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Posted by Tom Grant on November 6, 2009
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.)
Social product management passes the sniff test for neologisms because it describes something that's really happening: social media are changing the way that product managers and product marketers work. Here are a few manifestations, excerpted from the research I've been doing for the last several months:
Let's be clear: I'm not saying that social media obliterate everything that PMs used to do. Far from it. In pretty much every aspect of the job where social media are relevant, they supplement existing PM tasks, deliverables, or resources. For example, as useful as innovation sites may be (users propose features, comment on them, vote on them), you still need to have occasional face-to-face conversations with people in customer organizations. If 5,000 people vote for a great new feature, Ion flux regulator, that doesn't tell you why it's important to them, how they expect it to work, and other critical details that bear directly on prioritization and design decisions.
Therefore, the phrase social product management does have weight and purpose, to the extent that social media are changing the way that PMs in the tech industry work. Me absolvo, it's not just another meaningless buzzword.
[Cross-posted at The Heretech.]
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