One of the consistent themes I hear from IT is that a line of business of department bought its own tool, and then handed it off to IT to support. Also, many times when we ask IT what features their internal customers want next, they really don’t know until the critical request comes to them.
Now, I get that IT resources are constrained and no one has a bunch of free time. But there is a very solid, best-practice method to get your IT department off of this critical request treadmill – Product Management. I’m sure you have people skilled in requirements analysis and documentation, but product management takes you one step further up the chain.
The benefits of applying some product management principles are many and wide-reaching:
- Be prepared for major new developments in the market, and therefore for your internal customers’ new requests
- Understand core use cases and their value to help justify your IT investments
- Speak to your internal customers in their language, with their goals in mind, thereby developing a true partnership
- Build trust. Trust is huge. Internal customers will learn to trust that you understand their method of operation and constraints, and that you are able and willing to support them. This enables your IT group, too, to have a more meaningful future roadmap.
As a long-time product manager, let me offer a few tidbits to get you started.
- Designate someone to take this part-time role.
The role requires someone who is an excellent listener, who is naturally curious, who can spot trends across departments and use cases, and who is great at writing things down. Pragmatic Marketingwhat makes a great product manager
- Listen to use case stories—SO IMPORTANT
Individual customer stories provide insightful information on how your products are consumed internally. Sit with your customers and watch how they are doing their work. Understand the amount of information they get as input, what is expected for output, and the magic that your product is supposed to deliver in the middle. Understand their time constraints and priorities. I like this example…it helps you take a step up from the Rational detailed use cases that come later.
- Understand what is possible
Too often, we can get trapped into making small, iterative changes to the product we’ve been providing for years. Then a major shift comes along, like data discovery, and we’re left scrambling. If you spend time understanding use case stories, then you’ll be on top of what your users want (even if they can’t articulate it themselves…which they can’t most of the time). But you also need some idea of what is possible in the market. Set up a few Google alerts
- Create and curate a roadmap
Have a roadmap. A roadmap is a high level plan of how to deliver with limited resources. Use it as a guide, but change it as you learn from your customers. Use it as a focal point for the work that you’re doing. If you’re working on it, is it on the roadmap? If not, should it be on the roadmap? If not, should you really be working on it? Here’s a quick discussion that offers some tips on making a roadmap.
There is an entire discipline of product management that may be overwhelming as you get started. Know, though, that if you don’t gather these higher-level requirements, and if you don’t understand what is possible in the market, you’re going to be continually running to catch up with your internal consumers. They’ll hear about new products at tradeshows and from colleagues, and you need to be ready.
- Help them understand how Big Data can help them answer their business questions.
- Help them understand how cloud deployments can benefit them.
- Help them understand how trusted data supports many of their initiatives, and how you can deliver it *super fast*.
- Help them understand how new kinds of visualizations and extensions can make their stories more effective and inspire action.
By establishingsome of this product management mindset in your IT organization, you’ll be more prepared for changes in your internal customer requests, AND your team will feel they are providing good strategic value to your company. Who doesn’t want that?!?