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Q&A: Should I move to SaaS Production PM role?

September 9th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Email question from a reader:

I have been working as a product manager in a large enterprise software for 6 months. This is my first product management job (my first post-MBA job; and I came from a technical background, worked previously as a software engineer). Today my boss asked me to be the Software as a Service production PM, in charge of production related issues, more or less a process driven role. And I will be working on releases, handling customer care, patches, red accounts. What do you think? My manager said that it is an important skill set to have for SaaS model. But I think I won’t like it. Should I take the job ? or start looking around for other opportunities?

My answer:

It’s basically a program manager role. It’s a lot of dirty work, and would not be fun. However, I have to say that I agree with your manager that it’s good skills to have for SaaS. My initial product management job at a large Internet company was pretty much what you described. I was a PM, but I spent a lot of my time on releases, handling customer care, patches, etc. Looking back, I felt that I benefited greatly from having an intimate understanding of the process, and what it took to be successful.

One thing about SaaS is that the boundary between software and operation are very blurred – a software project is not completed until it’s fully operational in production environment. So, I think having an in-depth understanding of how to run software as service in production environment is very useful and beneficial to your career (as you know, more and more software will become services.) Also, as a PM, you’ll make some important decisions – they might be tedious and boring, but they’re very important decisions – e.g. should you fix a production problem immediately? Or should you put it in your queue for future releases? How to schedule patches vs. major releases? How to communicate to your customers about version/patch releases? How to manage customer expectation in term of uptime, reliability, service level, bugs, etc.? It’s not a glamour job at all, but you will gain the experience of making important decisions and execute.

So, my guess is that you probably won’t enjoy it, but I actually think you will benefit from this experience.

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P.S. Another way to look at this is that you’re better positioned for this new role due to your technical/software engineering background. It’d good for you to build some success/equity in the organization. And it’d be something you can always leverage in the future – I.e. “I know that I’m a very good production PM, and I can handle production/operation issues really well. That’s an area I can always leverage. etc.” It’s good to build some core competency to leverage.

Tags: Product Management · Q&A

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 efacility // Apr 16, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    This is right on the money…SaaS is an Ops/Dev mashup and the product manager, in a perfect world, sits orthogonal to both ops and dev…managing the PDLC which again in this mythical world should not touch SDLC or ILM right? In theory…I think that its hard not to get involved with ops and the Infrastructure Lifecycle or Dev and the SDLC as they are both rolled up into silos of the PDLC in the launch and iterative release process. The real question is how does a company's organization choose to implement the workforce to do the PDLC, that drive's the whole process. In my opinion a company should have project managers doing some sort of Scrum or agile work on the SDLC side, and operationalized Program Managers tracking infrastructure work while marketing and product managers drive feature and the PDLC. The trifecta… all getting along in harmony…heh, yes that would be a perfect world.

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