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Product Management

Transtioning your Business From Services to Product: Here’s What it takes!

Many who are in a “Services” environment have asked me what it is they need to know to transition and be successful in “products”.

These questions have come to me from much of Asia where hundreds of thousands of people have experience in services, but few have experience and the competencies to successfully build and manage products.  However, if a service could be “productized” then the builder can leverage the profits from the product and get repeat sales. Many know that if they can get into products they can leverage their efforts and be even more successful. This is especially true if they have some “domain” expertise they can apply from services to a product.

Shifting from services to a product

The value to a company to shift from services to a product is a straightforward return on investment evaluation.  First, you calculate the “services” ROI and then do the same for having a product. Product ROI is a bit more difficult because you have to assume you are building something that will be purchased, thus necessitating a sales forecast.

Several years ago the Information Development Authority of Singapore commissioned a McKinsey study that discussed the fact that at the much higher costs of people in Singapore working in IT, they will also have greater difficulty competing with IT services costs from India or China.

That means about 30,000 IT professionals in Singapore need to gain the competencies outlined here.  The story is much the same in India where Infosys started to transition part of their business to products as did Cognizant.

But more significantly, many individuals want to strike out on their own, be entrepreneurial, and build their own business.  It has become especially much easier today given the low cost, portable computers called smartphones, powerful programming languages and Cloud services.  

Also, the advent of the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and other new technologies will enable whole new businesses causing massive disruptions.

But building those businesses and being successful requires gaining new competencies.

The current service provider competencies listed below are still valuable necessities but a product team needs more.  A lot more.

  1. Staffing
  2. Team Management
  3. Manage Team Productivity
  4. Planning
  5. Project Management
  6. Resource Management
  7. Development Tools Expertise
  8. Project Review
  9. Design and Conduct Training
  10. Technical Support

Let’s take a look at these skills as applied in a real-world environment.

Services

Suppose you have worked on a new software development or maintenance project involving 5-20 team members.

Here you will start with project planning after gathering client requirements. The client will readily give you the requirements and perhaps an industry or business analyst focuses on a requirements document.

You will then break down the total work and allocate chunks to team members and track progress. Here you are somewhat performing the tasks of a project manager.

You ensure access to IT tools and resources needed to complete the assigned tasks.  

Whenever you find skill gaps you bring the necessary training. You will also track and project development status including productivity using metrics to deliver on time and on budget. After project delivery, you and your team may provide the necessary technical support until your client can use the software service comfortably.

Products

If you picture yourself in a similar role in a product company, you will have many surprises.  

The first is that there is no one to give you the exact requirements of the product like what your services customer has told you. You do not know what the market would like as features and user experience. You have to imagine every scene and innovate, like a movie director.                                   

You need to constantly track how your competitors solve the problem that your product is trying to solve in better and cheaper ways. Which, by the way, is what innovation is.  You worry about communicating product benefit messages to stakeholders. You look at having to do extensive testing of the product and to get initial beta feedback.

You will need to network with several internal & external stakeholders to keep abreast of changes and newer ideas. You will look at the roadmap of your product’s capabilities and add-on services to help your customers adopt your product quickly.

Therefore, the new competencies that need to be developed are:

  • Fundamentals: Decision making, customer journey, product lifecycle management
  • Product Market Strategy: Innovation, Value Proposition, Market Segmentation and Opportunity, Personas, Market and Competitive Research, Product Positioning, Roadmapping, Portfolio Management, SWOT Analysis, Distribution Channels, Training, Pricing, Costing, Data Analysis, Forecasting, Budgeting, Finance, Metrics, Intellectual Property,
  • Marketing: 11Ps, Social Media, Media, Mix, Planning, Messaging, Content, Packaging, Bundling, Promotions, Marketing Communications, Timing, Budgeting, Metrics
  • Soft Skills: Leading teams, Persuasive Communications, Impactful Presentations, Networking, Negotiation, Mediation, Program Management
  • User Experience and Interface:
  • Product Engineering: Prioritization, Kano Analysis, Research and Development, Beta Testing, Agile Management
  • Product Support: Documentation

You see there is a lot to be learned.  And if you fail to have these competencies in your organization your chances of product failure increases significantly.

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About author

David Fradin has trained thousands of managers throughout the world. He infuses his workshops with insights and experiences gained as a product leader at companies like Apple and HP. He was classically trained as an HP Product Manager and was then recruited by Apple to bring the first hard disk drive on a PC to market. As a result of his leadership and management skills, Apple promoted him first to Apple Group Product Manager and later Business Unit Manager at the same organizational level at that time as Steve Jobs.
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