Insights | It’s Prime Time for Software Product Management: Are You Ready?

It’s Prime Time for Software Product Management: Are You Ready?

By Lee Zikria | April 6, 2021

Product management has been getting a promotion in the world of software development. While the increasing pace of digital transformation ensured skilled software product managers were in high demand before Covid-19, the global pandemic has powered up the need for critical product expertise.

The pandemic shockwave forced businesses to reassess what they do and how they do it including whether they have the right technical capabilities to pivot.

Technological innovations that were scarcely imaginable just a few years ago are crucial for companies to adapt, and to do so at speed and scale. The challenges are huge but so too are the opportunities for those able to quickly develop the software strategies and products that will keep them relevant and competitive. 

Bridging the gap between challenge and opportunity is product management. Technical product managers and teams are the drivers of an organization’s future innovation opportunities. As a result, there’s never been a more important time to make sure you have the right product management expertise to develop state-of-the-art software applications quickly.

Why Product Management Is So Important

Digital transformation was already a big story before the disruption of Covid-19 dramatically accelerated the trend. According to analysis by research company McKinsey, the pandemic has seen digital adoption by major businesses advance by as much as five years. 

As Gartner analyst and senior director Emil Berthelsen says, “Technology product management leaders must look to improve and transform product management processes, tools and people to stay competitive in the rapidly evolving market.”

I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and have seen product management evolve from a time where it wasn’t even a dedicated discipline to the crucial role it plays today. I have spent 10 years as a software engineer and 10 years in management of software engineering. Within that time, I have seen various permutations of agile and product management. I’ve been on teams where the gathering of requirements, product design (UX/UI) and product MVP, and roadmap was all done by the engineers.

That scrappy approach doesn’t work for most product teams any longer. 

The days are gone when a team could be pulled together from client services, tech and design departments to help develop a new product, while expected to also keep up with their regular jobs. One of many pitfalls in this old approach is that it didn’t allow for ownership of the project or a full understanding and overview of the software being developed. 

Today, product managers are involved right from the concept phase. They need to know exactly what the business needs, what the competition is offering and where the market is heading, as well as integrating across the design, engineering, marketing, operations, finance and legal sides.  This takes out the guesswork and allows everyone to play their roles to the best of their ability and work collaboratively to achieve product goals. 

In the past, performance was measured largely on whether a product was delivered on time. Now, product managers juggle all the balls that go into software development, becoming the glue that binds engineering teams with all other parts of the organization. No surprise, then, that McKinsey sees the role as a new training ground for future CEOs.

Software product managers operate at the intersection of business, technical design, and project management expertise. They’re also masterful orchestrators, ensuring integration of all key capabilities needed to produce an on-target software product.

 

PM-Diagram

In this period of rapid innovation, business leaders need to ask themselves this fundamental question: Is my product management function ready for the step up to prime time? 

THE PROBLEM:

Demand for product managers in the United States far outstrips supply. Companies are scrambling to find cost-effective product management talent to meet the opportunity.

THE OPPORTUNITY:  

With businesses more dependent than ever on technical innovation, a responsive approach from a more skilled, deeper bench of software product managers can provide you an edge. A more sophisticated development approach from expert product managers can help realize the benefits of digital transformation.

THE SOLUTION:

Software development outsourcing is a fast, scalable way to build or enhance a product management team with the skills needed to capture the opportunity.

How Outsourcing Can Help 

It’s natural for your team to get excited about extending an existing product to emerging platforms or the opportunity to build something new. It’s also natural for company leaders to want to be at the helm. Often, that’s not the best option. When you’re focused on ensuring your current operation is running well, it’s hard to successfully dedicate the time and shift focus to the strategic and tactical focus areas that a product manager must. 

Outsourcing to a nearshore or offshore partner is a cost-effective way to fill product management gaps and build in focused oversight of your project – ensuring it stays on time, on track and on budget. You gain reach to a much wider and more affordable pool of talent than what’s available on the domestic market, removing the need to have all the required product management expertise in-house. 

Case in Point: How It Works

AdRoll is a leading digital advertising platform serving more than 500,000 active direct-to-consumer advertisers worldwide.

AdRoll sought to create a hybrid in-sourced and outsourced product development capability that could easily be ramped up over time without sacrificing quality. However, they had no prior experience with outsourcing and needed guidance in finding a partner to collaborate with their organization to manage product development and form a long-term partnership, not a project-based team.

