Software Product Management
This chapter is the foundation of this thesis. It explains the core concepts, central themes, and definitions which build up the background of this thesis project. This chapter aims at elaborating the context of the thesis by introducing the Software Product Management (SPM) framework by Inge Van de Weerd (Van de Weerd, Brinkkemper, Nieuwenhuis, Versendaal, & Bijlsma, 2006) and some Software Product Management definitions used in this thesis. The chapter starts with a question: What is Product Management? which answers what does Product Management actually mean. It is then followed by some definitions of Software Product Management which represent different viewpoints for the Software Product Management. A descriptive section of Software Product Management framework will then be explained which will contain the detailed description of all the activities of a Product Manager in Software as a Service industry as suggested by Inge Van de Weerd et al (Van de Weerd, Brinkkemper, Nieuwenhuis, Versendaal, & Bijlsma, 2006). The Software Product Management activities represent the very basics of the Product Management discipline, and prioritizing them in this thesis will contribute to the Software Product Management foundations helping Product Managers around the globe.
.1 What is Product Management?
Do you remember the Xerox-9200 photocopier? Or Nokia 2110? Or Myspace? They were all great products, success stories of their times. But now, they are all history, replaced by new products and technologies. The lifecycle of a product begins with an idea. But new ideas are immediately met with competition from others to get attention and only the promising ones survive to the product development stage. Even then, lots of things can go wrong. Some products are impossible to understand with all other options or they take too long to develop. If they make it through development, it is time to take them to the market. But wait! Did anyone bother to do any marketing or research market needs? Just because the product has successfully launched and has gained exposure doesn’t mean it’s in the clear. If the product is not continuously improved and managed, competitors will quickly knock it out of the market. So, everything from the ideas to commercial innovations require good Product Management.
Product Management is in-charge of constantly evaluating new market opportunity, timing and planning specific feature for maximum value, seeing to it that the successful Product Marketing is used to clearly communicate the value to the target buyers and nurturing the product’s unique lifecycle so that all investments receive their returns. On the top of this, great product managers provide winning strategy guiding every step towards success. Companies with an edge are those who follow this simple floor plan.
.2 Software Product Management Definitions
Software Product Management is a subject widely covering and bringing together technical and business point of views in Software Product Development. Software Product Management can also be considered from the point of view of value based software engineering as every product aims at providing additive values to the customer (Boehm, 2003) (Barney, Aurum, & Wohlin, 2008) (Ojala, 2008) (Strasunskas & Hakkarainen, 2012). However, the value concept delivered by software products is not easy to understand on common grounds and are arguable. In automotive sector, software holds a very small part out of the whole product, and therefore it is more likely to be considered as a cost center component rather than a value adding component (Biffl, Aurum, Boehm, Erdogmus, & Grünbacher, 2005). Even for the best of software products, there could be a significant contrast in the value that it provides to a customer. Some users may see performance of the software product as of significant value while some may prefer usability and reliability of a software product, and others might say customizability of the software is most important for business needs. (Dver, 2003) (Ojala, 2008) (Sunder, Mayuram, & Kannan, 2008). So, we can see that it is not easy to clearly define the perceived and the real values of a software product. They are comprised of various value aspects which should be equally considered in the software development phase of both pure software and software-intensive products (Khurum, Gorschek, & Wilson, 2012).
Haines defines Software Product Management as “business management at the product, product line, or product portfolio level” (Haines, 2008). Ebert defines Software Product Management as “the discipline and role, which governs a product (or solution, or service) from its inception to the market or customer delivery in order to generate biggest possible value to the business” (Ebert C. , 2007). Gabriel Steinhardt defines Software Product Management as “an occupational domain that is based on general management techniques that are focused on product planning and product marketing activities” (Steinhardt, 2010). Being an expert in Product Management for high-tech industries, Gabriel Steinhardt has slight difference in understanding of Product Management that Haines and Ebert. He considers Product Management as the most important strategic function in any industry. In the light of Steinhardt’s definition, — believes that the role of a Product Manager has emerged in industries specializing in software products and seems to be more of strategic value, though a bit complex to execute. The responsibility of a Product Manager comprises of portfolio management, product road-mapping, requirements management, and release planning (Van de Weerd, Brinkkemper, Nieuwenhuis, Versendaal, & Bijlsma, 2006). This is in a context where many internal and external stakeholders are involved.
.3 Software Product Management Reference Framework
Why Reference Framework?
Currently, there are many Product Management Frameworks for Software which are followed by several companies. While some describe Product Management processes no matter what the business area is, e.g., Pragmatic Marketing (Pragmatic Marketing, 2017), others, like Software Product Management Reference Framework (Van de Weerd, Brinkkemper, Nieuwenhuis, Versendaal, & Bijlsma, 2006), Software Product Management Processes (Ebert C. , 2009) and ISPMA Software Product Management Framework 1.1 (ISPMA, 2012) have been developed based on several studies and keen observations of software products. Though, these frameworks have several activities which are quite similar, but each framework has a completely different structure and use different nomenclature to represent similar activities. Table provides the key activities of the above-mentioned Software Product Management frameworks.
