Enterprise software products, most often the emerging ones, sometimes, if not always, get into a situation where the market is tilted towards one particular powerful buyer. The contract or order or purchase – whatever you call it as – would be something that cannot be left non-pursued – but yet can essentially mean that your original road-map can get temporarily blocked. This is when the organization will have to make a choice between getting into a project mode for a while, deviating from the product mode. So, what are these modes?
Project mode is when the Product Managers keep the road-map aside for a definite period of time and concentrate on delivering the specific bespoke extensions to the product as needed by the powerful customer. Most often such streams have assured revenue based on timely delivery of the promised product. The Product Manager will have the onus of ensuring that the product does not derail from its original vision as well as shield the other main stream customers from the gory details of this work “exclusive” to this customer.
Product Mode is the normal mode of Product Managers where one works towards the vision of the product as a whole not doing anything specific to a particular customer. When the organization has signed-up for a something big, heart-burns are common when one works on a product mode as resources are aligned to the said project for short-term goals.
As thumb rule, an organization should not sign-up for bespoke changes to the product to the extent possible; if there is no way-out then do not leave room for heart-burns hoping for both product road-map and the bespoke project to be successful in the same time period with the same amount of investment in resources. Choose the project mode for a finite amount of time only on a temporary basis and all the stake holders will usually get aligned to the altered goal.