In SaaS, Product Management Is Essential, Not Optional

A while back, I had a spirited exchange with someone who took a rather extreme position about the role of product management in software as a service companies. The less polite version: He staked out a silly position – just poll your customers about what to build, and eliminate the PM role altogether – so I felt obliged to refute it. With two additional years of research into SaaS and PM, it's worth returning to that contretemps for a moment.

Then, I argued that PM was necessary in SaaS ventures.

Now, it's clear that PM is not merely necessary but essential.

Product Managers Are Really Innovation Managers
If the sole responsibility of PM were requirements, as my foil assumed, a poll might replace a person, but only if you had no interest in the long-term success of your company. Polls are extremely useful tools, and it's far better to use them than not to. However, polls have their limitations: most obviously, as a tool for taking the temperature of the customers you have, they tell you absolutely nothing about the customers you don't have yet.

This week, I've already written a little about the need to go beyond polls to use other tools, such as serious games. In an upcoming post, I'll have more to say on the topic. For now, I'll just say that, in both business and politics, voting alone is not the ticket to ultimate success.

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