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Reverse Engineering & Product Management? Really?

by John Mansour

reverse engineerReverse engineering usually conjures thoughts of knock-off artists creating their own versions of popular consumer products.

Or in the B2B world, reverse engineering is often required after a company acquires products or technologies from a defunct company and there’s no documentation of the underpinnings.

But over the past couple of years, a significant number of our customers have found a much more creative application for reverse engineering – strategies and product plans that are already in flight! i.e. start with the end in mind and then work backwards, decomposing it as needed to define user scenarios, messaging etc.

Don’t raise your eyebrows yet! It’s become one of the most valuable and fun exercises I’ve seen in a while.

Here are a few examples you can probably relate to.

Example 1

Current Roadmap Item: Updates to Sales Quoting Tool

The supporting information is a list of features that comprise the update.

Reverse Engineered Item: A self-service quoting tool that will make our customers easier to do business with and showcase their unique abilities by allowing their prospective customers to quote configurations none of their competitors can offer.

The supporting information is a list of user scenarios that describe the various ways customers build unique quotes and the supporting features for each.

Example 2

Current Roadmap Item: Project Acme – a new platform.

The supporting information is a list of capabilities that comprise the new platform.

Reverse Engineered Item: Deliver a superior customer experience that will improve retention by reducing the effort and complexity required for customers to do X, Y and Z.

The supporting information describes before and after customer scenarios and highlights critical areas where the customer experience will change significantly for the better.

The Value? 

The value in both of the above examples and virtually every other situation I’ve witnessed is the creation of a simple and powerful business dialog that articulates what it is and why it’s valuable, instead of how it will be built!

Helping customers create the business dialogue around their strategic initiatives and product plans is a lot of fun for them and me. Watching the reaction from executives, sales, engineering or marketing when product management presents the new and improved versions is even more rewarding because everyone just “gets it.”

For product teams, it makes the downstream execution easier because the target is clear and expectations are in line accordingly. For executives, sales, marketing, account managers, etc., it gives them a compelling story for the outside world.


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About the author

John Mansour is a 20-year veteran in high technology product management, marketing and sales, and the Founder of Proficientz, a services company focusing on product portfolio management.