The Reference Software Product Management framework by Inge van de Weerd (Van de Weerd, Brinkkemper, Nieuwenhuis, Versendaal, & Bijlsma, 2006) is chosen for this thesis because it provides a very composite combination of different software product management practices based on the studies and observations of mainly large software organizations. The framework divides all the Product Management activities in four main process fields: Portfolio Management, Product Roadmapping, Requirements Management, and Release Planning. All the activities are shown with their respective inputs and outputs within the framework. This framework also stands strong for the analysis according to me as compared to other frameworks shown in Table as it has been developed by the researchers unlike consultants in other cases. Additionally, there are many other activities like finance (Konig, 2009), defect management (Katchow & Van de Weerd, 2009) and software configuration management (Kilpi, 1997b) about which researchers and practitioners argue. The reference framework makes one thing very clear, that Software Product Management activities includes almost all the possible activities in an organization. A Product Manager actively works (i.e., collaborates, orchestrates and communicates) with many departments in organization which includes development, marketing, sales and support. It, therefore, becomes very important to understand that what activities solely belong to the Product Management and what activities could be passed on to other departments.
Reference SPM framework (Van de Weerd, Brinkkemper, Nieuwenhuis, Versendaal, & Bijlsma, 2006)
Pragmatic Marketing Framework (Pragmatic Marketing, 2017)
Software product management processes (Ebert C. , 2009)
ISPMA Software Product Management Framework 1.1 (ISPMA, 2012)
partnering and contracting,market trend identification,product lifecycle management,product line identification
market problems,win/loss analysis,distinctive competencies,competitive landscape,asset assessment
SWOT/portfolio analysis,positioning and value proposition,strategic planning and management,business case,product and technology roadmapping,voice of customer understanding,phase/gate process,project management,product definition and requirements,supplier management,engineering management,risk management,marketing planning,product launch,service and support management,service, partner, sales management,customer relationship management,marketing mix optimization
market analysis,product analysis,positioning and product definition,delivery model and service strategy,sourcing,business case and costing,pricing,ecosystem management,legal and IRP management,performance and risk management,product lifecycle management,roadmapping,release planning,product requirements engineering,
theme identification,core asset identification,roadmap construction
market definition,distribution strategy,product portfolio,product roadmap
requirements gathering,requirements identification,requirements organizing
business plan,pricing,buy, build or partner,product profitability,innovation
requirements prioritization,requirements selection,release definition,release validation,launch preparation,scope change management
positioning,buying process,buyer personas,user personas,requirements,use scenarios,stakeholder communication
corporate strategy,portfolio management,innovation management,resource management
marketing plan,customer acquisition,customer retention,program effectiveness,launch plan,thought leadership,lead generation,referrals & references
engineering management,project management,project requirements engineering,quality management,market planning,customer analysis,opportunity management,marketing mix optimization,product launches,operational marketing,sales planning,channel preparation,customer relationship management,operational distribution,service planning and preparation,service positioning,technical support,marketing support,sales support
sales process,collateral,sales tools,channel training
presentations & demos,”special” calls,event support,channel support
Figure… represents the structure of Reference Framework for Software Product Management by Inge Van de Weerd, S. Brinkkemper, R. Nieuwenhuis, J. Versendaal and L. Bijlsma.
Figure : Reference Framework for Software Product Management (Van de Weerd, Brinkkemper, Nieuwenhuis, Versendaal, & Bijlsma, 2006)
Product portfolio management is an activity which is very closely linked with development of almost all kinds of products, including Software Products. It is a requisite for organizations in deciding what existing products do they have, what new products could be introduced by looking at the market trends and the what strategy could be followed for their product development. Product portfolio management is also responsible for taking decisions for product lifecycle, and establishing partnerships and contracts. It aims at developing a portfolio of products that is in line with customer requirements, thus leading to increase in sales, and at the same time regulates the number of products offered, thus reducing the costs and the risk of new products “cannibalizing” old products’ sales, i.e., customers buying the new product instead of an existing one (Helferich, Herzwurm, & Schockert, 2006). In an advanced stage, Product portfolio management includes planning for several generations, taking technology S-curves and technology roadmaps into account (Ulrich & Eppinger, 2000).
Portfolio management in Reference framework also positions Product Line management which could be defined as a set of software-intensive systems sharing a common, managed set of features that satisfy the specific needs of a particular market segment or mission and that are developed from a common set of core assets in a prescribed way (Clements & Northrop, 2001). There are many case studies that show how introduction of product line organizations improves performance (Bosch, 1991), (Brownsword & Clements, 1996), (Thiel, Ferber, Fischer, Hein, & Schlick, 2001). There has been some research done for supporting the product lines with the help of tools as proposed by Laqua (Laqua, 2002). According to him a product line content and knowledge base should be on the top of arbitrary configuration management system. Product Lifecycle Management, according to the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. (Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software, 2017), is an information management system that integrates data, processes and business systems in an extended enterprise. It is a strategic business approach which not only includes just the technologies, but also provides a consistent set of business solutions. The information should ideally be managed throughout the entire lifecycle of a product efficiently and cost-effectively from ideation, design and development through service and disposal. As an information strategy, Product Lifecycle Management helps building a coherent data structure by consolidating systems. As an enterprise strategy, Product Lifecycle Management promotes and enables global organizations to work as a single team to design, develop, support and retire products, while capturing best practices and lessons learned along the way. Product Lifecycle Management empowers any business to make unified, information-driven decisions at every stage in the product lifecycle (Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software, 2017).
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