Why “Secret’ product manager?

You might be asking, why is the name of this blog “secret product manager”? What does this have to do with AIX or IBM, or Boy Scouts or anything else that I might know about you?

The reason I say the “secret” has a lot more to with the organizations that I work for than my role. I have been a product manager for about fifteen years, but other than the three years at Tivoli, I have seldom had the title “product manager”. I’ve been called a “program director”, a “consulting engineer”, and even, God help me, a “marketing manager”. But for most of those fifteen years, I have watched over, promoted and even occasionally killed various products.

One of the reasons I started this blog is to give me an opportunity to discuss topics outside of just IBM AIX and Power Systems. One of my professional passions is product management – the process of creating and managing a product or offering from inspiration through launch, product maturity and eventually the withdrawal of the product. It is a way to “own” a piece of the business and put your own unique mark on a company.

Product management appeals to me because you have to use so many different skills and you never know what is going to happen next. Every day may raise a new competitive threat, an unforeseen client requirement, or product bug that strikes right as you are about to close the sale. Product management can be exhilarating, depressing and occasionally boring, but each day presents a new opportunity to succeed or fail.

Over the years I have had a client beat the table and demand “Who is going to pay for all the money I wasted trying to get your product to work (in Russian)?” and then had same client a year later tell me that they are satisfied with the progress that the product has made and that they are ordering more. Working with clients, the users of your product, is in my mind the single most important part of product management, and reason why I am on the way to Europe as I write this.

One of the best (or worst) parts of product management is working with the development team that actually produces the thing you want to sell. A good, client focused development team can take a wild concept and turn it into a mature, easy to use tool that delight the clients despite minimal direction from product management (yes Dieter, I am referring to the napkin “specifications document” hanging on your office wall). In contrast, an uninspired development team that just cranks out code with little concern or knowledge of how the client will actually use the product will require significant direction to stave off mediocrity or worse.

Product management requires that you know when to “hold em” or when to “fold em”. You can’t win every sale and every internal dispute. If you want to sleep at night you have to know when hang tough and when to give in. The one thing that is certain is that you will be wrong some of the time. That is unavoidable. The key thing to understand is (1) that you were wrong and (2) what you can do to avoid the problem in the future.

I hope some of you will find my musings interesting, and occasionally relevant. Since I intend to cover a wide range of topics, you may not find each blog something that appeals to you but I wanted the opportunity to discuss a range of topics and this blog will provide that opportunity.

Jay Kruemcke April, 2, 2011


About Jay Kruemcke

Jay has had more than twenty years of experience in the information technology industry. Starting from a rather humble beginning at IBM, Jay became a mainframe systems support programmer. Eventually Jay joined the AIX operating systems development team early in that product's development. Jay leveraged technical skills that he built in systems management to establish himself as a member of the IBM Austin Executive Briefing Center. His expertise in systems management with the SAP ERP system enabled his first product management role, as the owner of the Tivoli management product for SAP. Over the next three years he established that product as a success with the help of a strong development team. Jay returned to AIX in a product management position initially focusing on managing new requirements for the AIX operating system. Jay established himself as a subject manager expert in AIX and Power Systems virtualization and became a frequent guest at conferences around the world. Jay succumbed to the dark side and spent four years in IBM marketing in which he introduced AIX version 6 and AIX version 7 and many product innovations including the first every open beta program for an AIX release and a significant restructuring of the AIX offering structure and prices. Jay was part of the cloud software development organization and and focused on managing development engagements for clients deploying clouds using Power Systems servers with PowerVC and related products. In March of 2016, Jay retired from IBM and started in a new role as a product manager for SUSE, the Open Software company. Jay new focus is on enterprise Linux for POWER and ARM processor based systems. The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of my employer. Follow me on twitter @mr_sles, @cloudrancher and @chromeaix.
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