How product management incentives may be hurting customer experience

1 year ago 125

Commentary: Sometimes our champion intentions to assistance customers spell awry, says Tim Bray. The occupation mightiness beryllium however we reward PMs.


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"We request to halt breaking the bundle radical use." Thus wrote Tim Bray, noted bundle developer, and he's not wrong. Bray was penning astir the interaction merchandise managers person connected consumer-oriented bundle (like the apps moving connected our phones), but his premise rings mostly true. Namely, that erstwhile promotions beryllium connected a fixed activity, we shouldn't beryllium amazed to spot much of that activity, adjacent if it's not the champion result for customers.

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Customers are casualties

Bray works done a fewer examples of apps that helium feels became worse with age. From iPhoto to The Economist's and MLB's apps, for Bray, definite apps go "immensely slower" oregon "fancified and crippled," for nary evident reason. 

Or possibly determination is simply a reason:

It's obvious. Every high-tech institution has radical called "Product Managers" (PMs) whose occupation it is to enactment with customers and absorption and engineers to specify what products should do. No PM successful past has ever said "This seems to beryllium moving beauteous well, let's permission it the mode it is." Because that's not bold. That's not visionary. That doesn't get you promoted. 

He went on: "It is the imagination of each PM to travel up with a bold UX innovation that gets praise, and galore judge the gospel that the bundle is amended astatine figuring retired what the lawsuit wants than the lawsuit is. And you get other points these days for utilizing ML." So PMs whitethorn beryllium fiddling with products with the volition to hole their careers, not needfully the lawsuit experience. Is this malicious? Of people not. It's conscionable quality nature: radical trying to win wrong the "rules" for occurrence wrong their fixed organization. 

Not that this is confined to consumer-facing software.

What you reward, persists

Bray believes this benignant of behaviour is amended successful the enterprise, and erstwhile it comes to the benignant of merchandise improvement he's castigating, he's mostly right. "Because these were Enterprise products, …the fig of customers was orders of magnitude smaller than [for a user app], truthful the PM could spell speech to them and bounce betterment ideas disconnected them. Customers are beauteous bully astatine spotting UX goofs successful the making."

Well, yes. But the underlying constituent that Bray makes–that promotion incentives often (always?) usher merchandise decisions–isn't conscionable a user bundle problem. 

If I were to archer you determination are companies that highly worth originative bundle engineering, specified that engineers get promoted for gathering a gee-whiz, machine learning algorithm that tin coordinate taco transportation alternatively of a PostgreSQL database work that galore customers want, would you judge me? Well, it's existent (or was). Or what astir companies that beforehand PMs for bringing caller products to market, alternatively than making incremental improvements to existing products? Also a existent story. 

I could spell on, due to the fact that the perverse incentives structures for PMs are arsenic galore arsenic determination are companies successful this world. No 1 is perfect. Among different suggestions, Bray said, "Maybe we ought to commencement promoting PMs who are consenting to basal pat for an occasional merchandise oregon three." Again, he's talking astir a peculiar occupation successful user software, but deliberation astir your ain institution and what you reward. It's casual to speech astir being customer-centric (and who doesn't accidental that?), but it takes cautious attraction to interior inducement structures to guarantee what companies really physique aligns with what they accidental they attraction astir about. 

Disclosure: I enactment for AWS but the views expressed herein are mine.

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