Over the last few years, there has been a trend of moving Product Engineering & Product Management to the India Centers of Global Companies as part of a scale up strategy. Some key learnings about real world gaps especially around Product Management((i.e. Product Managers and more specifically Product Owners in the context of Engineering Scrum Teams) are given below:
1) B2B != B2C Approach in Product Management
Most folks are not fully aware that the dynamic of a B2B Product is completely different from that of a B2C. For ex., in B2B products you get far better acceptance and adoption by solving Efficiency Issues (Faster-Easier-Smarter-Cheaper) compared to B2C. Even within B2B, the dynamic changes from a Verticalized (i.e. Domain specific) B2B product compared with a Horizontal B2B Product. All this lack of understanding and lack of clarity leads to the Product Manager or Product Owner not contributing with the right context towards addressing the needs of the Product Evolution for market place success.
2) Transition from BA to Product Manager / Owner
Product Management being a new career track in India leads to a situation where there are enough talent pool available. So in reality, what happens is that you tend to take in folks who have worked as either a Business Analyst in IT , KPOs (in our specific case CROs) , or local captives. The lack of a proper Product Manager Mindset Orientation or Initiation Program leads to the continuation of the old BA mindset. i.e. Take requirements from the US based Product Managers and run with it without being able to contribute to the Product Evolution (RoadMap/Feature/Prioritization et al from the Customers mindset.)
3) Few or Limited conversations with Customers/End-Users
A Product Manager typically plays many roles (Customer Advocate, Release Manager, Product Owner in Engineering scrums, Stakeholder manager, BA et al). However the most fundamental and Critical role for success as a Product Manager (.i.e. build successfully adopted Products) is being the Customer Advocate. This can be made possible only through conversations and hyper engagement with current end-users and prospect end-user community to understand the real customer problem sets and pain points that would help to define, design product capabilities that helps solve real problems. Now it gets even worse if your users or the Domain Problem that you are trying to solve (and hence sell) are mostly based out on different geography from the one that you are present in.
4) Missing Conversations with Internal Stakeholders to understand nuances of the customer context
In a Product Company, the real learning begins after you deploy the product. Unlike a B2C product, where the end-user and the buyer is essentially the same, in a B2B Product company, the buyer is different from the end-user. The real adoption & the learning associated with it happens only after the product deployment. Product Managers transitioning from a IT-services co. culture in most cases fail to track the customer usage, the expectation gap and the issues that the customer is facing. Nor are there enough conversations with Support & Customer Success teams to understand the nuanced details. This lack of conversation and understanding leads to Product evolution not being in tandem with actual customer priorities. A similar situation also happen on the Market-Need understanding side because of lack of enough understanding of the prospect objections and buyer needs that folks on the Sales & Marketing side encounters. All of this leads to product development happening at a tangent from real market differentiation & end user priorities understanding.
5) Disproportionate time spend on Release Management, BA etc
In the face of (3) & (4), there is the natural tendency to have a disproportionate time towards Engineering Scrum calls & Release Management. As much as this is important, the real critical differentiation and contribution from a Product Manager role is the Customer Problem & Usage understanding and the state of the options available in the market to address it. If these elements are missing from a Product Managers repertoire, then the role diminishes rapidly to that of a Project Manager or a BA in a classical IT Services organization.
6) Lack of understanding the ‘Product’ Business mindset.
In a Product business, deployment is only the start of the engagement. Successful transition to the Product and active adoption/usage by the Customer are critical to the success of the product. Ensuring that the customer adoption friction points, usage pain points, understanding the nuances which makes it compelling value for the customer are the key things which leads to the evolution of the product for commercial success baaed on (a) Renewals , (b) New Sales because of word of mouth by existing customers , and © Brand Building. This focus on post deployment user adoption and user experience is critical to the commercial success of the product, and unfortunately the classical IT services model where success is decided based on on-time and on-budget deployment remains a bit entrenched in Product Managers transitioning from that background. The bottom line is that, you can put a lot of money in selling and trying to scale up, but without High Retention and High Engagement of your product by existing users, the Business will not sustain.
Ok, Now What?
The good news is that almost all of the above has been easy to address once we were aware of these hidden stumbling blocks. Some of the preventive steps that are in play include:
- Training Orientation of all incoming Product Managers on the nuances of product management relevant for Verticalized B2B Products.
- Setting clear cut OKRs centered around Product Success for Offshore Product Managers.
- Including Offshore Product Managers in all Customer Interactions even outside normal IST working hours since the value add to the Product Manager because of the direct interaction has a multifold impact on their growth as Product Managers of successful products delivering differentiated value to the customers.
- Setting up frequent scheduled interactions with Sales, Customer Success, Support and Product Marketing teams to understand the insights that they have, and also reviewing new product upgrades/features/enhancements for their understanding
- Of course, clearly defining Success Metrics relevant for B2B Products and identifying levers within the circle of control and circle of influence of the Product Managers that they can primarily focus on to make the Product a success.
There are lots more to learn and evolve as we try to scale up the offshore Product Management Function for Domain oriented Global B2B Products. If there are inputs that you would like to share, that would be really helpful for the product management community in India.