What can service management learn from product management?

I’ve keenly observed product and service management disciplines separately but I’ve never looked at them together…until I saw Kaimar’s post on Back2ITSM. He shared an article that pointed out how the two are actually not that different. 

That evening, I picked up my brand new “Blogger’s Journal” from Paperchase (I thought I’ll never use that) and walked across the road to a park and began writing down points for this blog. I wanted to make sure that I list down actionable points and not point out the obvious. When I say products, I don’t necessarily mean IT Products but products like Slack and Uber we love and use every day. Of course, most of my Product Management knowledge comes from this ITSM product, Freshservice.

Here’s what I think Service Management can learn from Product Management.

User research & user groups

User research focuses on understanding end users behavior and motivations through different observation techniques. User research will ensure that you’re not building a product or service in a silo and sometimes also acts as a reality check. This scene from the TV series Silicon Valley is the one that I always use to explain user research and usability testing.

How does product management benefit from user research?

Product management invests a lot of time in user research & user groups. Product managers either work with market research teams or take it upon themselves to understand user behaviors, create personas and build products for these personas. This helps them ensure that they understand customer needs properly and build solutions that actually cater to the target audience. They also form small user groups amongst their customers who they keep going back to for feedback when they launch new features! 

How can service management benefit from user research?

I’m not sure why user research doesn’t get a lot of attention in Service Management (making this assumption based on the number of blog posts I’ve seen on the topic). Investing in user research can totally help service management teams ensure that they’re delivering what the customers want.
It doesn’t have to be extensive. You could simply spend some time talking to your intended end users, that’s a start! How simple is that? Just talking to them!
User research in service management doesn't always need to be exhaustive. It could be as simple as talking to your end users more often. Click To Tweet
A user group in a service management context could simply be a select few employees who are interested in what IT has to bring out next. If you make them feel like they’re insiders, they’re going to feel valued and are more inclined to turn into promoters of your new service. You can also use this group to get feedback on any new changes you want to make to the current environment. 


Wireframes are not unheard of with service management but I rarely see ITSM pros spending time designing UI mocks. Wireframes are very useful in visualizing an idea living in your head. It is so much easier than explaining it to someone.

How does Product Management benefit from wireframes?

Product Management invests a lot in wireframes and they have a lot of conversations around wireframes. This helps them visualize the user journey and also helps them get feedback from their customer before launching the product. 

How can Service Management benefit from wireframes?

The major application is around Self Service portals. How many times have we tried mocking up a self-service portal on Balsamiq or even simply on a sheet of paper? Wireframes will help you quickly check if the proposed self-service design is going to work. 

Product Marketing

Product marketing is an integral part of any product based company. The activities range anywhere between writing blogs, creating videos and launching a new feature out to the world. 

How does Product Management benefit from Product Marketing?

Product marketing teams are usually the ones who come up with product how-to videos, FAQ documents and any collateral that helps a product user. Having a specific product marketing team ensures that there’s an owner to deliver on supporting materials that may not directly be involved with the product or service but is really important for the customer to use it.

Product marketing also helps the product teams identify moments that deliver wow moments. For a product manager, every feature in the product is gold. A product marketer, with their understanding of the market, will be able to identify features that gather attention.

How does Service Management benefit from Product Marketing?

Service Management has always been accused of not being able to ‘market’ the service desk! You might argue that there are some specific skills like copywriting, designing, video editing that is required and maybe, just maybe, ITSM pros don’t have it. But, just because they don’t have it doesn’t mean they can’t do it!

Here are some product marketing activities that service management can start doing pretty quickly

Blogging is a great way to communicate with your end users on what happens in your world. You can blog about anything ranging from simple tech tips to a day in the life of your team. You can also use your blog to explain new trends like GDPR or cybersecurity to keep your colleagues up to date with technology!

How-to videos
Videos are a great way to communicate with your end users and they’re so easy to make these days. You could simply shoot using your laptop front cam and use a screen recorder (I use Screencast-O-Matic) to record a simple how-to video of an application. If you need to take it up one level, you can use a free video editing software (I use the default iMovie for Mac. I’m sure Windows Movie Maker isn’t so bad) to add some professional touch!

Bonus tip: GIFs are easier to make than videos but are equally effective. (LiceCAP is a pretty useful tool for GIFs!)

Product Launches
Product launches are a big deal. Product teams spend a lot of time and effort in coming up with a launch plan! Service launches may not need an exhaustive launch but you owe it to your end users to tell them what’s coming their way!

You can start small by simply creating a few posters that can be sent through emails or stuck in common places (Canva comes really handy here). You can also create a small promotional (Explore PowToon, really simple!) or a deck and use your company’s All Hands meeting to present it!

Product Roadmaps & Release notes
This is a standard way of communication for product teams. Product roadmaps help set the right expectation for the end users and it also answers the burning question of “What do these teams do all the time?”.
Roadmaps are also a public commitment that should help motivate your teams to stick to deadlines. Release notes are more retrospective in nature where you list down all the latest additions to your service offerings. 

Managing feedback & feature requests

The best example of a feature request is when all of us wanted a dislike button on Facebook but they gave us an array of emotions to express. That’s because Facebook understood what our problem was instead of blindly listening to what we wanted. Product management deals with this almost every day! Customers want new things all the time and product managers have to track all these requests and make sure they keep the customers happy while ensuring they don’t build everything customers ask.

How does Product Management benefit from managing feedback & feature requests?

Launching a product into the market is just a start; the product needs to be constantly improved upon. Customer feedback is a great way to know what to build next but the problem with customers is that, well, they’re customers! They’re going to want a lot of things. That’s where feature request management comes in. Product managers have many ways in which they categorize all the requests for new features and systematically decide which ones to include and which ones to ignore. 

How can Service Management benefit from managing feedback & feature requests?

Service Management may not receive ‘feature requests’ explicitly. They may get requests through different channels and sometimes even disguised as negative feedback. Now, where can service management start to get feedback?
Gemba Walks
The first time I heard about Gemba walks was when a good friend of mine blogged about it. It seems so obvious but no one seems to spend enough time on it! (I’m not an expert in this concept so please read the linked blog to understand more about Gemba!) 
These walks seem to be a great way for service providers to actually figure out how their service is being consumed. The feedback that you receive during these walks couldn’t be rawer. If you’re just going to take away one thing from this blog, it’s this: schedule time on your calendar to just go meet users in their daily routine to see how they interact with the systems you’ve set up. You’re going to learn a lot, trust me.
One takeaway from this blog: Schedule time on your calendar to meet your end users. The learnings are huge! Click To Tweet
Reading between the lines
Your users are talking to you almost on a daily basis. Hidden in between those lines are actual feedback that you can learn from. Let me give you an example. If you get an email from an end user asking you how to configure the printer on the ground floor while you have a knowledge base article published for the same, it’s a clear signal that your knowledge base is not very discoverable.
Documentation of feedback and requests
Both products and services get a lot of feedback. While product management documents and tracks feedback, service management is busy fixing that one production issue. The feedback that service management receives can directly feed into your service improvement plans. 
You don’t need a separate tool to manage this. A simple excel sheet can serve the purpose really well. If you want to go even low tech, sticky notes on one side of the wall will also work! 

But, is it worth the effort?

I am a strong believer of cross-learning. I’m a sales engineer turned marketer and I’m able to see the value of combined knowledge. Product and service management practices have so much that each other can learn from.
These are some of the practices from the product management world that service management should adopt. Have I missed anything that you’d like to add on?