By Lakshmi Kannan
What does an Offering Manager at IBM do? I get asked this question a lot – by my friends and family and even other IBMers. I am half tempted to produce the meme below, but that wouldn’t do justice to my role.
Most technology companies (and increasingly non-technology companies) have product managers. At IBM, we have re-defined this role to be broader and much more strategic – enter Offering Management (OM). Lisa Dyer, the head of our OM program has described the impetus behind this transformation and the role in this blogpost. Here, I will describe the top three lessons I have learnt two months into this job.
I joined as an Offering Manager in IBM Security services in 2016. In my first month, I spoke to a number of senior leaders soliciting their advice on how to be a successful OM at IBM. Here are the top three:
- Know the context you operate in.
A 20-year IBM veteran gave me my favorite piece of advice. According to this IBM veteran, “it doesn’t matter if you have the latest cutting edge technology or the best product, if you don’t understand the ecosystem it operates in – whether that be a product ecosystem, stakeholder ecosystem or even the go-to-market/sales ecosystem – it won’t succeed”. This is important for product managers everywhere to realize, and even more important at IBM which has a vast complex network of ways in which you can take a product to market.
- Learn something new every day.
When you stop learning things is when you start failing. The GM for Security talked to new hires recently, and he said “when you stop learning, you start failing”. As offering managers, we constantly ask ‘but why.’ The moment we stop questioning status quo, and being curious, we fall behind – as professionals, as product managers, and as a company.
- When in doubt (and even when not in doubt), talk to your customer.
No Gartner magic quadrant or Google research or blog forums or anything else you may read substitutes just talking to a customer. And if you can’t get close to a customer immediately (it can be hard as a new person), talk to someone who is closest to the customer. This can often mean technical sales or enablement/delivery teams.
So what does all this mean for someone interested in becoming an offering manager at IBM?
- Always ask questions and be curious. You don’t have to know all the answers but you sure have to be curious and want to learn.
- Be interested in the wider ecosystem around technologies, products and companies you are working with. None of them exist in a vacuum and the most successful OMs are ones that have the bird’s eye view of the ecosystem and competitors.
- Make sure you are humble and ready for a challenge. It’s not an easy role, but its most certainly a rewarding role.
Join IBM Offering Management. We are building the next generation of product managers, innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders who are changing the very way the world works.
Lakshmi Kannan is an Offering Manager in IBM Security Services. She holds a B.A. in Economics from Connecticut College, and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. You can find her in the interwebs @kannanlakshmi
Discover what you can do at IBM: www.ibm.com/jobs