Recently a CEO suggested I consider doing some short term consulting work for his company. He wanted to know what questions I would ask to figure out how I could help his product management / products team.
This is what I came up with (what do you think?):
-How do you balance short term improvements with long term innovation and new revenue opportunities?
-How do you make product decisions using different market, portfolio, and client analysis techniques?
-What are the components (including success metrics) you include in a business case or MRD for different situations?
-Which among the many different PRD or requirement documentation options do you use?
-How do you change the organization of a team and its processes based on the stage and size of the product line and the company? (i.e. How agile should you be?)
I recently gave a talk at Google on Strategy and Product Discovery.
Discovering Features and Products (Product Strategy)
Discovering Products and Product Lines (Product Line / Company Strategy)
Marty Cagan: Using High Fidelity Prototypes for Product Discovery
It isn't the job of your customer to translate their needs into your product offerings. Of course, everyone says you just need to listen to your customer, but no one says how. In "Innovation Games" Luke Hohmann describes 12 games you can play to help you better understand your customers' needs and help you discover great products.
In part I, Luke first provides an overview for understanding and implementing innovation games. He then discusses the process from selecting the game to interpreting the results.
In part 2, twelve separate games are described which can help you understand one or more of the following:
- Unmet and/or idealized market needs
- Products and services usage and relationships
- Product and service functionality
- How to shape your product for the future
Finally, in part 3 tools and templates are provided to help you quickly start playing innovation games with your customers.
In a world where the mantras of "innovate" and "listen to your customer" prevail, Luke Hohmann gives you usable tools to help you do just that.
(Besides this book, also check out the innovation game entry in Wikipedia and the www.innovationgames.com, although at this moment the site seems to be down.)
A few weeks ago I talked about Web 2.0 marketing in my class. People are using tools such as blogs, podcasts, forums, and social media sites to better communicate with their customers.
For example at Elfster, we have a blog and a Facebook group. During the class Aaron Burcell discussed his go-to-market plan for Smarty Card which included both traditional marketing and Web 2.0. (Check out The Wall Street Journal's article "The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World" and "Adding Social Media to Marketing & PR" by Lee Odden).
Recently I ran across IBM's new "A Smarter Planet" blog. It is a good Web 2.0 attempt to show their involvement and thought leadership on topics such as the smart grid, smart transportation, etc. They use a mix of text, audio, and video including this video which is lighthearted overview of the smart grid. The format seems uncharacteristic of Big Blue and I am guessing that was deliberate.
Author Luke Hohmann mentioned his book "Innovation Games" during the sessions.
Aaron Burcell the VP Marketing from SmartyCard and veteran of many successful start-ups (WebTV, etc) talked about Go-To-Market planning at my class last night, great stuff.
Many good insights, but a few ideas that stuck out for me:
-spend 50% of your time listening to your customer (via customer support, beta programs, watching customers use your product, site analytics, etc.)
-being one-of-a-kind and quickly getting to market isn't everything
-really understand what your company is trying to achieve and what value it provides its customers before you can craft a go-to-market plan
-with that identify launch goals and metrics
Aaron, Chris Carvalho, and the whole SmartyCard crew recently had a very successful launch: People's Choice Award at demo09 and WSJ http://tr.im/gZm6 and USA Today coverage http://tinyurl.com/cmmbjc
... not establishing a product innovation and decision process
or a Product Innovation Funnel
- How (process and success metrics) and who (Product Manager, Product Board, CEO) makes the decision at every phase?
- It is OK to fail. Actually good if an item doesn’t go to next phase. If most ideas are becoming products you are doing it wrong.
Ideas come into the Product Innovation Funnel from:
- Internal: partners (sales, dev, etc.), experts, Product Board, site analytics
- External: customers (feedback, usability testing, survey, directly listening to), partners/suppliers, competitors, industry sources (experts, blogs, magazines, tradeshows, conferences), market and demographic analysis, other industries’ best practices, etc.
Marty Cagan ("Inspired") spoke at my class last Thursday 2/5
What stuck in my mind was:
Discover: Product Managers need to "discover" a product that is valuable, usable, and feasible.
Talk to Customers: They have to deliver a specification that describes a product which has evidence will be successful. PMs need to prototype with User Experience Designers and then iterate with real users. Talking to users is the most important thing a product manager can do.
Most Fail: 50%-80% of software doesn't succeed primarily because this isn't done.
Empower: Don't design by committee, empower:
Product Manager: Function/Value
User Experience Designer: Form / Usability
Engineering: Technology / Feasibility
but realize function (requirements) and
form (design) are intertwined.
Don't Chase New Features: - If a product manager is just racing to add new features, they are probably not improving the product and definitely not innovating. Product Management is not about chasing new features, often the easiest revenue can come from just making existing parts of your offering easier to use.
Create High-Fidelity Prototypes: - Marty is a big fan of high-fidelity prototype specs, not paper specs.
Read "Inspired" or his articles at SVPG.com
Last year I went to P-Camp on the Yahoo Campus in Sunnyvale. Rich Mironov, Enthiosys, and many others all pitched in and put on a great "unconference."
It is based on the BarCamp and Open Space format and it is full of planned and adhoc discussions on a wide variety of product management topics. (I also went to BarCampBank SF last year which was a similar format.)
There were 170 people last year and it looks like there are already 500+ people signed-up for this year. I would recommend it. Go here for more information and to register.