What's the largest organ in the human body? You might be surprised to find out that the answer is the skin, which most people don’t think of as an organ. Not only is it the biggest it’s pretty important because it holds everything together.
Here’s another one. How big is the public relations industry?
According to The Holmes Report 2011 Global Rankings, the global public relations industry ending 2010 with fee income of at least $8.8 billion and employing about 60,000 people.
Companies today spend millions running customer satisfaction surveys, retaining public relations firms and consulting with market research firms to manage their public image. Yet, it seems they fail to understand that their product, like their skin, is their biggest asset.
That’s the lesson Lawson Software is learning these days -- in a very public way.
MedSynergies, a health-care services provider, is suing Lawson and another, third-party hosting company. MedSynergies claims it was “lured” into long-term software, hosting and services contracts and that simply failed to perform. When their software did not work, the defendants piled hundreds of thousands of dollars in 'consulting fees' to fix the problems. Talk about adding insult to injury!
The important thing is that it doesn’t matter how the case turns out. I won’t be writing about it and neither will Computerworld, InformationWeek or any of other trade publications because by then it’s old news and the damage is done.
"In private moments, enterprise software executives will complain about the damage done to their brand reputation as a result of poor implementation…" says Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret, a firm that helps companies run successful IT projects. But the truth is, it's within their control.
Measuring Everything but the Product
The project management industry offers training and hoards of tools -- such as PPM, EPM, Time Tracking and EVM -- to monitor a project’s progress. Your customers don’t use projects. They use your products.
Forrester Research’s Tom Grant recently discussed this organizational void in his article in Software Development Times, "Time to assign owners to your applications":
“Talk about bridging the gap between business and IT is all well and good, but it’s just hot air unless someone owns the bridge. Or asks whether building the bridge is a good idea in the first place…Fortunately, a role that straddles business goals and technological means already exists: product manager.”
In his article, Grant defines the Product Management role and responsibilities to include concepts such as:
- Shepherding the product - Rather than moving from project to project, like rest of a project team, a product manager stays with the product throughout its lifetime.
- Ensure economic success - For a product manager, the word "investment" has real meaning, a product manager’s success and failure is tied to the product’s success and failure.
Managing projects is important but adding a system that provides visibility into your product is a natural complement, as it generates intelligence on the essential: the product itself.
Manage Quality or Quality will Manage You
If your product is software or is enabled by software there are tools that provide visibility into the state of your product. Automated software analysis and measurement solutions, like those developed by CAST, provide analytics about the quality, performance, security and risk within your product.
These analytics provide insight into:
- How quickly can you respond to customer request for new features?
- Are the new functions you are working on adding or reducing the technical debt already present in the application?
- Can the product scale or increase in performance if the demand increases?
This type of data and analysis is critical to product managers who understand that quality products add real value to an organization (and a product manager’s career!). Yet, none of this type of information is available in a defect track system, PPM tool or spreadsheets.
An objective, repeatable analysis on the state of the product is the only way to protect your skin. If not, you--and your company--will get burned.