Have you ever noticed that enterprise IT organizations often times have (sometimes numerous) project managers but never have product managers? Did you know that this fact is directly responsible for the rise of cloud computing? Read on if you want to learn more.
Enterprise IT is an interconnected set of people, processes, services, hardware and software. While its main purpose in life is to support the business, you could argue a bulk of productivity gains we managed to achieve in recent decades as a society can be attributed to improving IT. So ultimately enterprise IT is a good thing.
Within an enterprise, IT has 2 different internal customers. Business itself is one, but there is another - it’s application software developers. We could debate significance of each but it’s not relevant here.
When you have something as complex as a typical enterprise IT organization, you need people to help manage it - that’s where technology project managers come in. They perform many important functions and it’s not my intention to question their value to organization. But project managers have a very specific mandate - essentially bring order to flow of work, both internal changes and change requests from customers.
What’s missing from project managers’ mandate is asking their customers “what do you want us to be able to do for you.” Because that’s a function of product managers. Unlike project managers who take something as a given and bring order to its surroundings, product managers actively shape what this something should look like in order to maximize its value.
Let me give you an example. A Rails developer can develop a web application in any field - healthcare, social, logistics management and so on. She doesn’t need specific knowledge about the domain she’s working with in order to be successful. It is product managers from whom this knowledge comes though - they are the ones who specify “requirements” and prioritize them.
Project managers and product managers are not interchangeable and these roles have totally different backgrounds. A PMP certification helps in project management but won’t do anything in product management. Knowing ins and outs of medical billing will help in product management at a medical billing company but won’t help much in project management.
Now that we’ve established the difference between project managers and product managers, let’s get back to our enterprise IT. Here is the main point of this post and I am going to highlight it.
Enterprise IT doesn't need product managers for their business customer because business requirements for IT are only very high level ("be able to run accounting", "have good uptime"). So there is no need for product managers here. But enterprise IT forgot that they have 2 customers. And application developers, because they are also technologists, have very specific detailed things they want enterprise IT to do for them but there is no one to shape enterprise IT from within to respond to these needs.
People managing enterprise IT as a product to internal application developers would be the ones working on the following problems:
- what characteristics of data store do developers need
- what access to production do you developers need to enable safe and effective troubleshooting and how enterprise IT can make it happen
- how network should be partitioned to support developers' needs regarding moving apps between environments
And this is exactly what IaaS cloud computing did - it built IT as a product offering for application developers, considering their needs and wants.
If you are an enterprise IT organization today, IaaS is your competition. Your application developer customers will choose you only if your product is better. Or if they are forced to by corporate information security. Make your own conclusions.