The impacts of software product management
Alcatel, 54, rue la Boetie, F-75008 Paris, France Received 31 May 2006; received in revised form 29 August 2006; accepted 9 September 2006 Available online 27 October 2006
Abstract The success of any product depends on the skills and competence of the product manager. This article evaluates the relevance of good product management on the success of a product. The empirical study is supported by data from 178 industry projects from telecommunication industry over a period of three years throughout which the product management role and competency was deﬁned, deployed and improved. The behaviors and project performance before and after strengthening the product management discipline are compared. We found that with increasing institutionalization of a consistent and empowered product management role, the success rate of projects in terms of schedule predictability, quality and project duration improves. To allow better transfer of achieved results to other settings, the article provides concrete guidelines about key success factors for good product management. Ó 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Product management; Project management; Product life cycle; Process improvement; Requirements engineering; Software products
1. Introduction In today’s competitive markets it is of utmost interest to have winning products. The success of any product depends on the skills and competences of its product manager. The product manager holds responsible for product requirements, release deﬁnition, product release lifecycles, creating an eﬀective multifunctional product introduction team and – above all – preparing and implementing the business case. Yet, product management is complex: there are many stakeholders, many responsibilities and no formalized education or body of knowledge. Our own deﬁnition which we derived from the process of competence building states that product management is the discipline and role, which governs a product (or solution or service) from its inception to the market/customer delivery in order to generate biggest possible value to the business. The product manager is a ‘‘mini CEO’’ representing the enterprise or business unit in strategy deﬁnition and operational execution. The product manager aims at hav*
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ing the right product mix and selecting the right projects to implement a given strategy. He evaluates his products or product releases with respect to their overall contribution to business success. He makes use of the product life cycle to revisit assumptions and implement decisions. This brief summary is in line with non-software related descriptions of the role, such as in Gorchels (2006) or Cooper (2001). How does this relate to systems and software engineering? Business success is the success of the product manager with his team. He decides with the stakeholders of his product line or business unit what contents to deliver in which timeframe for which market at what prizes and cost. He owns the business case and assures that a product release delivers value – to the customers and to his own business. A major obstacle though is the need to balance a variety of needs from markets, customers or stakeholders and align them into an optimized allocation of spare resources. This is where systems and software engineering comes into the picture. The successful product manager not only masters the life-cycle processes, he is the owner (Cooper, 2001; McGrath, 2004). He must get as early as possible and way before project start a good systems perspective to judge on
0164-1212/$ - see front matter Ó 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jss.2006.09.017
C. Ebert / The Journal of Systems and Software 80 (2007) 850–861
value proposition and priorities.