Survey Outlines Principal Success Factors in Product Management and Reveals Trends in Customers’ Involvement

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View the results of an online survey issued by Orasi Software on the role of customer involvement in product management. The survey outlines the top critical success factors for product management. Commentary provided by Johanna Rothman, independent speaker, author and consultant.

Orasi Software, Inc., developers of the award-winning IdeaScope™ and experts in on-demand and embedded customer feedback management software, today issued the results of an online survey on the role of customer involvement in product management. The survey outlines the top critical success factors for product management. It also reveals the disparity between how product managers perceive the importance of customer feedback, and how and when in the process they elicit that information.

Orasi Software asked Johanna Rothman, prolific speaker, author and consultant on managing high-technology product development, to comment as an independent expert on the results. Rothman summarized, “The survey shows that product management success has two clear operational components: (1) the ability to help nudge the development/project team to a more agile process with incremental deliveries, and (2) understanding the product domain to be able to effectively guide the development team to good decisions about what to implement when.”

Survey respondents outlined their top 4 critical success factors in the following categories:

Customer Involvement:

-Include strategic and base customers in surveys for BETA releases

-Secure agreed-to buyer and user scenarios/personas for products or solutions based on real-world customers

-Build solutions that provide measurable value (ROI) to customers

-Obtain on-going and continuous feedback from customers on how you can improve your product

Communication:

-Articulate the business case to engineers and product managers

-Communicate across the organization the importance of satisfying customer needs and how they relate to market success

-Craft and deliver clear, solution-oriented product value messages and use marketing technologies like RSS, blogs, and search engine marketing/search engine optimization to deliver messages more efficiently

-Listen and communicate with both business and technical audiences

Process:

-Adopt a relatively agile process that ensures delivery but is not overly cumbersome

-Have a disciplined approach to product planning and management to drive the Product Requirements Document/Marketing Requirements Document process

-Prioritize development over delivery

-Rein in developer “cool tools”

Business strategy:

-Align teams on product strategy and deliverable goals, enforced from C-level

-Base direction on market studies within core competencies and budget

-Announce on time, under budget, at a competitive price with the highest margins, with solutions that exceed the competition

-Go to market with the right price

Additionally, the survey showed that while 96 percent of the respondents reported that customer involvement was a high priority in their product development and management initiatives, nearly half considered the process of gathering feedback as passive. Forty percent of the respondents reported that such information was difficult to manage, often coming from disparate sources such as online forms, help desks, focus groups, advisory boards and surveys.

Larry Boldt, VP of customer management for Orasi said, “The survey is a true reflection of what I’ve seen in the field. Product managers realize the importance of customer input, but they do not have a real grasp on how to manage all that information effectively.”

The survey revealed another trend where customers are more often asked for input later in the product lifecycle. Twenty-six percent of the respondents involve customers in product strategy and planning. The percentage rises slightly to 34 percent of customers who are involved in product design. The percentage jumps to a response of 68 percent of product managers who involve customers at the testing phase.

Rothman added, “As I would have expected, the survey shows more customer involvement in testing at the end of the lifecycle, rather than planning, especially not the strategic planning part of product development. Strategic planning in the absence of customer involvement may be an oxymoron. But, the company – especially the executives – need to own the decisions about the marketplace they want to compete in, and how they will do that.”

C-level involvement presents its own set of challenges for product managers. Rothman noted, “Successful product managers need to have the diplomatic, negotiation, and influencing skills to work the organizational chart. In all, product managers are still walking that tightrope: how they involve customers in strategic planning; how to help nudge project teams to be more agile--or at least deliver incrementally within iterations; how to use customer input as well as executive input about what to deliver when. It's not an easy tightrope to walk, and it's necessary to do well.”

More details about Johanna Rothman and her latest book, Behind Closed Doors (co-authored by Esther Derby) can be found at http://www.jrothman.com.

About Orasi

Orasi is a software and services company focused on helping customers develop and deliver better software products to the marketplace. The company’s proprietary applications, IdeaScope™ and RM Publisher™ complement a software development platform by making customer and stakeholder feedback visible and shareable across the development process. Orasi’s global services division helps clients manage and deliver the highest quality products through training and services that support best-of-class technologies for enterprise product management, enterprise testing and performance management. Specific details relevant to Orasi’s customer feedback management system, IdeaScope, are available at http://www.ideascope.com.

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