Let’s start by defining what I mean by a “solutions company.” It’s an organization that uses a mix of product/technology and professional services to address a customer’s business problem. Most companies are exclusively a product or services company, but business problems are increasingly requiring a solutions approach to effectively deliver the desired outcome. (This is especially true in my field of big data analytics, where data is unique to a customer and subject matter experts must appropriately tune algorithms even when the problem is common across the industry.) Naturally most of us in product management have a bias to focus on the product, so here are some tips to be effective in a company (and market) focused on solutions.
- Embrace services as a competitive advantage
Services can help differentiate you and help the customer at any point in the deployment lifecycle. For example, management consulting services at the beginning can help frame the proper problem statement and turn an IT project into a strategic business initiative. Therefore, drive the definition of the overall solution, not just the product.
- Define your strategic objective
Sit down with your executive team to agree on product management’s strategic objective. This should tie back to the company’s vision and goals, but also be more specific so it’s measurable. For example: ”speed up customers’ time to value” or “increase margins by increasing the repeatability of solutions.”
- Continually educate the organization about your role and objectives
Product management is often misunderstood even in product companies. Whether through formal workshop sessions or informal chats with colleagues, educate the organization about your function and share your objective. This can jointly inform you and them on how to work together to achieve that objective.
- Expand your cross-functional team
Engineering is of course a core team requiring your leadership but you need to lead a broader cross-functional team to be successful. Representatives from services need to be primary members of your team. Also, user experience should be expanded to help design the overall customer experience and not limited to product design. This level of coordination takes time and must be an intentional goal of the team.
- Think creatively about your business model
Business model innovation has gotten more attention the last couple years and more is still ahead. Solutions companies are in a unique position to innovate under one roof, so embrace the opportunity, especially regarding bundling and unbundling.
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences and tips for product management in a solutions company and/or a big data analytics company. Please leave a comment and if you liked this, please share it.
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