Why CIOs Need Product Managers Now

product managers cloudThere are two fairly indisputable facts about enterprise IT environments today:

  1. Cloud computing is here to stay – while it’s still early days, CIOs have largely moved past the question of whether SaaS, PaaS and IaaS models are enterprise ready. While there certainly are debates around suitability for particular workloads, most CIOs have accepted the fact (in some cases grudgingly) that cloud will be part of their future. Now the question is turning to “where” and “when” cloud models can best be utilized. This is particularly true for “systems of engagement” that drive revenue growth through more effectively connecting the business, customers and partners.
  2. Legacy IT isn’t going away anytime soon – while they may continue to shrink as a proportion of the overall environment, dedicated environments will continue be part of the enterprise mix.  In some cases cloud platforms don’t yet meet performance requirements. In other cases, the business case for rearchitecting or replatforming the application for the cloud just isn’t there. This is particularly true for “systems of record” originally designed around discrete pieces of data and high volume transactions.  In either case, enterprises will be contending with legacy platforms for quite some time.

This second fact will ensure that IT organizations will continue to exist for the foreseeable future.  Those who predict the rapid demise of corporate IT due to cloud haven’t spent much time in an actual Fortune 500 IT environment to see how much mainframe, AIX and UNIX is still out there. These environments will continue to require management and support until sunset, which for many systems will be a decade or more.

Most enterprise CIOs have the legacy piece down cold.  Effectively designing, deploying and supporting traditional environments is  what got most CIOs their current job. The question now is how to extend IT capabilities to embrace and support cloud-based systems of engagement.  The question is not if they need to do it; if they don’t their business users will do it themselves. And the CIOs that are making the shift are rapidly discovering they need a new skill in their organizations.

Product Management.

In the vendor world, product managers are generally responsible for translating business needs into engineering requirements.  They are the primary contact points for ensuring products and services provide the capabilities needed at a market competitive price.  They talk to customers, analyze the market, define what’s needed, and develop the roadmap for delivery.  They provide the critical link between customers and products.

So why do CIOs need internal product managers?

CIOs need to recognize that, whether they like it or not, they are now service providers that compete with third-party vendors like Amazon, Salesforce.com, Microsoft and others. As we’ve discussed in prior posts this requires a shift towards an IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) operating model.  This model provides a mix of both internal and external cloud services to business users on a self-serve basis.  Gone are the days of “build it and they will come”.  Business users now have choice with the cloud, and in many cases are using it.

To maintain customer relevance in a new ITaaS operating model, CIOs need to be able to figure out the answers to three critical questions:

  • What services do our users and developers want and truly need?
  • Is the IT organization or an external vendor best positioned to provide these services?
  • How are these services going to be orchestrated, integrated and managed?

This questions are particularly challenging for systems of engagement, which need to rapidly iterate and evolve in response to market changes.  Driving innovation with systems of engagement requires an ongoing analysis of customer behavior and usage, and rapid reaction to market conditions.  The traditional role IT business analyst with its focus on business process modeling and analysis won’t fit the bill. Strong, continuous business and technical problem solving is required. This ability to constantly monitor customers and the market and adjust the services portfolio as necessary is the quintessential description of a good product manager.

This isn’t to say that CIOs need to go out and hire a fleet of product managers.  Another layer of management and bureaucracy won’t improve innovation and agility. It does say that CIOs need to rapidly figure out how the role is going to be filled, and who will lead the core processes associated with the function.



  1. Great post. Spot on with what is needed within the enterprise as they become cloud service providers.

Speak Your Mind