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Friday, December 4, 2015

Future Trends in Enterprise Software Product Management

It's the time of year when we become inundated with articles and blog posts about what we can expect in 2016. Some brave folks even make predictions, something I am loathe to do as, let's face it, they will be wrong and nobody will remember I made them by the middle of February. Here's a list of topics I see impacting software product management in enterprise shops in the next few years (I believe there's no shortage of similar start-up-centric discussion these days). In the interest of brevity and to stimulate discussion, some of these points are made more "matter of fact-ly" than is probably appropriate. I'm looking forward to others' chiming in.

Internet of Things and SaaS
From a technology perspective, IoT and SaaS will continue to change the way product managers work and think. One might assume that these trends are reaching saturation based on the amount of ink they're getting in ICT press. One would be wrong. There is still a huge number of product managers that haven't yet made the leap to these new technologies/approaches or the changes they will inevitably bring to our profession.

Lean Startup in the Enterprise
Lean startup thinking pervades the startup world but is still somewhat foreign to more traditional organizations, especially the really big ones. In the next year or two, we'll see these concepts evolve and mature, becoming more prominent in "big shops" (not that they're entirely absent now). Radical ideas like "learning" being a reasonable objective for an early release will gain mainstream traction and we'll see some conspicuous success stories attributed to Lean Startup thinking in big shops.

Business-minded Development
The next few years will see more and more organizations investing directly in ensuring their engineers understand the business implications of their work. This knowledge will help them build solutions that better meet customers' needs and are more flexible over their lifetime. It will also increase the conflict in many organizations regarding who defines the product and where the line of demarcation between development and product management lies.

Subscription Fatigue
For enterprise vendors weary of their customers' slow, arcane capital investment processes, the recurring revenue that comes from a subscription model was as close to a blessing as one can expect in the software industry. However, both the consumer and enterprise markets are beginning to suffer from "subscription fatigue" as individuals and organizations take stock, adding up what they are spending on software every month. We will see more companies offering traditional pricing models to differentiate themselves from the subscription soup we are beginning to drown in.

Beyond "Pure" Scrum
Scrum has clearly reached a saturation point in the software industry. Over the next few years, we will see reinterpretations and extensions of Scrum become even more prominent in the enterprise, with proper methodologies filling in white space left by Scrum's "framework". Approaches to scaling Scrum that help resolve charter conflict on development teams will get the most traction.

Addiction to Data
Delivery of software products via the Web has created an unprecedented opportunity to gather information about usage, primarily because users are blissfully unaware that their every click is being tracked! Understanding how to define, gather and analyze this usage data will become a critical competency in the enterprise. Beyond up-skilling both functional and technical roles in this area, organizations will have to be careful not to abandon other valuable channels for gathering user feedback, e.g., (snark alert!) actually talking to them.

The Role of Design
Over the next few years, we will see the role of design as a discipline evolve in software product development. To paraphrase Steve Jobs (as so many of us are wont to do), it's not just about how it looks: it's how it works. Design is a science with quite a history that, to a great extent, has been applied only superficially (literally) in software development. The ascendancy of design will create yet more confusion regarding accountabilities on product teams, e.g., where does UX design end.

So what do you think? Are these trends relevant in your situation? What have I overlooked?

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