Monday, November 8, 2010

A Land of Infinite Dimensions

Sorry for being silent for so long. I just finished my first full week of a new job and my brain is boggled. It's not like I haven't had new jobs before. Most of the people my age will have something like 6-8 jobs in their working lifetime. In my parents' time, the number was closer to 2. My children might change jobs every two years. The way things are changing, I suspect the very nature of the job will evolve into something I wouldn't recognize. Maybe they'll all be specialist contractors, each given some small slice of a larger project, but never allowed to see the whole. It'll be a bit like the world's funniest joke.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about today really does deal with change. For the past -- oh, let's say 20 -- years, I've dealt with on-premise technology solutions. That means products that are bought and installed in their environment by a buyer. It's a pretty simple proposition when you think about it -- you just have to know who the buyer is, what his problem is, how much money he has, and who else offers a solution. Work out the equation to your benefit and, whammo, your business grows.

Now I find myself in the PaaS (platform-as-a-service) world. It's only been a week, but it's feeling to me like the Land of Infinite Dimensions. In this world, buyers choose a service that runs in the cloud and which is based on a specific cloud platform. In my case, Google Apps. The variables here are manic. For example, the features that are exposed to you are a function of which platform you choose, which version of the platform you choose, which product you buy, which version of the product you buy, and which role you play within your organization. Each of these can have as many as four or five values, so the combinatorics yield a vast possibility space. And, of course, no single competitor maps exactly onto that space, so it's not exactly clear whom to hate. Moreover, it'll all be different in two months, so you have to account for a much faster shift. It's really much more complex than previous Product Management jobs I've had. But it's also really, really interesting.

I'll crawl out of the geeky sinkhole to say this: I wasn't aware that there were even more ways for me to grow as a product manager, but I've now found some. I'm still determined to become a player in visual analytics, but, in the mean time, I've got some new challenges to digest.

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