Where are the users ?
After the exciting phase of germinating ideas and quick release of an initial version of the product, startups face the real challenge. Where are the users ? Why are they not flocking into my app as I expected ? Have I released too many features and confused them ? Is it solving any real problem of the users ? Unfortunately there are no quick answers to these questions. The only answer to managing these inherent uncertainties and risks of building a product is to manage the process of building the product. Its not an easy task to bring together the worlds of design, technology, domain and the mysterious world of the users and use these forces to drive the business goals.
Why Product Management ?
Traditionally product management has been a function shrouded in mystery for a lot of people associated with delivering software projects. The discipline has evolved from related disciplines like business analysis, although practically anyone can become a product manager including solution architects, testers, project managers and folks from the UI/UX world. In the digital world the features are no more considered as the moat in isolation. Rather the smart interplay between the roadmap planning, timing and priority of release, quick iterative feedback cycles has become the new moat. The smartness of product execution and design thinking can stand in the way between success and failure of a product.
Who needs to outsource Product Management ?
Non-tech founding teams
Teams with deep domain expertise but little or no expertise in tech, engineering and product management often needs an end-to-end partner who can understand the idea and guide them to a step by step product development journey. These teams may not have detailed view of the requirement that a developer needs. They may not understand the value of iterative release instead of a big bang release. They may not be exactly sure how product features need to be prioritised in a logical way keeping in mind the clarity of business goals, tech challenges and user readiness. A service provider who has earlier experience in building live digital products may help them get into the fast track. They can help the team to take the most valuable features to the market early and avoid costly mistakes.
Teams with Tech founders
Teams with strong tech backgrounds has a totally different challenge. They often face the risk of being too immersed in the tech enthusiasm and miss the the broader needs of a product. External product teams can help them to be on track with their product goals and perform the heavy lifting required in interface and interaction design. A trusted partner can also help them overcome the shortage of skilled resources in tech and engineering on need basis.
The view of future
Outsourced Product Management remains a relatively niche segment compared to outsourced tech services. However, it has come a long way as a discipline and there are new trusted players coming up in this space. It is however imperative to understand the gaps clearly before outsourcing this function. It is also important to understand that Product Management is not about designing screens or managing roadmap or user research. It is a magic wand that can take your great idea and ship a finished product to your customers – bit by bit, validating and optimising the product continuously along the way.