Thursday, March 25, 2010

Product Management


So, as most of you know, I have recently accepted the position of Product Manager for FICO. Whoopee! But, what I'm wondering is this: What exactly does a PM do for a company? Managing a product is like (but not like) managing people; the big difference is that you have to determine the path of a product so that people WANT to use your product and enjoy using it.

Much as the iPhone was more than just a phone, had Apple followed conventional wisdom they would have just improved on the many cellular phones that were already on the market. They didn't do that. They invented a whole new product and culture - one that could accept additions gracefully, upgrade easily and something that people (especially their target audience) totally enjoyed having. And, as a side benefit, it was a bit of a status symbol. Their only stumble along the way was tieing it so closely to an old-fashioned, slowly changing company; AT&T. To their credit, they still control the add-on market so that you don't get garbage for add-ons, whether free or $20. Developers hate the control but the public loves that what they get will work.

That being said, back to being a PM. I think that what I need is to find out what people, the users, really want. Not feedback from salesmen and consultants who leave out the warts and pimples so that the feedback is pretty and acceptable, but things that will, in the long-run, make the product something that everyone WANTS to use in their daily work. Not just financial people and stock marketeers, but the ordinary joe, the engineers, psychologists, chemists, doctors, warehouse managers, etc. Something that they can "show off" to their friends and neighbors as the latest and greatest thing in the industry. Something really cool.

The problem is that I don't know, at this point, what that magical combination of attributes and benefits would be. I've been chatting with the OMG people all week and they either don't know anything about a rulebase OR they know all about LISP and OPS5. I'm moving from group to group to hear what each one needs and there isn't one yet that could not use a rulebase of some kind to work out their problems and express them in a declarative manner rather than the monotonic, procedural manner and process that they have always used in the past in conjunction with IT.

OK, enough on that. Next blog will be a return to conflict resolution in rulebased systems. Promise. :-)



woolfel said...

From a practical rule developer perspective, the kinds of things I look for are pretty simple.
1. integrate with existing servers, so that I can easily deploy, debug and test.
2. provide a robust rule repository that I can extend via plugins and custom UI. The way RMA is now, makes it difficult to enhance the interface.
3. provide a good decision table editor that supports linking a column to another table if they are related.
4. provide a way to show the dependencies between rules. In other words, I want to be able to see which rules are chained and which are dependent on each other.
5. display a set of rules in multiple formats. for example, some times it's nice to see a ruleset in decision table, decision tree or dependency graph or individual rules. I've blogged about techniques for doing this the last few years.
6. support rule level versioning. my understanding is that RMA versions at the ruleset level. That tends to make managing rulesets harder and reduces reuse.

I've mentioned all of these points to numerous people the last several years. Hopefully FICO will implement a few of these ideas.

James Owen said...


Well, I've said this before and I'll say it again: Blaze Advisor is still far and away the best BRMS on the market - mostly because it DOES integrate with so many other applications and is a very integral part of the FICO family. And, yes, technically, I am part of the Product Manager team at FICO; NOT THE Product Manager but part of a team.

Another thing. There is an official FICO blog where comments such as this belong: which is an "official" blog that is managed by my boss's boss: David ("Lighty" - and, yes, we call him that) Lightfoot. PLEASE put FICO comments up there. Thanks.

Why? Because I try to keep this blog as more of a technical blog. So, let's talk about Conflict Resolution - do we really need it? That's going to be my blog this weekend. :-)

However, thanks for dropping by and I do enjoy your comments.