Product Management and the plots in novels

This being summer I have been having vacation or holiday for those of us in the UK. And this is pretty much the only time in the year I get to read books – something I used to have much more time for in my past life. But no matter. Oh and by the way they are real books on paper. Not ebooks – not that there is anything wrong with that – I just have not got a reader device yet – I still have too many actual books to read – why can’t there be some sort of license transfer – in the same way I can rip my CDs to MP3?

So anyway – books. On the whole I have enjoyed the books I have read – mostly gripping, and entertaining. Well thought out – etc. Worthwhile purchase and a good read. Just one niggle with most of the books is the ending is generally unsatisfying. The rest of the book has been really good – lots of plot twists, characters to believe in and sympathize with, but then the ending always seems unsatisfying and rushed. Surely there should be more attention paid to this part of the book – and not rush it to actually bring the story to an end – any end?

Maybe it is just me – but I would like a bit more exposition to bring the story to a more satisfying conclusion. I understand the dichotomy of building up the excitement of the plot and not dragging out the conclusion – reaching a crescendo and then ending on a high – but what if it is not satisfying – after the initial rush of finishing you get a slightly bad taste in the mouth.

So what does this have to do with product management – and maybe specifically WebSphere Message Broker? Well as a product that has been out and evolving for 10 years it is fair to say that there is plenty of function in the product – but we continue to add content and function. But what can we learn from novels and plots? I think we need to think more of our ‘readers’ or users – and the uses to which they put our offering. In the same way that novel writers need to think about their plot and how to satisfy their readers, we need to think more of our customers and how they are going to use our products. In that way we can ensure that the products don’t just satisfy the customers with core functionality but deliver more of what the customers will find enduringly useful as time goes on.

For anyone interested – here are the books I have read recently

Tom Knox – The Genesis Secret; The Marks of Cain – both interesting and entertaining – and well researched – if gory but with endings that seem to be rushed. I really enjoyed both books but felt the ending was perhaps unsatisfying after reading – in the sense the the excitement that built up was not quite fulfilled. I will however be looking forward to his next book – The Severed Men

Vernor Vinge – Rainbows End – a really interesting book with some great concepts – but the whole plot was perhaps a MacGuffin. there was all sorts of technology forward thinking – with localization and augmented reality – and perhaps plot had maybe less thought than the technology. And I just also got frustrated with wanting more about Mr Rabbit….

Dan Simmons – The Terror – Maybe this book is the equivalent of WebSphere Message Broker – incredibly detailed – I learned a lot about the Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage and the ending of the book had a lot of detail to it – delivering a satisfying conclusion.


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