I have been asked many a time if Product Management within a Services company is any different from that at a Products company. And my answer has always been a big, emphatic NO.
Having been involved with setting up Wipro's Product Management function, I've realized that the basic tenets of Product Management are very much applicable within a Services context.
Once individuals get into the habit of cultivating an idea, nurturing it and taking it to fruition, it becomes second nature to them. Given any new problem, they start looking at whether there are others who face the same problem and if there is a way to address most of the needs through one solution. And that is the essence of Product Management. As a result, the product managers I've hired from across the industry (and they come from "products" companies) have had very minimal challenges settling down into the organization and start being productive.
Wipro's experience with Product Management has taught us that the principles are applicable not just to solution building, but also to any activity that we do. The rigor that Product Management infuses into any business is the same as it brings into a product. We have successfully implemented our seven-stage methodology into solutions that we are building as well as the practice/lines of businesses that we run. It has also helped us evaluate newer service businesses that we've wanted to get into.
The level of detailing that is brought in by the Product Management function in evaluating the opportunity has ensured that we take informed decisions based on the commercial viability of the service line as opposed to individual preferences.
The other aspect of Product Management that I found greatly aligned to Services mindset is the keen focus on getting the business. Any good Product Manager would agree that the success of a product as perceived by the market depends on the number of customers the product has. A Services company couldn't agree more.
What does differ is the time it takes to educate hard-core services professionals into thinking products. I see these as nothing more than change management issues. And since the people we deal with are very competent, the learning curve is very small. It's heartening to see these professionals getting their "a-ha" moment during our discussions around productization. From there on, the going is smooth and very collaborative.