Newer, faster, shinier – these are all things that every product manager wants their product to be. Our hearts are filled with product lust when we see other products, in our space or not, that have the latest & greatest bells and whistles. Oh if only our product could have that cool new technology also. Hang on a minute, it turns out that our products might actually be more successful if they don’t have that cool new technology…
Life Support For Products
If we can get over that new technology lust thing, then perhaps we can talk rationally about this. It turns out that if you really want to help your company’s bottom line, then what your product might really need is incremental innovation, not revolutionary innovation.
I’m not a dreamer – I know that VHS tapes, typewriters, and CRT televisions are not going to be making a sudden comeback anytime soon. The harsh, cold reality is that the technology that your product is based on is eventually going to up and die one day. A product manager’s job is to realize this and to attempt to push that day off into the future as far as he / she possibly can.
Harvard’s Dr. Mary Tripsas has looked into just how this can be done. She believes that product managers can work to proactively manage the innovation endgame.
What this means for your product is that continuing improvements to extend the life of its technology, particularly once you realize just how attractive the profit margins on the old technology are, can be a wise business decision – and not necessarily a reflection of narrow-mindedness of a product manager who is unwilling to see the future.
Making The Technology Jump – Or Not
Ultimately a product manger is responsible for the success of his / her product. When it comes to the technology that the product is build using, the product manager’s #1 goal has to be to find ways to extend the life of the product while still continuing to make the maximum amount of profit.
As a new technology arrives on the scene, the product manager needs to keep the old product alive long enough that the company can design, develop, and launch new products that contain the new technologies. The key is to finding out HOW to go about doing this.
Customers Come First
The secret to knowing how best to time your Compiblog jump to a new technology is to watch your customers. Our customers come in all shapes and sizes and they all have different levels of tolerance for dealing with the risk that new technologies can bring to the table.
What you need to realize as a product manager is that your customers are all going to be moving at different speeds. Sure, some will start asking about a new technology the first time that they read about it in a trade rag; however, the vast majority of your customers are more focused on running their business than what technology your product is built on.
Generally, adopting a product that is built using new technology will require a little or a lot of investment on your customer’s part in order to be able to support the new technology. The larger the investment, the longer most of your customers will want to put off making it.