By Rivi Aspler
Surprise is one thing, totally harmless. The risky thing is hiring a systems analyst when you actually need a product manager and then being surprised with a failure product.
This post offers 2 main questions that can assist you in understanding what does your product mostly need, a System Analyst or a Product Manager.
The most important question, in my mind, is:
Are you developing an off-the-shelf product, or are you customizing a system to fully match specific customers’ requirements.
- A system analyst analyzes the specific requirements of known customers and designs a system that fully matches their requirements.
- A product manager analyzes the requirements of several target customers (B2B) or usage statistics of a population of customers (B2C) and suggests a features set that meets the target market needs.
This may not seem like much of a difference, but a systems analyst is committed to a specific customer; as opposed to a product manager that is committed to an target market, i.e. can in-fact disappoint a specific customer whose needs are not fully met.
Next question is the following:
Are you investing R&D effort in creating a product based on key differentiators?
Clinging to one of the bests, Henry Ford’s famous quote is most relevant here,
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
If your product is mature enough (the ‘Milk It’ phase of the Product Life-Cycle) and your product investment has gone down to a minimum, or if you are in the business of selling customized developments, you do not need a product manager. A systems analyst would do a much better job.
If your product has not yet reached full maturity or if you are in the business of selling an off-the-shelf product, you better hire a good product manager that can analyze market trends and competitive offerings so that your product has enough “car-quality” features, when all the others are still selling horses….
Making a long story short, the attached table can assist you in understanding your main skill-set (whether you are a product manager or a system analyst) or what position should you fill in if you are the hiring manager.
Tweet this: Product Management vs. Systems Analysis http://wp.me/pXBON-3RF #prodmgmt
About the author
Rivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.
By Prabhakar Gopalan
Walk into an established software company and you see these product management and product marketing silos. [note: startups or well run product organizations don't have this problem at all - see last paragraph in this skeptical PM
To begin with, product managers and marketing managers are saddled with two divisive documents – PRDs and MRDs. Move a little further there’s the big question of ownership. Product managers want to ‘own’ the product. They’ve conveniently added the suffix Owners, sounding important all of a sudden. So we now have ‘Product Owners’. Bear in mind nobody really reports to the product managers for all that ownership. Who’d want to is a separate discussion. For proof, ask the engineer sitting next to you.
But back to the product manager. When you start your PM job you are told this very important fact in big companies – “product managers build products through influence, engineering doesn’t report to product management”. Just that very statement gives Cialdini’s book an instant spike in sales. What about marketers? Ah, they’ve become ‘revenue marketers’ now. Revenue marketing has been in vogue for a while. It is when marketers have finally figured out what they are actually supposed to do. As if the word market didn’t really give enough clarity about revenues they added this powerful prefix Revenue to their title. Nice job marketing yourself! But wait, no market, no revenues. It’s that simple.
So what’s the current state really? Product Managers are ‘Product Owners’ and Marketing Managers are ‘Revenue Marketers’. I don’t know how you could have ownership without owning revenues or revenues without having ownership. And therein lies the problem in the tech industry.
What are the daily complaints in the above set up? Product managers accuse Marketing managers of having no clue about the product, having no technical understanding of APIs, programming, not being able to log into the console and make a demo of the shitty product that lacks half the features the nimble startup across the street is pumping everyday. And Marketing Managers? They talk about how product managers don’t have a clue about the market, the buyer personas, the users, or even describing what the heck the product is supposed to do for whom. Not just another feature release please. Tell me why would anyone value this feature? And not every feature really has to go on CNN and Fox and if it didn’t it is really not marketing’s fault!
Here’s a simple solution to this situation – start becoming a Whole Product Manager. That means start becoming the founder of your product. Yes, it is very hard to do both product management and product marketing. And yes, it is not scalable, blank, blank, blank…(fill in the blanks with other enterprise words). It’s no longer about one side of the equation. Want traction? Start thinking end to end – become the system thinker, the Whole Product Manager. Learn everything for the sake of your product and do everything for the sake of your product. It’s your baby. If you can’t raise it, don’t expect others to raise it for you. And the reality is they’ll do a poor job of raising it or you won’t be happy with it.
