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Where is the opportunity with your Product Catalogue?

A Product Catalogue? What does this really mean? We can all align to some form of physical (or of course now digital) catalogue, where we can leaf through the page upon page of Products seeking our attention and our money, however, when it comes to a Technical Product Catalogue, what is it, and do you really have one? Or for that matter, do you even need one?

If you’re in a technology function, I’m almost 100% certain that this topic has been raised in your organisation. I’m also absolutely 100% certain that it has created divided opinions, and multiple outcomes. Maybe even an outcome that ended up as something of a damp squib.

My own experience has very much aligned to this. These days, I look back and smile when thinking about those meetings for “let’s kick off creating a Product Catalogue!”……and then watching and listening to a plethora of opinions, relatively little substance or experience, and limited clarity as to the end outcome. When you then search the topic by new or traditional means, again, the clarity is for me rather limited, so no wonder teams and organisations have struggled with an effective outcome.

In a previous post, I wrote about my most recent experience, where the ‘list’ was forming as I joined. Excel was the obvious repository, and in the end, it turned out to be a catalogue focused entirely at Service. “Great, now we have a catalogue, so who gets called at 3am when something goes wrong?”. That honestly felt like the main objective, and the Product team would then need to be the administrators of keeping this ‘list’ up to date, and of course allocating each Product to one of themselves for the 3am wake up call.

There were positives of course. This was the vehicle to raise the usual questions around “what is a Product?”, or “How do we define our Products?”, and this stimulated strong conversations about the reasons these Products exist, who are the primary consumers of them, and even some consideration of where they are in their lifecycle. Truth is, in my own Product experience, these questions are either rarely asked, and even if they are, can often lead to a poor outcome, because it’s just not seen as a priority.

I recall some powerful conversations about the ‘consumers’ of the Products in the catalogue, and how this got teams thinking about the reason why the Product exists in the first place, and who could then be considered as the consumer to listen to about the perceived success of the Product(s). Furthermore, this triggered discussions about measurement, and how can that be achieved if the Product is more technical, and less functional or user facing.

As these conversations developed, and the supporting Product Catalogue grew and refined, then wearing my Product hat, I saw a great opportunity to raise the bar in this space, and elevate the conversation in respect to users, consumers, value creation, and measurement of outcomes. But what happened? What didn’t take this opportunity to the front of the race? In my view, a lack of understanding, appreciation, and of valuing the Product role and function. Very quickly, the investment came in solving the service problem, and not grasping the Product opportunity.

In the tail of this activity, as the ‘catalogue’ moved into a service environment, the Product team was left somewhat high and dry. We simply returned to the usual operating model and toolkit landscape, whilst carrying the additional weight of yet more responsibility. We didn’t see that as adding any value to our role, or embracing the opportunity that could have been created if the Product Catalogue was used to drive a more holistic view of our ecosystem, and with an intent to drive better outcomes at pace.

I think this was a true epiphany moment in my Product journey. In front of us was an incredible opportunity to be grasped, yet it slipped beyond us so quickly. At this moment, I realised how we need more, and how much we need to push for more. It began to beg the question to me of “what is out there for us?”

In the months that followed, another opportunity arose, this time to look at Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). Working closely with a handful of equally passionate colleagues, we set out on this journey of discovery. It challenged us for sure, and on reflection, I put that down to PLM simply not being the norm as a go to area for Product teams, at least not in my own experience. Parts of it perhaps, and in a very fragmented way, however, not a standard path to follow.

As we explored this topic, we were fortunate enough to be introduced to a toolkit provider, and just at the right time. This led our work from the theoretical, to something with potential and substance. Suddenly we could see the way illuminated. Now came the challenge of raising the profile, and bringing some attention to the opportunity. We had an amazing deck (and it really was something else). We had belief, confidence, and a solution. What we didn’t have was leadership appetite, and despite endless efforts to at least get it on the radar, there was just always something more important, typically something delivery related.

In the time since, this has become the area of focus for me, and was certainly one reason why I recently joined Skyjed. Not only do Skyjed have a solution to a significant portion of the gap, it was a stand-out place for me to further my own ambitions on behalf of everyone in Product. From now on, that’s the plan. What can be given back to help Product teams and communities to a better place….

I’m absolutely seeing the opportunity in toolkits to support Product Roadmaps and Product Lifecycle. Both add so much to the credibility of the Product role, demonstrate how organisations are truly investing in their Product functions, and how those in the Product roles have the vision and ambition for more than the same that has gone before.

We’ve got at least one half of this covered here at Skyjed. That’s why I’m here, and why in the future, I’m certain you’re going to see and hear more about our platform. Come check us out please, and drop me a line if you’d like to talk more about closing your tooling gap.