Training Banner

Monday, November 9, 2015

Titles related to product management matter and should reflect accountabilities

I enjoyed Hans-Bernd Kittlaus's blog post on titles ("names") and their significance (as I do most of what Hans-Bernd writes!). It turns out this subject is very topical with me as this question inevitably comes up when I'm working with consulting clients. My personal theory is that titles are important, but clear accountabilities in the organization are critical. When you consider that I believe that titles should reasonably reflect accountabilities, it becomes apparent why I recommend that software organizations not take this topic lightly.

I can remember in the 90s there was a brief trend to give oneself unconventional titles like "CEO and Bottle Washer" or "Chief Inspiration Officer". This relatively short-lived fad underscored one of the most important functions of titles: to communicate to internal and external audiences what you do (note the previous counter-examples).  Industry-standard titles like "product manager" or "solution manager" compensate with utility for their lack of sex appeal. These titles, however, beg more fundamental questions: What is a product and what is a solution?

I am consistently amazed that so many organizations that I encounter have no clear definition of what they take to market. I wrote an entire post on this topic almost a year ago, in which I proposed the following simple taxonomy:

  • An offering is an umbrella concept representing anything that your organization takes to market for customers to consume. The rest of the concepts in this list are types of offerings.
  • product is a good, virtual or otherwise, that is developed and delivered to multiple customers in essentially the same form. Managing products throughout their life cycle presents challenges that I believe are an order of magnitude greater than managing deliverables from a customer-specific project. Transitioning from single-customer project deliverables to product delivery is a topic I've addressed previously in this blog.
  • service, in the context of offerings, is work performed by people for customers, whether it involves "knowledge work" or physical labor. Services are an under-served offering in many organizations, representing a way to add incremental customer value while strengthening customer relationships.
  • solution bundles products and services (and other solutions!) to solve customer problems. Solutions are very often customized heavily for individual customers. Market solutions are defined a priori and promoted in the market. Customer solutions are an instance of a solution delivered to a specific customer

I am a firm believer that from a functional definition perspective (product managers functionally design their product), it pays to be clear about your accountabilities. Are you defining a solution? Call yourself a solution manager or something similar. Same goes for products.  BTW, you should think about what you take to market from the perspective of you consumers. Even though a SaaS offering could be considered a service from a technical standpoint, per the definitions above, it is more likely to be considered a product by its consumers.

Does your title reflect your accountabilities? Do you have to explain what your really do every time you give someone your business card? Does the taxonomy I've proposed resonate with you? You can find out more about me and my offerings on my site.

No comments:

Post a Comment