Monday, September 17, 2012

Product Management: Extensibility

These days I'm thinking a lot about how to make a product extensible.  One example of extensibility is building a set of API.  But it takes lot of work to create a set of API that encapsulates the abstraction at the right level.  Careless API can create frequent API changes which will result in loss of confidence by third party developers.

Yet making the product extensible is something that cannot wait.  Often times there is executive pressure to prove that there are third party developers who are ready to build a new value on top of the product.  It has more to do with validating business models than making sure technology works.

One quick way to think of API is a way to access data.  Although not all APIs fall in this category, but a subset of APIs such as accessing stored data or reporting can be thought of as exposing the data in a meaningful way so that API developers (in this case data scientists) can create interesting reports.

By allowing customers to access their own data, it creates opportunities for customers to study the data generated by the product.  At the same time, it also allows product manager like me to find out about how customers are using their data and decide whether similar API or reports will be useful for other customers as well.  Allowing customers to see their data is a mutually beneficial thing to do for customers as well as for me.

Any product manager looking to test whether there is a value in providing API should first figure out whether users will be interested in seeing the data.  Once there is enough interest and seeing how customers are using the data will give you many ideas of how to leverage the data to create new product features.

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