BBC Online - Adopting Product Management

Monday 25 October 2010, 11:51

Erik Huggers Erik Huggers Director of Future Media & Technology

Last week, the BBC Academy launched its Product Management Development Programme to give staff an overview of the discipline and the skills it entails. At the same time, the BBC Academy published a specially-commissioned report into the state of product management in 2010. I'm delighted that the BBC as a best practice leader is playing such an important part in the adoption of a discipline which is rapidly gaining prominence in the UK media industry.

Why do we need Product Management? In March of this year the BBC announced a new strategy - Putting Quality First. I have blogged previously about the significance of this for BBC Online. Putting Quality First recognised the importance of BBC Online within the BBC's overarching strategy, and proposed we focus on doing 'fewer things better'. BBC Online started life as a flat text-publishing medium via which static web pages were delivered, before the web began to mature and the offering grew. To help us to rationalise this, we'll be introducing modern management processes to bring it all together.

By 2012 it's estimated that around 90% of UK homes will have access to our services via the web so it's important that we get this right. Product management will enable us to think more strategically about developing our online presence, and deliver a better quality and more innovative service for audiences. The pursuit of quality will be supported by better ways of working together. The report published yesterday defines the product management role as 'a multi-disciplined person who operates at the intersection of technology, design and editorial and is able to bring all of these elements together' to deliver products whose lifecycle is managed. We'll no longer build websites which are published and which sit unattended and slowly degrade; products will be managed within a life cycle. This could mean gradual addition of new features, new content, new releases, but also includes the ultimate decommissioning of a product.

How will we make this change happen? The UK is currently behind the US in its adoption of the discipline, but the BBC is lucky to have a small but solid foundation to build on. Some recent hires of practiced, multi-discipline product management experts will help us lead the charge. On top of this, I'm proud that the BBC Academy is investing in professional development to prepare existing staff for cultural change, and more broadly, our contribution to the development of a new generation of world-class product managers and an important industry standard.

I've no doubt that product management will soon be embraced by many other European media companies. In the meantime, I'd urge you to take a look at the report published last week which provides a great insight into the state of product management in 2010 via various case studies and testimonials. It concludes that we've reached a tipping point where media companies are beginning to understand the value of a product-led approach, but also that there's a skills gap in the industry, something which we hope our training initiative will begin to address.

Erik Huggers is Director of BBC Future Media & Technology

You can read more about how the BBC spotlights the role of Product Manager in the media in the press release.

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