Monday, November 7, 2011

The Art of Project Management

When I first started out as a Product Manager, I had the naive perception that simply gathering information on customer feedback and competitive offerings would be all the input you'd need to chart the course for product development. If I had a good handle of what the customers were asking for, and what the competitors also provided, than all I had to do was to prioritize those things into a product road map and feature requirements.

Galvanized by Art

I couldn't have been more wrong. As Apple and other game-changing organizations have proven time and again, successful product strategies are all about divining what the market values and is willing to pay for. That can be, and more than often is, completely different from what users say they want, and from what competitors currently provide. We didn't know we needed an iPhone, or a Tivo or DropBox, etc, until the product wizards conjured them up.

I'm starting to believe the same thing rings true with Project management. It's relatively easy to do user interviews, come up with a requirements checklist and execute towards a finished solution. The more difficult question to answer is - what will truly make that solution successful in the organization? The old saying "Be careful what you ask for" rings true here: do customers really understand what they've asked for, and will their stakeholders embrace and make it successful?Are we taking into account the complexity of learning and using the final product? Does it ultimately make the task simpler, or is just another thing to learn how to do?

The risk for not taking this into consideration as a project manager, is that your solution may ultimately fail at the customer's organization despite your successful project delivery. When the customer gets everything they ask for, seldom do they get what they really need.

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