Two years ago, I joined an enterprise company transforming the publishing industry from within. It's different, for sure: new skills, methods and challenges. But there are also some under-sung benefits to the role of enterprise product manager. Here are the five I've discovered since joining Bibliocloud:
1. Enterprise users are much more invested in your product
Our end users may be in the hundreds rather than the millions, but they spend many hours per week using our software. For our clients, Bibliocloud is the hub of their business: the one place to find answers to business-critical questions, like 'When are we publishing this book?' and 'What rights do we have?'
While this adds considerable pressure, it also means that our users care enormously about the product's ongoing evolution, giving up considerable time to participate in research. When your customers spend 8 hours a day on a service, small improvements have a big impact.
2. There is a growing need for both useful and delightful enterprise software
Executives in complex industries like publishing have traditionally been between a rock and a hard place when choosing software. On the one hand were the industry-specific systems. These offered the functionality required to save time or costs. But their clunky interfaces required top-down enforcement, at the cost of employee morale.
The emergent SaaS systems, though, were often no better. Basecamp, Asana and other such tools offered a delightful user experience but couldn't bend to accommodate industry-specific data or workflows, or integrate with existing systems. They offered superficial benefits without touching the difficult problems and as such, didn’t merit expensive roll-outs.
There's a growing need for beautiful yet industry-specific software. At Bibliocloud, we're industry insiders, building beautiful, cloud-based software to solve problems we understand. The demand is rapacious because the system is useful and usable to customers in our particular niche.
3. Good enterprise products transform working lives
Working lives matter. In enterprise product management, we're in the business of vocations, promotions; the professional achievements that build lives.
Whereas a well-designed utilities app might save minutes from a routine task, an enterprise system can save a talented professional hours of time per week. Our system automates many of the tasks that beleaguer the publishing industry: it really is transformative.
Talented editors, marketers and salespeople report being able to actually 'do their jobs': the proactive, creative or strategic work that sells more books. And for an over-stretched industry, an hour saved means leaving work on time. That's life-changing for them, and invigorating for us.
4. Helping businesses serve their customers is satisfying work
Working on an enterprise product means grappling with the business challenges of dozens of companies, all with different strengths and objectives. The best enterprise systems aren't just functional and usable. They solve hard, specific problems. They help businesses make increasing amounts of money; save increasing amounts of time.
Really pushing the needle for my customers requires a wholehearted engagement with the business of publishing. Discussing strategy with business leaders is fascinating work, and I get a tremendous kick out of helping publishers serve their customers more efficiently.
On that note, it's no accident that I've chosen this industry. Enterprise product management bears social responsibility, and I find meaning from the good that book publishers do in the world, from promoting the latest research on climate change to teaching children to read.
5. Relationships are long-term, collaborative and rewarding
As a product manager for consumer products, interactions with customers were one-off and fleeting. In enterprise product management, by contrast, relationships are long-term and require careful cultivation.
Each of our customers is precious, and the industry is small. It's also a challenge to maintain a tight roadmap when balancing differing needs with one codebase. But over time, I've found our customers increasingly collaborative, supporting each other to raise the bar in the industry.
Diplomacy is required in enterprise product management, but it's rewarded with a stable business model, high retention, referrals and immense goodwill.
At its best, therefore, enterprise product management is the best kind of symbiosis, offering long-term benefit on both sides.
It's satisfying work, helping working people achieve their professional goals and build their lives, and supporting businesses to make an impact in the world.