Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Product Management and Product Design

This is something I have been mulling over for a little while now.
My company's product management is organized in a classic pragmatic marketing model. This is great! I am serious, i continue to hear horror stories from friends about companies where product management is either in sales, engineering or marketing and thus is subverted for that functional need instead of operating strategically. So I do deeply appreciate my situation.

The only flaw imo in the pragmatic model is that it does not seem to highlight the amount of messiness and collaboration required to design and deliver a good product.

You have vertically focused product managers, technical product managers, product marketing managers, product architects and usability engineers(designers?). These are typical roles that you see in most software companies. The challenge is that none of these roles are responsible for product design. Architects lay out the architecture (duh!), marketing managers lay out the buying process and competitive info, technical product managers drive requirements to engineering and vertical product managers identify market problems and prioritize them. Out of all this information arises a "product" once, twice or 8 times a year... The problem is, a collection of these requirements does not a product design make!

That is like saying an elephant was designed from the need to
a. create a mammal
b. that is a herbivore
c. weighs xx tons
d. has a life span of zz years
e. will occupy a volume of ccc cubic inches and
f. have unique features that permit it to use suction to draw water and dig through roots.

blah blah blah you get it. These requirements above do not capture the zeitgeist of an elephant. So for now I am hoping to design a product intentionally instead of as a side effect. I will let you know how it turns out.

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