What differentiates online product management?

What’s an online product and what’s not?

Quite simply an online product needs to be delivered online. Thus its an information product. Plenty of organizations have an online presence but if the product is physical, or is delivered offline, its not an online product.

Since the product is information, this removes the need for warehouses, freight companies etc. However other elements such as  a call centre and offline media may still play a part. An online product does not need to be confined to the realms of the online world. One of the biggest mistakes an online product manager can make is to ignore the offline world.

Online products are also differentiated by having much shorter development cycles then other types of products. This leads to advantages in fast release cycles which favours smaller organisations where people from all functions within the business are able to quickly exchange information. Bigger companies can still compete though with a decentralised risk taking culture. For example Google and Twitter launched a talk-to-tweet service in Egypt within 2 days as a response to Egypt’s internet shutdown.

Bigger companies are also competing through controlling gateways to online products via consumer devices (eg Apple’s iPhone (iPad, iPod) and Amazon’s Kindle). In these cases the online content is distributed via physical devices that still get shipped around the globe.This is leading to more complex distribution decisions for online content managers as they decide on which platforms to focus on or prioritize.

Finally, online product managers benefit in having almost negligible distribution costs compared to  traditional product managers. This affect the ability to release frequent updates (features or fixes) or offer new propositions to entice an upsell to higher priced services. This means customer lifecycle planning can be measured in weeks and months as well as years of traditional products.

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