Product managers are responsible for making a lot of decisions about our products. However, one of the most important decisions is if we are going to team up with another company to develop the product. Vs. “The Lone Ranger” type decision, this is the classic “Batman”. Which way should you go?
Products that are easy
Look, not every product needs to be created by rocket scientists (can anyone say “pet rock”?). A pair of researchers, Steve Almeriel and Ramon Casadis Maxinal, have spent some time looking at the problem.
What they find may surprise you. It turns out that if you decide to partner with another firm, this is going to create a whole bunch of hassles for you as a product manager. Doing this business can be a daunting task. However, if the product you are developing is easy, then sharing is a waste of your time.
The simpler the product, the less need to partner with another firm. Doing so will only slow down the development process as the teams will try to coordinate when in fact all this cooperation can be done internally. Furthermore, when it comes to marketing a product, the firms involved may have different opinions on how to do so.
Products that are complex
The other side of the product development spectrum is complex products. These are groundbreaking products that your customers have probably never seen before. Think of things like the original Palm Pilot or the Apple iPad.
These products are also poor candidates made by companies that form teams. The reasons are quite simple: product teams are finally looking for ways to innovate during the development process. This process is very difficult to do internally and is almost impossible if you have to coordinate your actions with an external company.
Especially if your product is not competitive because it is so new, you know how difficult it is for a product manager to have your own management support the project. Just imagine how difficult it would be to manage a ship in so many companies!
Products that are perfect for collaboration
Sorry to be so negative about the idea of collaborating with companies to develop new products. However, this is not all sadness and torment. It turns out that there is a product class that can benefit from bringing a product manager to a foreign company as a development partner: a product of medium to low complexity.
Why does external cooperation work here? Good question. This shows that when designing a product is not so difficult, but when there are decisions that can be made in any way, let another partner company take a look at what your company is doing. Can really help
Their insights help prevent your company from making product decisions that always seem silly in the crowd. The benefits of this insight far outweigh the efforts you need to make to coordinate development activities and marketing programs.
What does all this mean for you?
As children, we all loved Batman and Lone Ranger. However, when it comes to hiring a product manager, we end up deciding who we would like best. Making a choice is not always easy.
If the product we are developing is either too simple or too complex, it is a bad idea to partner with another firm. It will only slow things down and not cost too much. However, if we are working on a medium to low complexity product then providing additional inputs and observations in the partnership can yield valuable benefits.
Product managers are usually not afraid to go it alone. However, there are times when we really need another company to act as our sidekick when we are developing a new product. It has the potential to make the right partnership decision that will turn you into a product management superhero in your company …