5 Minutes With Ben Schick (Optus)

Ben Schick, Dial Up and Resale DSL Product Development Manager at Optus.

This month, we return to Optus to interview Ben Schick.

As Optus’s organisational structure clearly delineates its Product Management and Product Development teams, we thought it would be beneficial to understand if there is a difference in opinion between Product Managers and Product Development Managers.

As a Product Development Manager, Ben’s role is more focused on developing new or improving existing product features rather than managing the financial capability of products. His key concerns surround the delivery of well constructed products which are built to specification.

This is what Ben had to say during his interview with Brainmates.

Describe Product Management

The “art” of Product Management involves managing the strategy, planning, development and operations of a product through a lifecycle. This includes ensuring the product delivers on the strategic objectives of the organisation and also meets short term performance targets set by the business. Creating, dreaming, enhancing new product concepts or enhancements, analysing product performance metrics and ensuring efficient and effective product delivery are all within the realm of a Product Management team.

At Optus, a key role of Product Management is to liase closely with a large number of business units including Customer Service, Sales, Networks & IT, Marketing, Commercial, Legal and Regulatory and many others. Managing these relationships is vitally important as these groups are often a direct conduit to our customers and usually a great source of ideas for product changes and enhancements.

What are your main responsibilities as a Product Development Manager at Optus?

My main responsibilities as Product Development Manager involves the effective rollout of new product enhancements and managing efficient product delivery. My team is the central point of contact for all new product initiatives and I am responsible for ensuring any suggested proposal delivers actual net benefit once the development costs are included. In a world of finite resources and constrained development capacity, I also facilitate and determine development priority, largely based on net benefit or strategic alignment. Once accepted and scheduled, I am responsible for the on-target and on-cost delivery of projects. My team is usually the first point of contact for day-to-day operational issues.

What are the main issues facing Product Managers in general and at Optus?

The Optus Internet suite of products is an incredibly complex portfolio. Each product has a different billing, provisioning and maintenance system. This creates a highly complex development environment that requires high attention to detail when trying to make sure the user experience is consistent across the product set. Overlaid across these operational issues, is a company wide IT transformation project which aims to rationalise the number of systems and platforms used to deliver our products. Of course, complexity = time = money, so trying to deliver low cost projects in a reasonable timeframe is a big challenge.

The other main issue is a result of the current focus on cost management across the entire SingTel group. In order to improve EBITDA %, there are a number of cost cutting measures across all business units. This creates a limited delivery pipeline for new initiatives and much greater emphasis on strict evaluation and prioritisation of new proposals.

Thanks for your views Ben.

It seems that the role of Product Development Manager at Optus is focused on understanding development costs, and prioritising product initiatives based on these costs and based on the wider company strategic goals. Once the product makes it past this stage gate, Product Development Managers work with other business units to deliver the product in a timely manner.