Product life cycle management for service providers is never easy. It is however fundamental to the overall performance of a business and I am not just talking sales performance. Quality product management can mean the difference between a highly motivated friction-less operation to one which is slow frustrating and issue riddled. In this article we go on to explain pitfalls to avoid, and how getting it right can have a massive impact, helping make your people great, ultimately giving you competitive edge.
1) Leaving sales packaging and unit of sale definition towards the end of a product development
Packaging of products for sale for technology and service providers is an essential part of product management. It should not be left to the end of a development to start this critical high impacting activity. The core of product packaging and defining unit of sale is fundamental to conception, business case development and quality sales launch. Consideration should be given to:
What is the unit of sale, typical cost, pricing, volume of sale and ramp up, this will provide an indication of the financial success of your products and services
Modelling product logic early on provides people with an understanding of what it is your selling and how it can be sold. This early understanding helps ensure quality whilst reduces time to sales launch.
Product naming should also be considered at an early stage, prior to finalising product packaging and units of sale.
Construct of the product and services should be assessed against
How they appear in outputs, contractual rate cards, quotes, orders and invoicing
Sales scenarios, if a product or service is sold in volume how will this be specified efficiently and effectively?
Technical specification for delivery? It is all well and good getting a quick sale but if downstream service delivery is not considered it can result in friction, poor time to deliver, poor client service, people motivation and frustration.
2) Using a “see me for pricing” sales launch approach
Generally, businesses are not abundant with product managers, sales and client account teams want to move quickly for clients’ needs. Consideration must be given to ensuring a quality sales launch, a rushed sales launch can come back to bite hard. Take care to consider the following points:
Agreement with sales stakeholders on what it means to be sales ready vs delivery-and-operationally ready, not just with senior management but with trusted rockstar’s i.e. lead pre-sales technical or solution architects. Openness and clarity prevent confusion, frustration and rework under pressure for many. If you want motivated team and happy clients do not underestimate this.
Rushing sales launch by putting essential tasks on the back burner such as product packaging for sale then using a “see me for pricing” as product owner can result in a big mistake, creating your own nightmare in which as product manager you can no longer be proactive as your reacting to a highly demanding sales function. Sales will not hold back, as a product owner your role is complex and challenging enough without being distracted on deal by deal pricing support, then realising you can’t get to your backlog, you are in a perfect storm. This can steadily have a large knock on impact to further delays in product life cycle developments, as well as become deeply frustrating for many people, effectively leading to friction within the business.
3) Not paying enough attention to the client journey for the product or service
As product manager do not under estimate the need to consider the client journey's for your products and services, the journey's from request to fulfillment, invoicing and retirement. The core client scenarios and all touch point must be identified and considered, in fact internal touch points should also be considered, who? does what?, when? and how?. There may well be more than one journey depending on the scenarios, as product owner you must have identified and understood these scenarios as well as client expectations, for example ordering and deploying a new custom sized virtual server may well be minutes of effort but could likely be days in duration if the journey has not been well considered.
Consider the following
What sales scenarios exist?
Commodity quote, order and deliver as quick as possible?
Large scale high level proposal followed by detailed design?
Who does what, when and how?
Is the current organisational operating model and or processes a fit for purpose solution?
o Is the appropriate level of staffing assigned? (costs, skills, fit for the activity)
What should the client experience be for each scenario vs the products, core features, services and options?
What are the order and delivery time expectations?
What are the minimum inputs and outputs for each core activity in the journey?
How are outputs passed on to next activity?
Are you keeping things simple and providing quality service experience for the client?
During the work to address “client journey's” is important to resist making assumptions
That the same old organisational operating model and processes should suffice, they may well be unfit for purpose and well overdue a review as it is.
That addressing the scenario vs product and service journey’s is a small inconsequential workstream that can happen at the end, this aspect is core to success and needs time, attention and lots of stakeholder engagement.
First time orders and service delivery process vs. subsequent orders along with change i.e. upgrading, downgrading, changing for another, removing or adding more of the same and how this is different for subscription metered offerings vs perpetual order based products and services.
Given the need to be early to market it is not always possible and at times it’s just not appropriate to have full end to end automation, so need to consider every touch points people have with the product through its life cycle such that the right data and actions are performed at the right time by the right people. This can directly impact the efficiency and quality of service, quality product management should ensure scenarios are fully understood, stakeholders are engaged and part of the solution to avoid any nasty surprises in a live sales environment where the pressure is on and impacts can be far reaching and long lasting, rebuilding trust and fixing on back foot is not an easy task..