When we think about the product management function, we always imagine it being exercised in a company whose main business is software offered via the Internet, also known as Software as a Service, or SaaS, such as Locaweb and Conta Azul or companies that have technology at the center of its strategy, such as Gympass, Netflix, and Nubank.
However, in my opinion, this is not the only type of company that benefits from having one or more product managers to help with the software development process. There are three other types of companies that can and should benefit from the work of a product manager.
There is still a lot of non-online software that needs to be installed on a computer to run locally or to access data from a server (client-server). Even with the strong growth of SaaS applications of the most varied types – such as ERP, CRM, BI, and Supply Chain Management, among others – there are still many software of these and other categories that are not online, that is, that run on the computer, or in a client-server model, known as on-premises software, as opposed to online software.
This type of software will not cease to exist anytime soon, whether due to technical needs or policy issues. It is not uncommon to find companies that could use software online. Still, due to the company’s policy on the security and privacy of information, they want to keep this data and the software that manages the data within the company.
In the future, it is very likely that the use policies and fears of companies will soften to the point where no company will want to have software installed for security reasons. Just as today, it is quite rare to find companies or people who manage their own electrical energy. However, there will always be those who choose to have software installed for some specific reason, despite the cost that this may represent.
On the other hand, technical issues can make it impossible to use online software. Just imagine situations where it is not possible to be online, for example, on a plane or a boat without connectivity. Here, too, one can imagine a future where connectivity will be good and universal, yet there may still be situations where running software locally makes more sense.
Even if there is this movement towards online software, there will still be on-premises software for a long time. This, like online software, is software that has to meet the objectives of its owner while meeting the needs of its users.
For this reason, companies that develop non-online software should also have software product managers on their development teams.
Many companies don’t have software as their core business. However, most are software users. They have computers and internal systems to assist in the most varied processes of the company. As the familiarity and utility of computers and systems prove to be true, it is common to see these companies starting to think about creating and owning one or more software to help interact with their customers and to improve their business.
For example, Fleury, a clinical and imaging laboratory in São Paulo, has an online results system, Ipiranga has a loyalty program, Magazine Luiza has a strong online presence with e-commerce, and Colégio Santo Américo, like many schools, has a distance education system to assign homework to students and communicate with parents.
Even though the software is not their core business, they are part of the strategy of these companies. For this reason, they should be managed by someone with knowledge and experience in managing software products to ensure that they meet both the owner’s and the users’ goals.
The best companies that develop on-demand software are always on the cutting edge when it comes to software development. They use new technologies, new programming languages, databases, and architectures; and propose new ways of making software, agile methodologies, Scrum, Kanban, and Lean.
Incidentally, the term Product Owner comes from agile methodologies and is defined as the person responsible for building the backlog and prioritizing the work to be done according to the customer’s demands. Companies that develop software on demand know the importance of having a product manager on the software development team. So much so that they use this function both in their products and in the software they make on demand. However, usually, companies that make software on demand assume that their client knows how to manage software and just meet their demands and requirements. They hold meetings with their customers asking what they want and expect from the software, collect the requirements, prioritize them in agreement with the customer, and start developing the software. A good company that develops software on demand will look for frequent deliveries so that they can not only see the progress but also validate what is being delivered.
The problem is that your client doesn’t know how to manage software! If this is his first software, it will be even worse! She knows how to manage her own business, and she may even know how to hire off-the-shelf software; however, she won’t have the slightest idea of what it’s like to own a software product, and that software is something quite flexible, and must adapt to meet the objectives of the company and its users. This is all new to her.
For this reason, companies that develop software on demand have an obligation, in the software development proposal they make to their potential clients, to include some type of training or advice to prepare their client to manage it. Only then can these companies increase the chances that the software being developed on demand will meet the objectives of their client and their client’s users.
In my opinion, every company that owns software or that develops software for itself or for other companies must have one or more software product managers on its team. This will greatly increase the chances of it being successful, that is, meeting the objectives of both the software owner and its users.
Also, in my opinion, companies that develop on-demand software have one more obligation in this software development cycle: to teach their customers about software product management, the importance of this role in their success, and what it takes to perform good management of software products.
I’ve been helping companies and their leaders (CPOs, heads of product, CTOs, CEOs, tech founders, and heads of digital transformation) bridge the gap between business and technology through workshops, coaching, and advisory services on product management and digital transformation.
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