Saturday, May 17, 2003

Product Management
Can I ask you a question ? To what degree does a technical background help in product management ?

My perception is - a lot. Product managers are tasked with building plans for the next generation of the product. This means a lot of market and competitive analysis, and many other inputs from customers, partners and other internal subject matter experts(SMEs).

Technical knowledge is not mandatory for this. However, it is immensely helpful while interfacing with your customer for the MRD or BRD that you write - the engineering team. Since they are the audience that makes your "vision" come alive, put yourself in their shoes for a second... what does an engineer want to design something ? How close can you make sure the design meets the requirement ? what is the performance metrics do you want the system to adhere ?

I was in a meeting recently where a product manager carved out his vision for a user interface - resplendent with 3D rendering of a feature, with drag and drop and cubic representations. Think outside the box he said.But there was only one catch - the architecture needed to be on the browser with no code on the client as a basic design limitation. The engg folks admired the vision, encouraged it too. Then they walked out slowly, shaking their head in disbelief.

Answers to these key questions can make or break a product. And failure to understand these critical dimensions really is the loss of the company, and the blame rests on the product manager.

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