By Rivi Aspler
It still surprises me that people confuse system analysis with product management.
Surprise is one thing, totally harmless. The risky thing is hiring a systems analyst when you actually need a product manager and then being surprised with a failure product.
This post offers 2 main questions that can assist you in understanding what does your product mostly need, a System Analyst or a Product Manager.
The most important question, in my mind, is:
Are you developing an off-the-shelf product, or are you customizing a system to fully match specific customers’ requirements.
- A system analyst analyzes the specific requirements of known customers and designs a system that fully matches their requirements.
- A product manager analyzes the requirements of several target customers (B2B) or usage statistics of a population of customers (B2C) and suggests a features set that meets the target market needs.
This may not seem like much of a difference, but a systems analyst is committed to a specific customer; as opposed to a product manager that is committed to an target market, i.e. can in-fact disappoint a specific customer whose needs are not fully met.
Next question is the following:
Are you investing R&D effort in creating a product based on key differentiators?
Clinging to one of the bests, Henry Ford’s famous quote is most relevant here,
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
If your product is mature enough (the ‘Milk It’ phase of the Product Life-Cycle) and your product investment has gone down to a minimum, or if you are in the business of selling customized developments, you do not need a product manager. A systems analyst would do a much better job.
If your product has not yet reached full maturity or if you are in the business of selling an off-the-shelf product, you better hire a good product manager that can analyze market trends and competitive offerings so that your product has enough “car-quality” features, when all the others are still selling horses….
Making a long story short, the attached table can assist you in understanding your main skill-set (whether you are a product manager or a system analyst) or what position should you fill in if you are the hiring manager.
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About the author
Rivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.