Decoding Careers: the transformation of product management to the cloud.

Enterprise software vendors are transitioning their software to cloud. Some are doing a good job but others are struggling. A recent article was explaining how companies from silicon valley are struggling with cloud revenue as they are progressing through their transformational journey. And that was not going very well.

Aside from the technical and architectural challenges, I would like to focus on another aspect of this transformation which is very underestimated by software companies: the role of the product manager (PM). And here is the issue immediately: your product managers are not managing a product anymore but a service. And this is the begin of a mind set that has to change. Without a proper product management, your journey is at risk!

In my previous articles, i have explained how crucial the role of a product manager is in the software world and how he/she is the “spider in the web”. If everything around changes, but the product manager doesn’t or is against or just does not get it, your transformation journey is in trouble. Below some key points that need to change.

1.Understand the new development process and adjust

The new agile development process demands more active involvement of a PM, weekly / monthly, it goes from the definition of the sprint together with the development team and assisting business analysts with questions and attending the demo and deciding whether the code can be deployed to production or not. The legacy PM comes from an environment where a big specification would be given to the development team and then for a year just waits something coming out the door and then the PM could prepare the launch of a new version. Most of the PMs do not adjust to these new methodologies and the development teams take over the scoping of the product, etc. Leftover for the less relevant PM is the launch.

2.Changes in the terminology and concepts

Whether you are technical or not, you need to start to understand and care about concepts like uptime, multi-tenant, single code base, zero-down time, security, scaling, regions, etc. You provide now a service not a product anymore and therefore all the new concepts are fundamental to the success of your service. Many legacy PMs tend to ignore these concepts. The issue is that the development team is truly busy meeting the architectural demands for these concepts and the capacity is taken at least for 50% during the transformational journey. You need to realize that you are getting less functionality.

3.Changes in the pricing

Easy one: it’s now a subscription … but stop…The biggest secret in the cloud software industry that nobody talks about is cost models: a PM now needs to understand how much it costs to run a service. And when you find out that yours is very expensive, you will be paying more attention to understand the terminology I was discussing in the previous point. Price your service against the costs or you can be burning money big time.

4.Changes in the engagement

You provide now a service, so you need to change your support model, the response times, the quality, etc. As you run the service for the customer, any disruption needs to be communicated clearly and transparently to your customers who depend now on the availability of the services. Prepare your support team, train, etc. Many PMs fail here to change their mindsets around this subject.

5.Changes in the life cycle of features

Your service needs to keep running while you are introducing a new feature or change some the underlying technologies to provide better scalability, etc. Essentially you are managing a plane in flight and you are changing seats configurations while the development team is changing to a new engine. Because of this, many cloud providers are actually becoming a legacy cloud providers because they are locked and cannot change anything anymore. The “spaghetti code” is now in the cloud. While feature switches are important for turning on/off functionalities, your service needs also to be able to adopt new technologies.

Don’t be the legacy product manager, embrace change. If you won’t do, well others will do for you. And you are not the owner of the product / service anymore. “Spider has left the web!”

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