24 September, 2017

Widely understanding the commercial imperative of our products

I find that as a Product Manager or a Product Marketing Manager, we spend a lot of time communicating the value of our proposition's features, differentiating capabilities, value and how one's solution moves our customer's business forward to our sales and customer service teams.

But this message needs to be widely understood across the company.

Scenarios that I have frequently encountered:

  • Software Engineering develops features because they are 'cool' or based on the CEO saying, 'Wouldn't it be great if ....'
  • Software Engineering spends ages crafting out a solution to a long-tail problem where an 80/20 approach would be much more valuable
  • Testing validates the product feature based the product specification from Engineering (see previous point), not based on how the product would be used in an operational environment. 
    • As a tester in Dallas, Texas, I recall spending days testing a product feature only to be told that this particular narrow shard of functionality gets used about 5 times a year and only as a tool of last resort and only by highly experienced users who didn't need all the defensive protection from poor data entry or illogical data flows that had been tirelessly testing.
  • Research teams working on the functionally interesting problem and NOT on the biggest risk to the overall commercial success of the suggestion - which is frequently customer adoption in a competitive market. Poor research (or usually no research) is a HUGE waste of Development's team - a topic worthy of another blog post.
So whenever I see a specification or a proposition, I do my best to make sure it is crystal clear to the reader (whoever the intended audience is) how the proposed functionality will make our customers more money or save money or make our solution more compelling.

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