Increasing information complexity

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 increasing number of new, connected technologies. Fifteen years ago, a CRM system stood on its own. Today, it's connected to an identity management system and e-mail servers. It delivers content to mobile devices. Increasingly sophisticated BI tools need interfaces to the CRM application, often using technologies that didn't exist 15 years ago. And so on.
  • The increasing importance of user experience. Not only has user experience design grown more sophisticated, but user experience has become increasingly important. In the shift from IT to BT, user experience--critical for demonstrating that technology addresses immediate needs--can make or break software adoption.  User habits can vary across verticals. Gone are the days when a company can remain competitive by designing a lot of back-end application logic, and then slapping a UI on it at the end of the development cycle.
  • On demand delivery. Software as a service (SaaS) changes the choice of features, the development cycle, sales and marketing techniques, and other aspects of traditional TI. It also may attract a completely different type of customer, which means you may have to go back to the beginning of the requirements and design process for a new SaaS venture to succeed.

Before going into other sources of increasing complexity--and there are several others I can think of--it's worth stopping here to ask whether you've faced similar challenges. If so, the implications are...Significant. (That was a pregnant pause, by the way.)

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Comments

re: Increasing information complexity

Tom,Very good topic. There are a number of areas that need to be considered when thinking of increasing information complexity and how product managers deal with them.I break them down as follows.- content management- information management- process managementThese categories are generic for various functional groups. e.g. Sales and Development have issues in these areas.But unlike Product Management, they have reasonably well defined roles, processes, methodologies and tools.No professional sales team would be caught dead without some kind of SFA tool. And no Dev team would be caught dead without a decent SCM and build system. Yet, what do product managers have WRT Content Management? Word? Excel? Email? Wikis?Information management is built atop content management. And from there, process management. Without the base, the rest is not possible.Current Requirements Management tools are a first step, but are insufficient and immature for most PM needs. They are either database front ends with integrated reporting or complex requirements and project management tools.I'm searching for a good, lightweight and flexible product for my team. I've looked at a lot of the obvious choices and have yet to find what I need.Any suggestions for non-obvious choices?Saeed

re: Increasing information complexity

Tom,I have very recent (like during the past week) experience with your question: "Is the information management part of product management getting harder?" My initial reaction is “no, it’s not getting harder, but it is getting more complex. I am evaluating higher-end product management tools to improve the organization of the information and be more agile (we’re using Agile development for a SaaS-based product). The difficulty for me is helping my VP understand why we need “yet another tool” for PM when we have a help desk and CRM (we’re actually in the process of purchasing a CRM tool) that have similar functionality.As these tools progress it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish features of one from those of another. That leads me to believe there will be further convergence and the PM-specific tools will need to integrate.For now I’m pushing to get the PM tool in-house. But in the not-too-distant future the PM-specific applications will need to become part of the overall app story.Great post!Michael