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Innovation vs. Maintenance—How Do You Find the Right Mix?

Innovation vs. Maintenance—How Do You Find the Right Mix?

Every product management job I have ever had, no matter the size of the company, I have wrestled with the question — “How do I determine the right innovation vs maintenance mix?” In most of my jobs, I have struggled with this question on a daily basis, constantly making sure that the “small” priority decisions that I make don’t lead to a shift in focus of our products. Are we taking good care of our client base and at the same time continuing to push innovation and thought leadership into the marketplace? Finding this balance and sticking with it is very difficult for product leaders as we are hit with constant change — change within AND beyond of our control. Do these sound familiar?

“We will lose this customer if we don’t do XXXX”

“We have to build XXXX or we will lose this deal”

“XXXX is killing us in the field”

“We need to take the time to upgrade/rebuild XXXX”

Building and earning the trust of customers, Sales, Development, Consulting, and Customer Support that we are making the right priority decisions is a crucial element to our individual success but more importantly the success of the product — and the entire portfolio of products.

Having to manually manage this mix is very difficult and the exercise becomes more of art than science. In my previous experience what has been missing has been a way to measure the impact of priority changes after the plan has been established. In other words, after decisions have been made, what is the impact and how does that change my innovation and maintenance strategy/resource allocation?

Now finally, on my fifth product management stint, I have a product that I can use to track, measure, and report on this mix that. I can manage different product scenarios and prioritization to understand where the resources are lacking and how that changes my innovation strategy. I can tell you that, if you’re in my boat, automating this prioritization process not only makes the job easier, it lets you give internal and external customers the visibility they need and deserve.

What about you? Is there a tool you use to help you manage the mix? What do you like about it — and what do you wish it did differently?

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Louise Allen
Written By

With more than 20 years of experience in all facets of bringing technology products to market, Louise leads the product management and solutions marketing teams for Planview, responsible for product strategy, positioning and roadmap for all three of Planview’s product lines. Louise joined Planview from Quickarrow, where, as Vice President of Product Strategy, her efforts drove the company from self-funded startup to consistently profitable. Prior to this, she held leadership positions with companies including Tivoli Systems, an IBM company, and NetQoS. Louise received her BS in Business Administration from Trinity University, and her MBA from The University of Texas at Austin.