Yesterday, I wrote that product managers should not rely on SMEs as their primary source for requirements. I will now go further and state that, to the extent that a company hires a product manager or business analyst to interact primarily with SMEs, the role names "product manager" and "business analyst" are misnomers. I see this problem often in companies. They believe they already know the requirements (often confused with design); they are just looking for someone to document them so that developers can get to work. They call the person who does this documenting a "product manager" or "business analyst", but this person in fact has only a small - and very tactical - subset of the responsibilities that these roles entail. In my opinion, this problem is largely responsible for the misconception that SMEs are primary sources for requirements.
The Story When Apple unveiled its iPod digital music player back in October 2001, I dismissed it as a parity product . I already owned the Cowon iAUDIO CW100 MP3 player, loaded with my favorite tunes. There was Apple, generating great hype over the iPod as if it were a breakthrough product. The idea of a portable digital music player was nothing new. The first mass-produced MP3 players came out in 1998. In late 2001, the concept may have been new to a lot of Apple customers, but it wasn't new to me. I proudly showed my MP3 player to friends when they gushed about the iPod. Thus Apple's iPod was not an innovative product in and of itself. Years later, however, I realized the significance of ecosystem of which the iPod was a part. Apple had released iTunes (with technology purchased from SoundJam MP ) and created the iTunes Store for finding and downloading music. Unlike Napster , it was a safe and legal way of distributing and acquiring music. The prior way of playing