Friday, September 21, 2007

Thinking like a product manager

One difference between CTOs and CIOs is that CTOs focus on customers, in a product manager role (there are many exceptions on either side of the CTO/CIO title).

Product management takes a different type of thinking than IT for internal staff. For an internal user, you effectively control the relationship and service costs. Sure, you negotiate requirements, priorities and timelines, and you allocate charges, but what real choice do your business users have? (For example, they typically can't go buy and install their own laptop). For a customer, either consumer or a business client, it's a completely different story. You are competing for their business, they have choices and viable alternatives. It can be highly competitive to win them over verses your internal users, who are effectively a captured market. And those with sales experience know it hinges on the service that follows the sale. Bad service and sales will follow.

One effective tool I use for internal staff is to approach them as customers (this takes more than just calling them clients!). Meet with them regularly, give them decision-making power, respond immediately to their needs, write down and answer their questions. Treat them with respect and deference, after all, they are the staff making your company work and satisfying your company's client base.

Listen, don't direct. Sympathize, don't scold. Strive for 100% excellence in service.

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