I am looking for motivational strategies that can be employed to sweeten the deal for the product owners to make them more interested in the development of new products.
Some background: I work for a medium sized business as an engineer. At our company, the process of development of new products can described like this. Firstly, the manager of engineer team researches the market and determines what new products might be needed. They then discusses this with us, engineers and tries to persuade the product owners that this is a direction we want to move towards. If they succeed, one of the engineers is chosen as a manager of the project and starts to develop this new idea. Hopefully, the project ends in a success and the company ends up with a new product at the end.
The problem is that the involvement of the product owners is almost zero during all stages of the project development up until it is almost ready to be sold. In fact, it seems that they are only called product owners because they will be managing the sales of the product later in the future. However, their expertise in managing sales could be useful to us. They have a much better feel of our customers, general trends in the market, etc. They could do some more research on the evolution of the market and help us decide what projects are most beneficial to pursue. Yet, their work at the moment mostly boils down on what we can sell at this very moment. This is of course, very important. Probably more important than the development of new products. And yet it feels that so much more could be accomplished in the development phase if we could put our skills together.
- What strategies could one use to make the product owners more interested in new product development (I thought maybe one could suggest high bonuses for first few sales of a completely new product)?
- Are there any other solutions (creating a completely new position is one I can think of) to this sort of problem?
Now, some of you might notice that as an engineer I am in no position to make changes. However, I was approached by my manager with a discussion about this topic. Thus, maybe I can make a suggestion. Or at least have a meaningful discussion with them.
Edit to add some clarifications:
- At this moment the product owners are indeed managers of sales teams. Truthfully, I am not really sure if this is the right way to call them. The direct translation from our language would be something like this: "a person who ordered the project" or "project customer". I don't believe such definition really reflects their role. Hence the "product owner". For now, they just basically have a strong vote in the approval of the project budget and provide predictions of expenditure vs. profit. They also do manage the sales of the new product after the product is finished.
- My manager, who is also the person that does the research and persuasion, has expressed concern with the situation described above. They do maybe 80 % or more of the described duties of a product owner in a chart of Bogdans answer. However the anticipation of clients needs is hardly covered. We are thinking that clients needs would best reflected to us by sales managers or product owners since they have the most exposure to clients and because their involvement in the project is so low. Maybe that assumption is wrong and sales people should be doing their own thing rather than being involved in the product development.