Forrester’s Tom Grant has written 2 excellent pieces rebutting some rather uninformed blog posts and comments made by Rick Chapman over at SaaSUniversity.com. Many people, myself included, left comments directly against Rick’s blog post, to many of which Rick responded. But Tom wrote his posts to share his thoughts on the issue.
A bit of background info
Rick Chapman posted this piece entitled: SaaS Company? Thinking of Sending Your Product Managers for Formal Product Management Training and Certification? Don’t Waste Your Money on his blog.
Yes, that’s the title. Now, to be objective, the point I think Rick was trying to make was that existing Product Management training classes are best suited for more traditional packaged software companies, and there are important specifics about SaaS companies and their products that are not addressed by these classes.
Now if that truly was what Rick had argued, that wouldn’t have been too controversial. Training in general is a good thing, but not always critical. PM Certification?…well, the value there is dubious.
But Rick very quickly started digging a hole for himself by completely misunderstanding or misrepresenting Product Management. For example, he writes:
The most important job traditionally performed by product managers is managing the tick list, that is the, the list of new features and abilities that will be added to new releases of the product (and ticked out as the latest and greatest in marketing collateral)
This statement alone shows that Rick really doesn’t understand what Product Management is. I’ve written about this exact issue on this blog previously — Feature Prioritization doesn’t equal Product Management.
Later, Rick talks about MRDs (Market Requirements Documents) and states that they are becoming irrelevant to SaaS vendors because SaaS vendors typically have releases many times per year. He writes:
The MRD is designed to provide a high-level business and marketing overview of a software product and tied closely to a product’s release cycle.
The issue here is that Rick (erroneously) assumes that MRDs are documents that must be tied to releases. The reality is that MRDs are tied to business cycles and market dynamics. If a company’s release cycle is long (i.e. 1 year or more) then there might be a relationship between the release and the MRD. But simply because an application has a short release cycle (several times per year), it doesn’t remove the need for an MRD (or equivalent business analysis document) on an annual or as needed basis, depending on market changes, business issues etc.
Rick also touted a SaaS company that manages approx. 100,000 feature requests “with no Product Managers”, as if this is a model to follow or that managing enormous lists of inbound feature requests is the only responsibility of PMs.
Anyway, you get the point here of the kinds of flaws in Rick Chapman’s understanding of Product Management.