Product Management is a recent addition to the IMQS development environment. What does Product Management mean at IMQS, and how does it drive product development? Meet Rudi Louw, IMQS Product Manager and the driving force behind IMQS Product Development.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT IMQS, RUDI?
I am what you refer to as a Product Manager. The position is quite a new one at IMQS. It was created when we decided to consolidate our product owners (POs) and business analysts (BAs) into one close-knit team.
As a Product Manager, I have a broad portfolio to ensure that our POs and BAs plan and deliver quality, usable, innovative and re-sellable products that offer real value to our clients. I head a team of three POs and four BAs, and work closely with our Chief Product Officer from a vision and strategy point of view.
WHERE IS PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT SITUATED WITHIN IMQS?
Of the 80 or so employees currently working at IMQS, Product Development is situated right at the centre of the organisational web. We deal with both internal and external stakeholders so as to maintain a complete picture of the IMQS development environment. We are therefore both client facing and technical facing. Moreover, we liaise closely with all departments, including marketing, legal and finance.
WHAT SKILLS DO YOU BRING TO THE PRODUCT MANAGER ROLE?
A Product Manager relies on a broad set of skills, especially soft skills, to drive productivity and nurture talent. Normally product managers come from either a technical or a business background. In my case, although I come from a technical background with development experience, I spent a large part of my career in business analysis, product and project management, as well as systems architecture in the area of enterprise solutions.
Over time, the most enduring lesson that I have learned is that you can’t be afraid to make mistakes or fail. Instead of trying to be right the first time, my philosophy is to rather fail fast at your first attempt in order to more quickly get to a more mature and viable solution. This is a key tenet I try and instill in my team.
DESCRIBE YOUR PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT APPROACH
There is a difference between developing a product for a single person/user and for a group of people/users.
At IMQS we aim to build products that are re-usable and re-sellable. It is my goal to get our POs to a point where they can truly understand the needs and minds of those who are potentially going to use our products. The practice of building user personas helps them to ask critical questions regarding usability and functionality in order to speak to a more general user base.
Whether we are developing new products, functions, or solutions, our product-development approach rests on three key pillars - Feasibility, Viability and Value.
We need to quickly build solutions that are feasible in terms of time and budget.
We need to be sure that our company can profit from the work we are doing.
We need to be sure that the work we are doing will offer real value to our clients/users.
The last thing you want to do is deliver a product that was developed with speed and sold for a lot of money, but which ends up not being used by the client. That is not a measure of a good product, and at IMQS we strive to build good products.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT MANAGING AND UNDERSTANDING YOUR TEAM?
Ideally I like to be involved in the way POs and BAs plan their work so that we are all on the same page.
As a Product Manager, you work with diverse individuals, each with attributes that make them unique. My goal is to nurture and motivate my team members in order extract excellence from them. I therefore strive to understand the personal and professional needs of each person on my team and motivate them to not only improve in areas they might be lacking, but also more importantly to build on their strengths.
WHAT DO LIKE MOST ABOUT WORKING AT IMQS?
I would have to say it is the diverse group of people I am privileged to interact with on a daily basis.
IMQS employs such a variety of different-minded individuals. I believe that this is what sets us apart. Whether you are actively seeking out-of-the-box thinking in the formal working environment, or just want to have an interesting conversation over coffee or a game of pool, each and every employee at IMQS has something truly interesting to bring to the table. Many companies pay lip service to the idea of an inclusive company culture or family. At IMQS you really are made to feel part of such a family, one with a distinct culture of inclusivity and belonging.