We introduced them to a partner in Argentina from Accelerance’s premium global network, who quickly integrated and grew the company’s software product development team from five to 40 in the first year. Our client was able to realize their goal of gaining enhanced, high-quality, affordable and flexible software development capability that was a seamless extension of their existing operation.

Outsourcing for Product Management Success

Six Key Reasons No Heading

Here are six key reasons why outsourcing your next software product development may be the right way to go:

  1. Find the specialized expertise you need.
    Not every business has experience in developing the software capability they need. If your project falls outside the knowledge and expertise of your in-house team, outsourcing to a specialist will save time and money. This is also an opportunity to invest in your in-house team by allowing them to be coached and mentored by an offshore project team with the deep expertise in product management.

  2. Meet that tight timeframe.
    Failing to reach a deadline is a common problem. A recent Gartner survey of more than 200 leaders in technology and services companies found only 11% of companies had met their internal product-release targets in the previous year – with 45% of product releases coming in a month or more late.

    It's time consuming (and expensive) to recruit top web and mobile developers, then you have to onboard them as a team. The past year has increased opportunities for software engineers and it's harder to retain talent. Outsourcing to the right partner lets you access subject-matter experts who already have experience working together as a team. They'll get more done in the first few weeks than a new in-house team could over several months. It also allows you to not focus time or energy on recruitment and interviewing.
     
  3. Stay within a limited budget.
    It takes three to five months more to develop software in the US compared to offshore outsourcing alternatives, with senior product managers earning an average salary of $120,000-$140,000 according to Glassdoor.

    A tight budget means you have a stark choice: reduce the scope of your product or reduce the hourly engineering rate by looking beyond your borders. The money you save can go towards building more features into your product and/or expanding over multiple platforms.

  4. Beat the product management skills shortage.
    High demand for product managers is being driven by the proliferation of technical products in industries such as logistics, finance, insurance and healthcare; the growth of e-commerce as companies move from in-person to online operations; and the rapid growth of technology giants such as Amazon.

    Big tech has responded to the pandemic by allowing many staff to work from home long-term. That acceptance of remote workers means top talent can be cherry-picked from all over the country, which makes it even harder for small-to-medium companies to find (and afford) the talent they need onshore. 

  5. Drive innovation at a faster pace.
    Funding innovation pays dividends: organization that have boosted their investment in innovation are 2.7x more likely to be a top performer than a trailing one, according to Gartner's 2021 CIO Agenda. Strategic outsourcing makes it possible to keep pace through greater use of advanced technologies you may not be able to find or afford onshore.

  6. Counter lack of bandwidth.
    Often businesses are fully committed to running their IT program and don't have the resources to engineer new products or adapt existing ones. Working with an outsourced partner allows you to quickly ramp up for your software project as needed. Once you have chosen a partner with the core competency in the technology stack you're looking for, they'll have a pipeline of engineers with the right skills and experience to call on.

    Once the project is done or goes into a different phase, it's also much easier to scaled down the commitment with an outsourcing partner than it is with the permanent staff. Some of our clients looks advantage of this flexibility last year, cutting back their offshore or nearshore team as they grappled with the uncertainties brought by COVID-19. 

Outsourcing to Power Your Product Management 

A great outsourcing software product management team can bring the focus needed to help you avoid the traps. Too often companies don’t have a clear understanding of the business requirements they need to meet, and so risk wasting their development budget. 

Continuing to move forward on a tight timeline with limited project management capability will lead to disappointing results. You may end up with something that falls well short of an optimal functional product. It’s like building a house without the input of an architect and not putting in coat closets. 

WIthout the right product management focus and tactical guidance of a good team, companies end up with something built that’s a mismatch with customer (end user) needs. Often it’s the unforeseen issues that trip up projects. How can strong product management help? It provides a clear evaluation of the challenges and risks in critical areas such as prioritization, backlog management, rework and project delays.  

Becoming Best-in-Class with Accelerance 

Accelerance has a proven track record of troubleshooting and pivoting software product development. We can provide you with experienced product management teams that can take on the operation of the product function for a time, implement best practices, train your team, and then transition responsibilities to your in-house function. 

We can determine the optimal path, advise whether a remodel or rebuild of in-process products is needed, coach the internal team on how to fix the root causes of issues, and help scope and plan the implementation phase and assemble the team needed to deliver it. 

Strategic product management will be critical as digital innovation drives your business into the future. To stay ahead of the game – and find out more about Accelerance’s product management services and solutions  – get in touch.


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