How Product Managers Can Manage A Shift

by drjim on July 27, 2015

Blackberry product managers are performing a major shift

Blackberry product managers are performing a major shift
Image Credit: C Slack

Many product managers are placed in charge of multiple products. Often, among these products certain products will start to perform better than others. When this happens, it’s very natural for our focus to become fixated on the products and the product development definitions that are doing well and we start to ignore the other products in our portfolio. However, things can change and when that happens, we need to shift our attention. This is exactly what’s happening at the mobile phone firm Blackberry right now.

A Shift Happens At Blackberry

Once upon a time, Blackberry made the world’s most popular smartphones. However, as it always does, time marched on. Apple, Samsung, and others have moved past Blackberry and now Blackberry only owns a fraction of the smartphone market. Many product managers would have packed it in, gone home, and started to update their product manager resume. However, that’s not what has happened at Blackberry.

The Blackberry product managers took a look at their markets and made a major shift decision. They decided that the firm would no longer compete in the highly competitive consumer market. This was a significant change for the company. The consumer market had come to represent a very large part of the company’s revenue along with being the focus of its marketing efforts.

Instead, the Blackberry product managers have decided to start to focus on providing secure smartphone technology to the enterprise market. They have not given up on making mobile phones, instead they’ll make a few specialty models. One big change is that they’ve outsourced the production of their phones that will target business customers.

Blackberry’s New Plan

As product managers we always hate to give up working on products that we know and love. What will the Blackberry product managers do now? The company now plans to spend their product management efforts on focusing on the more profitable business of mobile security along with new types of software based services.

The Blackberry product managers have taken a look at what their product is going to be able to produce in terms of new software products and the timeframes that they’ll be able to do it in. What they’ve discovered is that they don’t think that they’ll be able to move fast enough to deliver the products that their customers are going to want. In order to fill in this gap, Blackberry has been buying smaller firms. They’ve bought a company that has a product that can guard against eavesdropping on mobile phones and another who can help companies control employee device costs.

Will this new strategy work out for the Blackberry product managers? A great deal of this comes down to determining if the company can successfully make the shift from being a consumer focused firm to now becoming a business focused firm. Yes, it is possible but it is going to take some very good communication from the product managers to the rest of the company so that everyone knows where they are going and what they want to accomplish.

What All Of This Means For You

Product managers just like everyone else can become comfortable with the status quo. We don’t like change any more than anyone else does. However, when a significant market change happens, our product manager job description tells us that we need to react and shift our product management activities.

Over at Blackberry the mobile phone maker is in the middle of a major shift right now. They used to make mobile phones that they sold to the consumer market. However, the arrival of Apple and Samsung has taken this market away from Blackberry. They are now shifting their focus away from the consumer market to the enterprise market. They’ll focus on mobile security and other software products.

Product managers who want to survive a significant change in their market need to understand how to successfully make a shift. This has a lot with being willing to give up what has worked in the past and move on and focus on what you’ll need in order to be successful in the future. Nobody ever said that this was going to be easy, but it’s exactly what good product managers can do well.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What the first thing that a product manager should do when they see a shift starting to happen?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Pity the poor product manager who has been saddled with responsibility for a product whose time has clearly come and gone: the lowly pencil. I mean, here we are living in the age of smartphones and tablets, who needs a pencil and for that matter, could anyone find a pencil sharpener even if they could find a pencil? I can understand that thinking, but hold on a moment. You’d be wrong.

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