Recourse of the Unimaginative: Project to Product

Let us now convert this project into a product.

One reason why Product Management resources are so difficult to find in India and why the general outlook towards building software products (= risky) stays grimly low is because of a predominant IT service (= safe) orientation.  However, IT Services firms do try to dabble into Products sometimes and the quickest way they take is the first line of this post.

A one-time client engagement to create a system becomes the passport of flipping that over into a Product.  That one firm in the industry had the system built becomes the marketing proposition that other firms in the same industry also can be sold the productized version.  Engineering puts in the architectural tweaks allowing system parametrization, APIs are either written or made more open and the front end gets features like white labeling and the beast is labeled a Product. However, despite the overbearing attempt at camouflaging it continues to look like a project, quack like a project and walk like a project.

In fact, it continues to remain a project. The Frankenprod created is neither generic enough to handle all industry idiosyncratic situations elegantly nor does it solve niche common problems universally. The lack of adequate Product Management and zero upfront marketing results in a product that has been Product Managed by a single client. As a consequence, any additional client signed up needs enormous amount of product changes, often making each sale a specific instance of the product. Now think of downstream nightmares like creating a single Helpdesk!

So is it incorrect to convert projects to products? I am hoping someone will take care of the IP stuff in the contracts while I pronounce my view from a Product Management perspective. Some of these ideas should be noodled before making the final call

  • What is the customer pain the project is solving? Is this pain universal in the industry?
  • If the pain is universal, is the solution to the pain universal as well?
  • How are other firms in the industry solving the pain now? Are all solving them the same way?
  • Are there other points of pain in the industry that the project client does not have to face? What solutions exist for such pains?
  • Is the project client a leader by such an extent that its adoption of my solution will either attract or force the rest of the industry to adopt an identical (or near identical) solution?
  • Are there demographic differences in the way the industry functions?

I wanted to make my personal position clear in this. I do not favor converting a project into a product. It is the recourse of the unimaginative and is counter intuitive to Product Management. I’d much rather convert an Idea into a Product.


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