Product Life-Cycle Management using BCG Growth-Share Matrix


Here’s an interesting thought on using the BCG Growth-Share matrix as a product life-cycle management tool, with a tweaked representation of relative opportunities for investment across your products. Hope the idea is relevant and useful.

The traditional product life-cycle curve will look like this:

Product_life_cycle

Through the years I’ve discovered a couple of limitations with this curve:

  1. It doesn’t tell us when to invest in a product vs. when not to
  2. It doesn’t tell us which product(s) to invest and which ones not to

Clearly I see two reasons for these limitations:

  1. Lack of relative performance indicators of a product within your portfolio
  2. Lack of relative performance indicators of your product(s) against your competitors’ products

I believe these two pieces of information are required to determine when to invest in a product and when not to, and in which products to invest and which ones not to.

A few years ago I bumped into Growth-Share Matrix, a 2×2 matrix from Boston Consulting Group, created for corporations to analyze their business-units / product-lines.

BCG Matrix

As many of us are aware, the BCG Growth-Share matrix has four quadrants to rank products on the basis of relative market share and market growth rate. The description of this matrix is widely available in the Internet.

On to product life-cycle management thinking…

It is important to note that the BCG matrix helps us determine product priorities by classifying products based on their current value & position (as measured by market share) and future value & potential (as measured by market growth).

Also, the BCG matrix helps classify products into four categories based on competitive position (relative market share) and industry attractiveness (growth rate of that industry).

Accordingly, we could extrapolate the matrix to include sliding markets and declining market share — the graph which encompasses these additional attributes will tweak and look like this:

 

BCG Matrix - Tweaked

? (Question Marks): New and innovative products (in a growing market) normally start in the question mark quadrant. These are the future Stars and so continuous investment is required in growing the market share.

Stars: ? will evolve into Stars. Stars are in a rapidly growing market and such markets will attract new entrants posing heavy competition. So, Stars need to be groomed continuously to grow their market share at the same or at a faster pace than the market.

Cows: After a period of time, as determined by market forces and technology evolution, the market growth rate will flatten and at this stage if the product has a good market share then companies need to minimize their investments in Cows and use them to milk as much as possible. The cash/investments required to grow ? and Stars will be fueled mostly by the Cows.

War Horses: The Cows will eventually start to see declining market share because of the shrinking market growth, at which point the product is just supportable with near-zero cost.

Dodos: War Horses will eventually bite the dust and become Dodos at which point they are simply out of date and it’s better to retire the product.

BCG Matrix - Tweaked - Lifecycle

Happy to hear what you think.

Best!

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Management-by-OKRs (MOKRs)


A lot has been said and written about the roles & responsibilities of product managers but not much is discussed about the role of leading a team of product management professionals.

In this article I’d like to share some thoughts around the key responsibilities of a product management leadership role — it could be a Head, Director, or VP depending on the size and structure of your company.

In addition to the usual suspects such as product vision & strategy, I feel a product leader’s key responsibility is to build product managers. Building a great product management team requires best-in-class processes for setting goals and achieving them.

Most of us would have come across Management By Objectives (MBOs), invented by Peter Drucker in the 1950’s.

Some of us (read millennial) will be familiar with the concept of Objectives & Key Results (OKRs), a popular goal setting mechanism used by Google.

okr

OKRs stand for Objectives & Key Results — a lot of information is available on the Internet, but some of its fundamentals are the following:

  • OKRs is a business success enablement tool and helps align individual efforts with company vision, business direction, and product priorities.
  • OKRs are individual goals to move the business forward.
  • OKRs are dated and scoped to a specific time period, usually quarterly.
  • Objectives are bold and ambitious goals that contribute to business & product success and push you to rethink the way you need to work at peak performance. Ambitiousness of the goals should take you out of our comfort zone.
  • Key Results are well defined concrete deliverables with objectively measurable metrics to gauge achievement of the goal.
  • OKRs is not a laundry list of everything you do, it’s a representation of your top priorities.
  • The motivators that started projects in the first place have to be achieved. Instead of tracking delivery of projects and tasks, you should measure the indicators that motivated them in the first place.

Now on to Management by OKRs (MOKRs) — after much thought, I have realized that OKRs is a powerful tool for leading a team of product professionals, hence the term Management-by-OKRs.

Leadership_icon

Product leaders could use OKRs as the key mechanism to drive their product and project teams to greatness.

