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Collaborative Product Innovation

Ask product managers at small- to medium-size companies what tools they use to manage product requirements and typically the answers would include Word, Excel, and wikis. This is surprising, given the huge amount of data gathered as requirements for even simple products and the complexity and criticality of the product decisions that need to be made on a regular basis. Any limit on the ability of product managers to properly gather, categorize, define, and prioritize requirements directly hurts company innovation and competitiveness. Unfortunately, the requirements management tools that do exist today provide a very partial solution, often creating more work, not less, for overloaded product managers.

The core problem lies in the expectation that product managers are the only ones to manage requirements. Sure, a customer can submit an enhancement request, but in most companies the relevant product manager is the only one that will see it. This product manager is also expected to know that a different customer had a similar request, that there are several support cases from yet other customers which are related to this request, and that in the last year two deals could have closed if this enhancement had been implemented. Without proper tools to manage all this information and correlate these pieces of data, product management quickly becomes a bottleneck that slows progress in the best case and stifles innovation in the worst. But even if tools were available and used, requirements management would still be comprised of a large number of one-to-one discussions, with information flowing in only one direction - into product management.

Now, think of the last customer group meeting you had - any customer council, forum, or user group meeting. Recall how much salient information was in the discussions among the participants, in the group interaction. What if you could replicate that kind of group dynamics in an ongoing discussion about your product innovation? What if an enhancement request submitted by a customer would be discussed by your own customers? Given the right tools, they could quickly tell you how valuable it is, to whom, and how it should be addressed in your product. What if you could have an ongoing partnership with your customers whereby they continuously help you shape your product, not just at your annual customer council but on a daily basis? This is what Collaborative Product Innovation and GEM InSight are all about!