New products driving IT-engineering convergence

By : |August 21, 2007 0

Traditionally in India, the companies that were doing IT products and the ones doing engineering products did not work together, says Deepak Kumar, Chief Technology Officer, Srishti Software. However, he admits that the Indian companies are now taking cue from products like iPod and iPhone and engineering and IT teams are working in tandem. He shares his views on product management, in an interaction with B.V.Shiva Shankar, Associate Editor, CIOL. Excerpts:

CIOL: Tell us about the latest trends and advancements in product management?
Deepak Kumar:
End user expectations from products have grown significantly in past
few years. They expect good user interface, good usability, and value
for money. Internet is making even small players viable and keeping big
ones on their toes. This has put a lot of emphasis on good product
engineering and design. For vendors it means that they not only need to
establish their position in the market but maintain it as well, which
means continuous innovation and excellent ongoing service. This has
mandated that there is more stress on product engineering, making simple
& easy to use products, provide more integration & good user interface.

Additionally technology and architecture drivers like Web 2.0 are pushing the boundaries forward.

[image_library_tag 332/12332, alt=”Deepak Kumar, Chief Technology Officer, Srishti Software” hspace=”5″ align=”left” vspace=”5″ border=”0″ ,default]

CIOL: Apparently there is a lot of scope for engineering services in
product management, is it a point of convergence of engineering services
and IT services?
Yes! Traditionally in India, the companies that were doing IT
products and the ones doing engineering products did not work together.
However Indian companies are now taking cue from products like iPod and
iPhone and engineering and IT teams are working in tandem. The sectors
like healthcare, defense, space, energy, consumer electronics etc., all
will fuel demand for innovations spanning both IT and engineering
sectors. In countries like USA and Japan this is already an established
trend. In India initial glimpses of this trend are starting to get visible.

CIOL: Turning market information into product requirements is the key
to the successful business. What are the technological requirements to
achieve this?
Even though we know that the key to successful business, there are very few IT supplier’s in India who allow rapid integration of market information into
product requirements.

First of all product teams should use methodologies that allow them to
quickly prepare initial versions of the product that can be put in front
of end-users to invite feedback. These feedbacks continue till the
product is launched and actually increase after that. The product teams
should be able to enhance the product based on feedback. In
India, however there are not many vendors who are able to provide this
and most of them do not even understand these concerns. So customers
intending to launch their own products should be very cautious while
recruiting their IT team and selecting vendors.




CIOL:What role do you see for technology in collaborating product
planning and product marketing?
In any product the product engineering and marketing goes hand in
hand. The product development methodology should allow interactions
between product development, marketing and even end-users. Proper
milestones for prototypes, alpha, and beta should be defined with
specific target end-user communities. Quick feedback and incorporation
of these are highly desirable.

Thankfully, now a day’s agile methodology and tools allow collaborating
and meeting these targets easy.

CIOL: What are the factors that act as deterrents while defining the
product management roles and responsibilities?
Most of the products, during their initial phases, are developed in
non-linear fashion in a slightly in-formal working culture. Typically,
product teams are driven by a very small set of people, some times just
one person, who are very passionate about it. However conflicts start
when it expands to next set of people. For example, at this stage
technology team starts striving to make the best product while the
marketing team want the products to be out to the world fast. Sometimes
conflicts start arising on issues which are non technology related like
what feature should be added, what should be the approach to the market, how
to price etc. Creating a military style hierarchy does not work either,
as it kills creativity and passion. Thus creating the initial team
and defining individual responsibilities becomes one of the most important
tasks during early phases.



CIOL: For whom do you think the product management is the most critical,
producer or consumer?
It is for both.

The producer wants to limit their expenditure while
keeping the innovation going. They want to maintain quality & support
levels and want to enhance their reputation & brand, making product
management and engineering key to them.

Consumers want predictability, in terms of service offerings and
time-lines, which allow them to plan and reduce risk in their business.
Good product management by the supplier makes consumers business more
profitable and viable.

CIOL: Do you think the approaches for product enhancement and new
product should be different? If yes, what should be the differentiator?
The approach has to be different because as they have more differences than similarities. Product enhancements are typically incremental and based on customer or market feedback. So emphasis goes on maintaining old functionalities, making sure they work well with new features, maintaining service levels despite new releases, and at the same time keeping the costs contained. It is hardly ever
possible to move products to new technology or environments without much
budget and considerations.

However, new products are around new ideas, sometime quite radical. This
allows radical approaches to be experimented with. At the least, a new product
can always make use of technology that is current. For example
any Internet based product can make use of Web 2.0 related technologies
without any additional effort, while doing the same for a product
written few years back may prove tricky.

CIOL: What is the main driver for product management, cost or quality?
Many people in India try to define quality of a product using the
same parameters as software projects: e.g., conformance to the
requirements document, less number of bugs etc. However if we start
comparing with other products, from non-IT sector, that we use like a cell phone, a car, a spoon, soap, or a shirt; we would start figuring

out that quality of a product is a factor of quite a few additional
criteria. Making an adequate quality product, consummate to quality that
end consumer is expecting, is an absolute must and uncompromisable.
Cutting the level of quality for cost will typically push the product
out of the market.

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