What type of company needs a product manager?
When we think about the product management function, we always imagine it being exercised in a company whose core business is software offered via the internet, also known as Software as a Service, or SaaS. However, in my opinion, this is not the only type of company that benefits from having one or more product managers to help with the software development process. There are 3 other types of companies that can, and should, benefit from the work of a product manager.
Companies Developing Non-Online Software
There is still a lot of non-online software that needs to be installed on a computer to run locally or access data from a server (client-server software). Even with the strong growth of SaaS applications of various types — such as ERP, CRM, BI, Supply Chain Management, among others — there is still a lot of software from these and other categories that are not online, that is, that run on the computer, local, or networked on the client-server model, known as on-premises software, as opposed to online software.
This type of software will not cease to exist anytime soon, either due to technical needs or due to use policy issues. It is not uncommon to find companies that could use online software but that, per company policy on information security and privacy, want to keep these data and the software that manages it within the company premises.
In the future, it is very likely that business use policies and fears will soften to the point that no more companies want to have software installed on their own premises for security reasons, just as today it is quite rare to find companies or people who manage their own energy supply. However, there will always be those who choose to have software installed on their own premises for some specific reason, despite the cost this practice may incur.
On the other hand, technical issues may make it impossible to use online software. Just imagine situations where you can’t be online, such as on a plane or a boat without connectivity. Here you can also imagine a future where connectivity will be good and universal, but there may still be situations where running the software locally makes the most sense.
That is, even if there is this movement towards online software, there will still be on-premises software for a long time to come. This, like online software, is software that has to meet the needs of its owner, while meeting the needs of its users.
For this reason, companies that develop non-online software should also have software product managers on their development team.
Companies that don’t have software development as their core business
Many companies do not have software as their main business. See some examples in the following figure:
However, most probably all of them use software. They have computers and internal systems to support and enhance the various processes of the company. Due to the familiarity and usefulness of computers and systems to these companies, it is common to see them starting to think about having one or more digital products to help them interact with their customers.
In the examples in the picture, New York Times has a digital edition, McDonald’s has an app so their customers can order food, Toyota has its Entune App which allows you to access smartphone applications via the in-vehicle touchscreen display, Coca-Cola has an app to manage their reward program, and Bank of America has app so their customers can manage their accounts.
Even though this software is not their core business, they are part of their strategy. For this reason, they should be managed by someone who has knowledge of software product management to ensure that they meet both their owner’s and their users’ goals.
Companies that develop software on demand
The best companies that develop software on demand are always on the cutting edge when it comes to software development. They use new technologies, new programming languages, databases, and architectures; and propose new ways of making software like the agile methodologies, Scrum, Kanban, Lean.
Incidentally, the term Product Owner comes from agile methodologies. This role is responsible for building the backlog, prioritizing the work to be done according to customer demands. That is, companies that develop software on demand know the importance of having a product manager in the team that develops software. So much so that they use this function both on their products and on demand software.
However, usually, companies that make software on-demand assume that their client knows how to manage software. For this reason, these companies only work to meet their customers’ demands and requirements. They hold meetings with their customers asking what they want and expect from the software, collect the requirements, prioritize them according to what the customer demands, and start developing the software. A good company that develops software on demand will try to make frequent deliveries so that it cannot only see progress but validate what is being delivered.
The problem is that this customer doesn’t know how to manage software! If this is her first software, it will be even worse! She can run her own business, and may even know how to acquire off-the-shelf software; however, she will not have a clue about what is needed to own a software, and that the software is very flexible and must adapt to meet the goals of the company and its users. This is all news to her.
For this reason, companies that develop software on demand have an obligation to include in their development package some training or advice to prepare their clients to manage it. Only in this way can these companies increase the chances that the software being developed on demand will meet the goals of their customers and their customers’ users.
In my opinion, any company that owns software, or develops software for themselves or other companies, should have one or more software product managers on its team. This will greatly increase the chances of success, that is, meeting the goals of both the software owner and its users.
Also, in my opinion, companies that develop software on demand have an additional obligation in this software development cycle: to teach their customers about software product management, the importance of this function in their success, and what it takes to make good digital product management.
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