Product management has been well established in fast moving consumer goods companies since the 1920' s but it is only relatively recent times that it has been popular in utilities like Telecom Eireann. The purpose this research project was to establish what is currently considered best practice in product management from the point of view of leading writers on the subject and suitability of practitioners. Furthermore the objective was to assess the relevance and suitability of product management to Telecom Eireann and to recommend how it might be implemented in a coherent fashion.
The project examined the topic through an extensive review of literature on the subject and through research conducted in telecommunications organisations and other companies representing a wide range of industries.
The strengths and weaknesses of product management were considered. It is the conclusion of the project team that the system is suitable for deployment in Telecom Eireann subject to a thorough understanding on the part of the relevant managers of the prerequisites for effective implementation and of the benefits, costs and limitations of the system.
Product management helps to enhance the customer focus of the company and it facilitates cross functional management of product-related issues. From new product development to management of the product until its eventual deletion or replacement the processes described in this report can help the company to avoid the dangers sometimes associated with the absence of, or incorrect usage of, the product management system.
As well as implementing the appropriate disciplines for effective use of the system the company must organise its resources to ensure that the conflicts which can arise are properly managed or, if possible, avoided altogether. The role and responsibilities of the product manager are explained and the process view is emphasised so that product management is firmly linked to normal business activities.
From the research conducted in Telecom Eireann itself there is evidence of a move towards development of a product management system which is consistent with the activities of organisations who have successfully developed product management systems. However it is important that some elements of the research are pursued in more detail to validate the findings related to the company's activities in this area to assist in the effective implementation of the system. In this context the work of the Accelerated Services Development Forum provides a suitable vehicle for a pilot project.
The report also includes a brief description of some management tools which can be usefully applied to product management activities.
The nature of product management has changed in recent years. Among other things it involves a higher profile for the system along with the appointment of more senior people who use their experience and authority to act as integrators in the organisation rather than as short term managers of a subset of the product-related activities such as advertising and promotion. The service nature of Telecom Eireann's business requires that product management is considers in the wider context of the extended marketing mix i.e. the traditional "4P's" and people, process and physical evidence. Among other things this demands of the product manager that all elements of the service offering are presented to customers in a coherent fashion through the marshalling of all the appropriate company resources. The specific recommendations include improvements in Telecom Eireann's reporting arrangements associated with product profitability and a review of its current policy on branding. Guidelines are also including mechanisms for dealing with conflict inherent in the role and conflict between product management-related functions in the company.