In a proper high-tech organization, Product Management, basically, takes the highly complex technology that is created by high-tech companies and translates that into real, applicable solutions for real problems. The product manager needs to understand the target customer at a level that they don’t even understand themselves so that you can proactively identify the need of the customer before they can articulate it. If the customer articulates the need, then its probably too late for that product idea because they got the idea by seeing somewhere else first.
The Product Manager also needs to understand, in painful detail, what the technology is capable of (hence the need for well rounded individuals). Bottom line, the Product Manager that knows these two areas best will win the day in the marketplace because he or she will define products that ultimately will catch lightning in a bottle and launch a company to stardom. This is, without a doubt, a full-time…no life time job. Product Management takes on this challenge to allow engineering like the lovely woman in the above picture do what they do best – engineer.
So whats the linkage between Wine 2.0 and product management? I’ve been involved with and following “wine 2.0” since before that term stuck and we were all just a bunch of bloggers with web skills and a passion for wine poking around with open-source gizmos. I thank <insert your respective higher power here/> that I got into this so early because I’ve seen quite an evolution. Many good technologies have been developed.
But the main problem, and its exemplified by the recent Wine 2.0 conference, is that many of the people coming in and trying to apply technology to the beautiful, social experience we know as wine seem to be throwing technology out there with hopes that it will stick somewhere. This is where engineers need to find good Product Management. What proper product management can provide is the expertise needed to guide the technology, target it, and maximize the chances for success. Now I know that there are the “continual development” or “agile
development” fans out there that say put it up and keep engineering. Let me tell you that while the Internet makes that philosophy possible and less expensive, its still a waste of money. I agree, put it up and keep innovating. But I am going to add a critical element to this “agile development” philosophy – innovate toward something. Innovate to solve something like no one has ever solved it before. But have a target. Sure, you might get luck and fall ass-backward into a billion dollars like the YouTube guys (make no mistake, total luck – I read an article where they said they intended for the site to go in a different direction originally but it ended up here through smart users and I submit that if they had good product management then they would’ve anticipated how the users would have used it…but engineers often don’t understand PMs or haven’t worked with good ones). Wine 2.0 is in desparate need of Product Management as it starts to gain momentum.
How do I know that there is no Product Management out there? Easy. This market is at a point where when someone hits on even a modest idea, there is an avalanche of followers – even when there is no obvious way to make a business out of it. I consult for VCs, companies large and small, and even “Wine2.0” companies and I can tell you that its amazing the number of aimless companies out there taking shotgun approaches because the shells are relatively cheap. Instead of wasting time and money with these shotgun, “see what sticks” approaches, Wine2.0 is missing the opportunity to focus early and keep as much equity as possible (because startup funding is low) in your successful business. Product Management, quite simply, is the only way to do that. Period.
Wine 2.0 is begging for product management and the number of talented developers out there working on wine projects is increasing daily. But if I hear one more “this will simplify wine for everyday people and/or drinking” pitch, I’m going to shoot that person, myself, and his/her dog!
Wine lovers who happen to be starting these sites PLEASE keep innovating. Its wonderful to be a part of all this great stuff. I’m just submitting that the innovations would come faster, better, and more useful if there were a modicum of Product Management discipline!
Enjoy the Wine Life!