Most Product Managers Struggle With Stone-Age Tools

Many people that I work with have been preaching for years that words by themselves do a poor job of defining the requirements for software applications. So, it’s refreshing to see someone else – especially a Forrester analyst – pile on to the discussion. Tom Grant, a senior analyst in the Technology Marketing group at Forrester, published a research document this week titled “Improving Your Product Management Tools”.

While the note is targeted at product marketing and management professionals, the roles and tasks performed by these workers have significant if not total overlap with business analyst and usability professions.

The problem is actually double-edged. According to Tom, “most product managers rely on tools – predominantly Microsoft Office – that do not adequately support them.” And while there are tools specifically designed to handle product requirements, the majority of technology companies do not embrace them.

Tom further identifies 6 functions needed to address the requirements challenges for product managers and describes the shortcomings of trying to use Microsoft Office, Web 2.0 tools and CRM systems:

  • Collection
  • Analysis
  • Prediction
  • Connection
  • Communication
  • Updates

Tom’s research also pointed out that innovators are more than twice as likely to adopt requirements tools. He examined companies based on their size, company age and product delivery and found that requirements tools were adopted at a much higher rate in companies that were 1-5 years old, smaller than 500 employees or who used software as a service (SaaS) delivery.

The full 16-page report is available from Forrester for $279 and is worth a read for anyone involved in defining and managing requirements. You can also read Tom Grant’s blog at this link and he welcomes community feedback.

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