What is Software Product Management?

Software product management is the business process of creating, manufacturing and selling mass-market software. Generally, this process is only concerned with software that is released to the general public or available for public use. The idea behind software product management is making software with the greatest appeal for the lowest cost in order to generate the most profit for the company.

Scope is the biggest factor in determining what sorts of software are governed by software product management. Many companies build proprietary computer systems and applications for use in specific industries. The software that governs a cash register or that catalogs a land parcel in a county office is limited-release. These programs are used by those groups only, and outside groups have no access or interest in them.

A product governed by software product management is available to a huge market. Common office suites, graphics programs and web browsers are all mass market products. These programs may have millions of users, each with his own impression of how the software should work. A major software release may take years to produce and cost millions of dollars, so proper management is key to its creation.

A software product management process is generally made of five phases. The first phase requires the people involved to sit down and figure out the overall scope of the project. This is where the company determines what it wants from the software, how it wants the product to affect the market, and other corporate decisions.

The second phase is generally more technical. During this phase, the basic features of the software package as well as the estimated time for creation are hammered out. This phase also involves figuring out who will be on the project and determining a hierarchy of workers. While many of the things involved in this phase are theoretical and may change, it is still important to have goals to work towards.

The third phase takes place while the software is still being coded and relates to the product’s sales vector and its marketing. In the past, the only reliable method to release mass market software was in a store. Now it is possible to use direct Internet sales and service-based subscriptions as well. While many large scale programs for common computer users are still released in-box, other users can find more specialized software as downloads instead. A non-box release significantly cuts down on the software production costs.
The fourth and fifth phase happen after the software hits the market. In the fourth phase, the software is patched and supported. This will increase the longevity of the software and increase profits. The fifth phase happens at the end of the software’s life and looks at where it exceeded or failed. These observations are used during future planning sessions, often in phase one and two of a new product.