Product versus solution management — and why it matters

Enterprise executives often focus on the effectiveness of the product management process within a business and lament the inefficient use of resources or lack of sufficient return-on-investment (ROI) for research and development. The premise of the conversation is in itself representative of the underlying problem —product” is too narrow a focus and often inhibits understanding the real opportunity, which is to focus on offering a solution to the market. Solution management is different from product management in that its inherent focus is broader and that its processes engage a wider audience.

Product management focuses on the attributes, roadmap and pricing of a specific product.

Solution management focuses more broadly on solving a problem including the product itself, its delivery, packaging, service and support, and how it interacts with other solutions.

Example: Kayaking

    • Product: Kayak
    • Solution: Kayak, kayak accessories including seats, netting, helmets, paddles, life vests, transportation, kayaking how-to videos, etc.

Solution Management Captures a Bigger Picture

The solution management focus is on the product or service and its packaging, pricing, delivery, support, service, as well as how it interacts and any synergies to other solutions within the company or marketplace. This holistic approach often forces conversations on design, packaging and approach that will not or do not occur when focused on solely the product. The benefits of solution management are often higher order, such as market adoption rates, more satisfied customers, and better internal readiness and alignment.

Tip: What teams/functions are engaged in the definition, creation and launch of your company’s solutions? Are all the functions engaged from strategy definition to roadmap creation and through launch? Usually the easiest way to shift the focus from product to solution is to engage a wider array of business functions in these processes.

Solution Management Engages a Wider Audience

The solution management focus begins with an understanding of four key strategies within the business: business, financial, go-to-market and solution. Each of these strategies are critical filters for solution management activities and are validation checkpoints through all solution management processes. As a result, the organizations involved in these strategies have a seat at the table for solution management activities, typically including:

  •    Product Management
  •    Finance
  •    Development / R&D
  •    Marketing
  •    Sales
  •    Service/Support

The interaction of these functions ensures the outcome of solution management processes is in alignment with key strategies, broad and encompassing of all the components of a solution, and supported by the company.

Tip: Creating formality in key process steps will drive cross functional engagement. For example, the formal approval of a 18- to 36-month solution strategy document by executives representing key functions (product, sales, marketing, finance, service/support) as well as approval of each solution roadmap will drive cross-functional alignment and improved execution.

Solution management can lead to the achievement of higher returns on investment due to the identification of better solutions aligned to market needs, increased cross-functional engagement, enhanced execution of integrated launch plans and improved acceptance by the market.

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