Month: June 2008

The Software Product Management Blues

First off….apologies to Bob Dylan and any Dylan fans out there.

This should be sung to the music and tune of Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues.

And scroll down to the bottom to see his original video.

Software Product Management Blues

Developers in the office
Fixing up the code base
Marketing is wondering
How to deal with branding
A buyer with the budget
won’t sign the PO
Salesrep far from quota
Can’t give out a discount

Hey PM
You created this beast
God knows why
It’s not the first time
You stuck your neck out once before
Aiming for a big score
The man in the big room
Who gave you the role
Wants to see a hockey stick
But sales look like a fishing pole

Consultant talks real slick
He’s got the quick fix
Relaunch the product
Soon as you can but
No budget for the job
Consultant say that’s no prob
Cut the dev team down today
Software’s busted anyway

Hey PM
Exec team wants to know
Why sales are so low
Sales claims product woes
Dev says they released on time
Marketing says leads are fine
But management isn’t aligned
You don’t need some hack
To tell you to cover your back

Relaunch, restart
Hang in, do your part
Meet goals, hard to tell
If anything is gonna sell
Jump in, work the deals
No matter how you feel
No club, no commission
Rescue deals, that’s your mission
If you fail, then transition

Hey PM
You’re gonna get bought
By a market giant
New battles to be fought
New people running the show
Don’t know which way to go
One thing’s certain, you ain’t no fool
You can’t play by their rules
Must swim to another pool

Stay the course, play the game
Sit tight, dance the dance
Get packaged out, first chance
Try to look real engaged
Do the job on the stage
Prep the CV, plan the transition
Call the recruiter real soon now,
It’s not when but how

Hey PM
You had a good run
Three releases, it’s been fun
Big plans laid to rest
But you know you did your best
Next time you’ll know better
How to handle the stormy weather
Leave on good terms,
Don’t cut and run
Because you’re two degrees from everyone

And the one word for Product Management is….

A few days ago, I asked people to share one word which they thought best described Product Management. There were quite few responses. So, if you participated, thanks for the input. If not, feel free to add your own words in the comments to this posting.

Given the open-ended question, there is really no way to quantify the results. What I tried to do was create groups of related words to see if any patterns or clusters emerged. Where two (or more) submitted words were very similar (e.g. Communicate, Communication), I picked one as the best example.

The words in bold are my own words that I believe best summarize those following words submitted by you. So, in no particular order, here are the results:

Deliver Insight: Clarity, Focus, Organizer, Communication

Plan the Future: Visionary, Strategist, Roadmap, Direction, Innovation

Coordinate the Team: Facilitation, Translation, Bridge, Junction, Middleman, Pillar, Catalyst

Lead the Effort: Owner, CEO, Leader

Identify Needs: Problems, Requirement, Definition, Customer, Listen, User

Show Dedication: Flexible, Quality, Passion

Another set of words described some of the negatives of the role:

  • Busy, Sleepless, Multi-Tasking, Chaotic

There was one submission that didn’t adhere to the “one word” requirement. There’s always at least one in the crowd isn’t there. That submission was:

  • “Mothering a Product”

And we did have a few responses from skeptics. :-) I’ve included them here for completeness. I’m actually pleased I got a few answers like this. It verifies that a diverse crowd reads the blog, including at least one Douglas Adams fan.

  • Bullshit, Unnecessary, 42

What’s interesting is that none of the words I use to describe Product Management were in the list of submissions.

Those words are: Balance, Optimization, Repeatable


Musical Chairs

Today I received an email regarding a new and possibly explosive program at work. I won’t say which company this is, but you’ve been their website. Here’s the money quote:

Most of the product managers have CS degrees, and our engineers have strong opinions on the future directions of our products.

Can you guess where this is going? That’s right – the head of Product Management and the head of Engineering are starting a rotation program among developers and product managers. Genius? Insanity? I’ll check in twelve months from now and tell you how it turns out.

Bad design on a UPS

Just had to post this. Would like to hear the reaction of others…

Last year, I got my hands on a pretty good UPS for my home computer network. It’s from APC. The model # is the XS1200. And while it is a slightly different model than the one shown, it looks almost exactly like the image on the right.

It’s a good UPS. It’s can take 8 devices plugged into it. Six are managed, two are surge protected only. I’ve got all my critical devices plugged into it including my desktop computer, monitor, cable modem, router, some kind of phone/cable switching device (I get my home phone service through my cable provider), and a couple of other things.

Now, this is a great device except for one fatal flaw. The round circle on the front is the on/off switch for the UPS. It’s also a very sensitive switch. It doesn’t take more than the soft fingers of a 2 year old child to turn it off. Yes, to turn the whole darn UPS and all 8 devices connected to it off!!!!!

I’m sure you can picture what has happened more than once.

Here’s Dad in his home office working away. And 2 year old mini-me is playing innocently nearby. But then mini-me gets bored playing with his toys and sees this nice round circle just under some neat lights. And so, before I can turn my head from the screen and see what he’s up to, he presses it. And virtually instantly, EVERYTHING on my desk shuts down abruptly.

No chance to save my work, nothing. The device doesn’t wait a few seconds before shutting down. It doesn’t beep to give a warning. It doesn’t require a second push of the button to confirm that the person wants to SHUT DOWN THE UPS. Nope. Nothing.

My laptop, my desktop speakers, even my monitor have power buttons on them that require A LOT MORE PRESSURE to make electrical contact. But for some reason, the folks at APC decided to put a power button on a mission-critical device that can be turned off by the index-finger of a curious 2 year old. [Actually he’s technically 1. He will be two later this summer!]

From their website, APC talks about their mission: [emphasis is mine]

APC is working diligently to achieve its corporate mission of creating delighted customers by improving the manageability, availability and performance of information and communication systems through the rapid delivery of innovative solutions to real customer problems.

Hey boys and girls at APC, here’s a rather undelighted customer and a real customer problem. Curious toddlers can turn off your devices in the blink of an eye! Your home/office solutions team needs to take that into account in their next generation product.

OK, enough with the rant, but I’m just wondering here: Why is there such a prominent on/off button on this device? How often would I want to turn it off/on? I want it ON all the time. Otherwise, what’s the point of it?

I guess the guys at APC need to take a lesson from Intuit and conduct a “Follow me home” project with customers to understand what happens in the home environment.


Read the next part of this saga:
How NOT to communicate with  customers

Forget research, let's build something! – Redux

I’m somewhat surprised that I didn’t receive even one comment — for or against — on my post entitled Forget research, let’s build something!.

As Product Managers, we regularly talk about understanding the market, the market problems, user requirements, needs etc. And then creating solutions that best address those needs. But, as I said in my post:

in the software world, …given the very low barrier to entry, a “good idea” can be quickly iterated on and developed and become a successful endeavour without a lot of research, and market segmentation, and problem identification, and persona development etc.

What do you think? When is research needed, and when can you just “go for it”?