Given infinite time and resources product managers can build out any feature and functionality that the market would need. Unfortunately the underlying assumption in this statement is quite impossible. Within this constraint of resources is born a product roadmap. The product roadmap should represent the core, non-negotiable direction of the product that satisfies demands of the identified client constituency. However, no matter how much a product manager wants, a product roadmap is all but linear. A sudden luscious opportunity emerges that requires tangential development outside the roadmap or there is an exciting technological breakthrough that if implemented would significantly boost user experience – typical situations that has the potential of jeopardizing a roadmap.
The astute product manager at this juncture remembers the eighteenth century economist David Ricardo and his theory of comparative advantage. Is in-house development the best way to tackle the new but unplanned opportunity? Should resource allocation be altered and is it worthwhile to face the inevitable compromise in roadmap as consequence? Firms faced with this conundrum should proceed on the route of in-house development only if they possess core competence in the demands of the deviation. However, in most cases, such situations result in the Product Manager exploring partnerships.
Sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander and what is deviation from road-map for one product manager is bang in the right direction for another. Both such product managers should be active scouts of the environment that allows them to make such mutually beneficial connections. Alliances such as these have several benefits
1. Immediate need of the market is satisfied leading to revenue opportunities for both the parties in the alliance. The customer base understands and in almost all situations are extremely supportive of such partnerships
2. The product manager who was faced with roadmap compromise keeps open the possibility of deeper engagement with the partner should the one-off deviation become a much deeper trend
3. The product manager who satisfies the deviation requirement is often the smaller player in the mix. Engagement with a larger player opens up many more possibilities for the product manager, product and the firm. In many occasions the smaller firm gets acquired by the larger firm at a later date, creating consolidation in the industry
Partnering is an exciting opportunity for product managers to grow their products and explore a different vista of the marketplace than what was possible for each of the products individually. And this is where the proactive product manager has the dual – and onerous – responsibility of being attuned to the market to identify emerging trends and firms that are playing in that arena.