For the 99% of us that can’t do that, here’s some advice. Suck it up and do your job really well and show us why you are awesome, not why your peer in product management or product marketing sucks.
Of course, if you are the lucky 1% in a startup that will do everything from writing code to hanging in the clouds to get your VP of Product [blank where blank = Management or Marketing depending on the day] 1.5% equity materialize in the minor event of an extremely unlikely exit through a soul crushing acquisition, just do what you already do – build that awesome product!
- Prabhakar Gopalan @PGopalan
Tweet this: The Whole Product Manager http://wp.me/pXBON-3Rd via @PGopalan @onpm #prodmgmt
About the author
Prabhakar Gopalan is an entrepreneur and growth strategist. In the last 15+ years, he has worked in a diverse set of roles including consulting, systems engineering, IT architecture, product management, product marketing and corporate strategy. He speaks on management, innovation and strategy.
Is your reference to “strategic product management” more about job responsibilities considered to be strategic or product initiatives that produce results with strategic impact?
I ask the question because product managers almost always refer to strategic product management as job responsibilities considered to be more strategic than tactical. But when I listen to executives, their definition of strategic product management is almost exclusively discussed in terms of end results or impact. Strategic as it appears on most job descriptions is somewhere in the middle.
I use the following two guidelines as it relates to strategic product management:
- Product initiatives are strategic if they advance the strategic initiatives of your target customers. If they have that kind of impact, they’re strategic to your organization because of they’re high value to one or more defined market segments.
- Strategic product management isn’t about the management of products or skills of individuals who manage products. It’s an organizational discipline that’s consistently capable of uncovering and solving bigger problems than the competition in a simple, clear and differentiating manner to establish and maintain a market leadership position.
Both of the above guidelines eventually come back to the makeup of your product management discipline. But it’s less about the skills of the individuals on the team and more about structuring your team around the skills you have to consistently produce results with strategic value to the organization.
Does your organization define strategic product management in context of job responsibilities or results? Why?
Tweet this: Strategic Product Management – Job Responsibilities or End Results? http://wp.me/pXBON-3QV #prodmgmt
About the author
By Steve Johnson
Market research is easy. Visit customers, with or without sales people. Go on sales calls. Go to user group meetings. Go to conferences. Call a few customers on the phone and ask how they are using your product, where they find deficiencies, and what direction they are taking their own businesses. Listen.
The job of product management is straightforward: find a couple of key customers and just do what they tell you. Find out what is needed and build it. That’s the idea behind “customer development” and the “minimum viable product.”
I was asked to evaluate a local charity’s workflows and systems, looking for ways to improve the process for the volunteers. I determined that another configuration would best fit their needs and spent a few hours implementing it.
I asked, “What else?” but they couldn’t think of any other area where my technical assistance was needed.
Willing to help in any way, I joined the team keying information into the database from requests for information. While I worked, I heard these very nice people using not very nice language. I asked what was wrong and they complained bitterly about bad information in many of the database records. Looking at a few examples, I realized someone had converted the database from one format to another and many of the fields had become corrupted.
I quickly set up a macro to move information from the incorrect field to the correct one, and asked, “Would this help?” They were thrilled! Time to market: 10 minutes.
The volunteers were performing manually a process that the computer system could do automatically—if only they had known. They didn’t have any problems that they knew of, but I discovered a big problem with a simple solution just by observing and working with them. I knew the technology but I had to “walk in their shoes” before I could see their problem.
This market research technique is what Luke Hohmann calls “The Apprentice,” in his book Innovation Games.
Do the job to understand the job and its challenges. In most cases, the customer doesn’t know he has a problem. A product manager must understand the customer’s situation better than the customer does, and use that knowledge to develop a solution for the customer.
Product managers build internal credibility by having up-to-date knowledge about customers. Spending time with customers and potential customers reveals problems that need to be fixed. Then work with your team to fix them.
Many strategic product managers make calls every day: to prospects, customers, and non-customers.
Tweet this: Market research is easy. Visit customers http://wp.me/pXBON-3Pk #prodmgmt
About the author
Steve Johnson is a recognized thought leader and storyteller within the technology product management community. As founder of Under 10 Consulting, he helps product teams implement strategic product management in an agile world. Sign up for his newsletter and weekly inspirations.