A very peculiar product management problem

Less than 1% of ideas turn into a product and make it to a price list. Technology looking for a problem to solve is a difficult starting point. It’s better to have a problem to solve and then seek a technology to solve it. A product seeking a customer base is also a difficult task for any budding development team. So imagine having a group of users eager to solve a problem that they had identified and framed, wanting passionately to implement the solution in their workplace as soon as it is available. Definitely a good start to an ideas potential. And this was one of the attractions of joining the Exovent team.

That and the fact that the use of negative pressure to support the natural mechanics of the respiratory system makes complete sense… within an engineers mind. At heart, and not even deep down, merely under the surface, I’m still an engineer. Until you start to question the current practice of inserting a pipe into someones throat to essentially blow up the lungs like a balloon, it all seems perfectly normal practice. But now that you’ve read that sentence, you’re thinking about balloons, and how you don’t particularly want your lungs to be inflated in the same way. That is where negative pressure makes sense – it helps lift the chest wall, the tummy, and the diaphragm which in turn opens your lungs to inhale. Negative pressure ventilation assists the natural way you breath. And that’s how it feels… a bit like power steering… (I’m not sure I should take that analogy any further so I’ll leave that one there).

Moments after joining the Exovent team it became apparent that my ‘day job’ skillset would have to be applied in a somewhat different, and almost backwards way. The ‘customers’ were almost too keen! The challenges were more concerned with getting NPV into a device that we could take to market, and what that route to market looked like. Negative Pressure had not been used in the UK within a ventilatory device during the ‘reign’ of the MHRA therefore there was no defined regulatory path. Additionally, as a charity the goal is to support medical device manufacturers to design, develop, fund, and put into production a ventilatory device that could meet the regulatory path, that didn’t yet exist. And right there we have another reason that I wanted to join the Exovent journey and the challenges that lay ahead.

Normally a product manager would play both CEO of the product, and piggy in the middle. They would ensure information and conversation flows between functions sometimes acting as the conduit to translate the communications from marketing to engineering speak for example. They also work alongside the project manager to drive the device development forward whilst representing the customer in project meetings. Whilst also balancing features, time to market, and target costs.

So here’s the thing – Exovent is on a mission to support the development of a global portfolio of products that utilise negative pressure as a assistive ventilation therapy. We are doing this through partnerships with innovative and forward thinking companies. So far we have been successful in connecting with groups around the world who share our vision and can see the benefits of such devices. Ultimately we are pushing a therapy out into the world to be adopted, and supporting development of the product. We are asking development teams to interpret and develop their own solution to the problem framed by end users.

What we have done as a charity is to evidence that the need globally is great. We have connected people ensuring communication flows and we learn from each other.

Essentially, that makes Exovent one big Global Product Manager, so now I’m confused as to what that makes me?

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