Consumer vs Enterprise Product Management
Whether you call it consumer or B2C¹, enterprise or B2B², being a product manager on one side or the other has long been a defining characteristic. You either know how to build products for enterprises or for consumers and job ads make a big deal about focusing on one or the other. But is there really a difference any more?
Consumer is conceptually pretty straightforward – you build a product for the end user and, if they like it, they’ll pay for it. Great user experience has quickly become fundamental as the competition is fierce and the treacherous one-click adage puts competitors just one click away.
But in the enterprise world the user and the purchaser are different people with different needs. This suggests that it requires a different product management approach and certainly until recently enterprise businesses focused almost exclusively on the purchaser. Their clients’ penchant for driving top-down adoption of software and products meant that the end user experience didn’t really matter – as long as whoever was paying for it was happy and hit their goals.
The rapid consumerisation of the enterprise means this approach has all but disappeared. Due to the revolution in user experience in consumer apps, end users simply gave up on crusty old systems internally and demanded better tools. And, if they don’t get them, they simply circumvent their IT department and use whatever they can to make their work more efficient. Companies have woken up and realised that installation isn’t the same as adoption and that to truly benefit from new products they have to be used.
I’ve worked on both sides throughout my career and I believe all products should be approached the same way, because at the heart of it they are simply products with different personas acting on them. Fundamentally, even most B2C products have the same problem as they’re advertising funded – so the end-user and the person paying for it are still different people.
This means knowing and understanding the requirements of all the different personas or stakeholders that engage with your product – whether they are an end-user, a corporate procurer or advertiser – and maximising the product’s usefulness for all of them. This doesn’t mean they have equal priority. Ultimately, this prioritisation is now overwhelmingly in favour of the end-user – because if they’re not loving it and using it, the procurer or advertiser aren’t going to pay for it.