If you are a product manager in one of these Big Data category of companies, you’ve got a hell of a job keeping up with the evolving landscape. How do you go about it?
Every new technology shift and acronym that comes on the horizon is born in the minds of an engineer or an architect. They are the ones looking at the current platforms and stacks and going, “This could be done so much better in ten different ways”. This is true of protocols like SIP, SOAP, XML, and H.264. It is true for middleware architectures like CORBA to SOA. It is true for infrastructure like SDN. And so it is true for methodologies like Agile.
For a product manager, the architects, VPs of Engineering, and senior engineering leaders are great enablers. These people can travel the breadth and depth of this new paradigm, demystify complex concepts, and have a good sense of what scenarios this new paradigm can enable. So aside from the regular train of sprints, scrums, and product releases, it is very important to engage in this level of dialog with the engineering leaders about what this new shift means. As a product manager, I have found this to be invaluable. I have had the opportunity to work with some really sharp and deep thinking folks, and frequently such conversations have been very illuminating. The four types of scenarios to brainstorm are:
➤ What our customers can do that they were not able to do before
➤ What we can do that we were not able to do before
➤ What questions we can now answer for our customers that we couldn’t before
➤ What questions will our customers ask of themselves and/or us that they couldn’t before
If your customer is not the end user of the application ecosystem, but one of the other category players in the stack, it is nevertheless helpful to understand the scenarios from the end user standpoint.
The real time traffic situation is a great example where all the big data technologies have conspired to deliver end user value. As a driver, I am interested in only a small sliver of the tons of exabytes of data, i.e., traffic around my constantly changing position, just enough for me to make a real-time decision in a very short period of time. And the providers have figured out a way to deliver just what I need in the right moment of time, ensuring that I don’t have to drink from a firehose. In effect, the last mile problem was solved.
In various application ecosystems, the end user is not yet a beneficiary of big data analytics. I am sure efforts are afoot to create more personalized experiences to foster more stickiness, loyalty, etc. However, a lot of scenarios that I read about are allowing the aggregator in the application ecosystem to create better efficiencies for themselves first.
The Product Manager in an application ecosystem must understand the value chain and the various players in the stack. If a category of players is missing, that is a gap, an area of innovation that needs to be filled, either by people below in the stack or above where the gap exists.
To truly address the last mile problem and create benefits for the user, the client experience on the user’s side becomes pivotal. The embedded navigation system solved this for real time traffic, so that it allows us to traverse the map, get traffic updates further up or down on the route, and make real time decisions of where to turn.
On the enterprise side, I get the sense that we are not quite there yet. We see a plethora of dashboards that expose the result of complex analytics in fancy pie charts and graphs, with lights going off on a global heat map, etc. But are we helping our users answer the questions they care about? Is that personalized enough?
In the traffic scenario, I had to get answers to these questions in fairly short order:
➤ What is the road situation ahead?
➤ Where should I get off this road?
➤ Where should I get back on?
The interface has to serve this and quickly get out of the way.
This is where a Product Manager must play an important role. What is the personalized experience the user cares about? What questions does she want answered? Does our client interface distill all our big data collection and analytics down to just those three or four or five key questions that will make a world of difference? What are those questions?
If this is an IT administrator who is looking to protect her enterprise from the latest security threats, or a marketing campaign manager that wants to get better return on her spend, it is the Product Manager’s job to care about this last mile, otherwise we will keep inundating our users with fancy dashboards that only give them a way to admire the problem.
What do you think?