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Product Management in Open Source

Video of my talk at Foss Backstage 2020 conference

“Open Source takes Product Management to a whole new level — I had no idea!” said one workshop participant in Poland this Summer. “How on earth do you keep all those stakeholders happy?”. He was Senior Product Manager at an $8bn software company.

So it was that I realised that PMs working in Open Source have experience which other software firms can benefit from. At the FOSS Backstage conference in Berlin last week I explored these ideas with an audience of experts, building on my past presentations.

Uniting design, engineering, and business to produce viable products that customers love is the famously difficult job of Product Managers. Managers of Open Source products however serve not only demanding customers of commercial services, but also a wide range of contributors, packagers, committees, and partners.

Our decisions must be fair, transparent, and still ultimately drive revenue. Our Open Source apps are creatively used in scenarios we cannot dream of, yet making usable interfaces requires restricting ourselves to a narrow set of user-stories and personas.

Harnessing wildly diverse Open Source userbases is extremely challenging: putting their feedback to work improving our software, without diluting product vision and strategy, or losing focus on the bottom line. In this presentation I explored the unique challenges and opportunities of Open Source Product Management, drawing from 16 years of experience working in the field.


So, what do you think ?