningful answer. The on-premise model creates a very long value stream between the development team at the beginning of the technology adoption process, and the users at the very end. In fact, adoption is, at best, a blurry image on the distant horizon of the development team's field of vision. Since the success of a development team's work products depend on its adoption, lack of information about adoption is not an information gap, but a yawning chasm.
This just in: a very interesting case study about Sterling Commerce. The company used portfolio management to align its product strategy, and gave a revamped PM organization greater authority over that portfolio. It's another good example of how technology companies are recognizing that product managers and product marketers are a strategic resource in their organizations, and a natural ally of executives who are trying to increase alignment.
A lot of my recent research – about SaaS/PaaS, Agile tools, requirements tools, and innovating with your channel – share a common conclusion: successful technology vendors see integration as more than just a necessary evil. Here's why.
Business problems drive technology adoption You can see this principle in action in the requirements tools market, which in the last decade has grown larger and more complex. Teams use these tools to address more than one type of requirements-related challenge, so it's easy to see why the tools themselves are now as diverse as as Micro Focus (née Borland) Calibre, Atlassian JIRA, Ravenflow RAVEN, and VersionOne's Ideas Management module. If your problem is, "People don't like using our product," you might look at a visualization tool like iRise to shorten the feedback loop, leading to better design decisions. If, instead, your problem is, "We don't have a good business justification for what we build," you might look at IBM Rational DOORS to evaluate the pros and cons of alternative scenarios for what goes into the next release.
Tomorrow, May 6, I'll be talking about the way in which product managers and product marketers in the tech industry are helping executives fix misalignments in their company. The technology goes here, the business goes there, and PM is in the thick of it.
This alliance between PM and executive management pushes PM into an increasingly strategic role. As a result, PM teams are changing their job descriptions, departmental structures, to-do lists, and objectives. Some investment is required, but the payoff is big.
Ryma Technologies is the organizer and sponsor of this webinar as part of their CxO series, scheduled from 12 to 1 EDT / 9 to 10 PDT. You'll find more information at this link. See you there.