Saturday, August 06, 2016

How Can Product Managers Add Value In A Data Centric Enterprise Software Company

All enterprise software companies that I have worked in and have had the opportunity to interact with have mainly four groups of experts managing different aspects of their data. There are data driven products. These products are enabled by data intelligence products. Data intelligence products are enabled by an Enterprise Data Warehouse that organized and stores the data. The enterprise data ware house is fed by a data management team that monitors, received, prepares and audits data.

The Role of Product Managers In A Data Centric Enterprise Software Provider
My workplace is a data centric organization. The value and quality of data we have determine the kind of innovation we can build and deliver to our customers. At my workplace my colleagues and I have designed and applied product management tools such as design thinking and agile development to data driven products development and data intelligence products. We are not there yet on applying product management tools, practices and techniques to data management.

My hypothesis is that data management has become a critical foundational capability for enterprise software companies building data driven products. Today, it is managed like a information technology (IT) support service that is called upon when needed or yelled upon when something goes wrong. It is treated like a utility that is supposed to work.  Instead  it should be treated like a product organization whose capabilities could become a unique advantage for a data centric organization. It should be supported with product management skills, tools and techniques.

Product managers can add value to data management organizations by doing the following.

  • Identifying the capabilities that will add value to the business and build a barrier to competition.
  • Define and document the capabilities a data management team is building including acceptance criteria.
  • Convey the value created by a data capability for the business to executives.  For example, making a new data set available might enable the creation of new innovation. Making a data set available sooner and more frequently might be a market differentiator. It might keep competition away or may enable the business to charge more for current services. Building a file monitoring and audit capability might make the business more reliable, scalable and might help the business expand into new markets that were otherwise not financially feasible to operate in.

There are some hurdles and risks. 
Data management teams traditionally have operated as an information technology organization that did a few projects with longer term milestones. They may not understand or appreciate operating like a product development organization. However every product is going to be data driven and to succeed, every company needs to manage their data management organization like they manage a product organization. My belief is that those who master this will succeed. Those who don't will fail. If you are a product manager or a data analyst, I recommend that you join an organization that understands and appreciate this insight. Ask questions about how an organization operates before joining them. Interview data teams in a company and understand their acceptance or resistance to such a direction. Such due diligence will increase you chances of success in your job. It will also increase the success of the business.

If you are playing the role of data product manager and are working with a data management team, please share you experiences. I would love to know your thoughts. If all this conversation got you excited, consider joining me at Castlight. We are hiring for the Director, Data Intelligence product management role you see above. 
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