Product Management in IT Companies

In the IT (Information Technology) industry, it is often the case that the organizations find it difficult to synthesize and integrate all the functions associated with developing and launching products to the market. For instance, it is common for the CFO to say that Marketing department is spending excessively, the Technology department saying that they need better market intelligence to develop new products that are market focused, and the marketing department saying that the development team needs to be more customer focused.

In other words, the company is like an orchestra where each player plays their own tunes without synchronization and integration. And the result is that we get noise instead of music. It is common for the CEO or the President of software companies to find themselves in such a situation that warrants direct intervention from them. In many cases, the CEO or the President just cannot put their fingers in all pies because of time and other constraints.

The solution in such a case is to hire a product manager who can be the CEO’s eyes and ears in all the departments and ensure that all of them work together towards a common goal. The point here is that the product manager can listen to all the departments and to the market as well thereby ensuring that the company is market focused and market sensing in its approach. The product manager makes sure that marketing knows how to trim costs, finance knows how best to achieve the breakeven point, technology knows what sells, and finally development teams know the actual time to market schedules so that there are no delays. In this way, cost overruns can be avoided as well. Hence, IT companies and especially those that have products as their mainstay can do well if they create the role of a product manager and hire a specialist for that purpose.

The examples of Microsoft and Google are a case in point as far as product driven IT companies are concerned. In India, the financial software company, Oracle Financial Solutions (or formerly i-flex solutions) is one company that has managed to defy the stereotype of Indian companies being good at only maintenance and services instead of product development. All three of the examples cited here have competent and efficient product managers who synthesize the requirements from all departments and produce something akin to a cohesive and coherent strategy to market the products. On the other hand, though Infosys is a leader in the IT industry, its product for the banking industry, Finacle, did not do that well since the company was unable to reorient itself to a product centric entity fully. Of course, Infosys’ business model is very solid and the company has a good reputation. The point here is that product development is an entirely new ball game and something that Indian companies are yet to master completely.

In conclusion, IT companies need product managers in the same way that they need the Admin and Finance functions. In other words, they cannot do without product management in the current market conditions where there is a rapid turnover of ideas and products and where obsolescence is the order of the day. Hence, it would be prudent for IT companies to create the role of a product manager who can integrate the entire lifecycle of the product and ensure that they work together in cohesion.


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