And this simplifies the core responsibilities of a product leadership professional into three levels:

  1. Primary focus will be on the vision, strategy, and company level OKRs
  2. Then, focus on the product team’s OKRs. Lead team in setting OKRs and achieving success in them.
  3. After that, think about chores (routine and mundane tasks)

This way almost everyone is focused on things that matter the most to the company and product success.

Would love your thoughts on MOKRs!

Following your competitors is not smart. Here’s why!


It’s very common for companies to build stuff their competitors already have and the only reason they have is that their competitors offer it.

Building stuff that your competitors have is a blind approach.

Your competitors might have a bunch of features that you don’t have — while they may have a roadmap of how they want to get rid of some of them, you might have a roadmap to build them! Sounds crazy, and such things do happen.

Competition

So, following your competitors blindly is not smart at all — instead you should be assessing your competitors’ offerings and gauge what you need to do to move ahead of the competition without losing sight of your vision. This way you’d position yourself in a leader’s spot and that’ll take you closer to your vision faster.

And as someone said it: ‘Don’t copy competitors to the point of losing your own identity as a brand.

Steps to approach competitive lead position without copying them

  1. Identify who your direct competitors are
  2. Look into what they have
  3. Assess how best their offerings/features fit your vision and strategy
  4. Identify what are some of the leading alternatives
  5. Consider building a feature only if it absolutely takes you at least one step closer to your cohesive larger vision
  6. Plan execution with a strategic differentiation mindset around why your solution should be 10x better than the leading competitors’ and other alternatives
  7. Execute with superior design and attention to detail

Quote-HelenKeller

As Simon Sinek correctly put it, ‘The goal is not to “beat” our competition but rather to improve ourselves.

To summarize, the point I’d like us to recognize is that you shouldn’t worry about the competition more than losing sight of how your product can lead the market.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

3 qualities of engineers I most enjoy working with.. it is do with Culture!


It’s very common for product managers to work with software developers (i.e. engineers) on a daily basis and needless to say there’s a variety of different characters that we come across.

3

Here are the three qualities of engineers I most enjoy working with, and they’ve to do with company culture.

  1. One who understands the problem statement, knows the system well, and contributes to the solution in innovative ways
  2. One who can articulate his stand/version clearly without ambiguity when engineering has a different opinion
  3. One who is humble enough to validate their technical approach with fellow/senior engineers and architects

There are more, but for me these 3 stand out at the top.

Do share your side of the story.

Cheers!

7 Life Lessons Learned From Product Management


 

Life Lesson

Product managers apply a lot of life lessons into their job, but not many are aware that we start using a lot of our job traits in real life inherently.

Here’s some of them I have made use of.

  1. Ruthless Prioritization: Prioritization is a key aspect in product management. It ensures the company is investing in the right set of features for maximum ROI.
    • This trait helps us product managers in real life in ensuring we prioritize the right tasks that benefit us, our family, and our society in general.
  2. Efficiency: Tactical aspects of product management involves completion of tasks efficiently and in an optimal manner, so more gets done in a shorter time and with quality.
    • Back at home, this trait helps us approach everyday chores, such as buying milk & vegetables, and even watching TV, in a calculated manner to ensure there’s less waste of time, money, & energy.
  3. Work like a team: Product managers cannot survive without a team that helps them visualize their vision.
    • Our life is no different. We need supporting people in life, be it our parents, siblings, spouse, kids, or friends, and we always understand the interests of these groups of people before taking decisions.
  4. Respect everyone’s inputs: Great ideas come from everywhere and product managers keep their ears open always.
    • We cannot ignore our close aides, family, or well wishers’ thoughts and inputs. Regardless of whether all the inputs get materialized, it’s important to give an ear to those inputs.
  5. Say no, with justification: This is one of the toughest tasks for product managers, especially when the request is from CxO.
    • In life, we always deal with people who are not at the same level of thinking as us. We deal with people with old school thoughts, immature/novice folks, and sometimes that high IQ lady. It’s with great challenge we have learned to deny some requests and with appropriate reasoning.
  6. Be available whenever needed: As product managers, we are required to be available to other teams almost all the time during business days, and at sometimes during holidays too.
    • Needless to say, we are just a phone call or message away to our near and dear ones.
  7. Motivate people around: As product managers, we constantly motivate the development teams so that they could churn out builds with high velocity.
    • Back at home, we appreciate several people. Our mother for great food, our father for timely advice, encourage kids to study/play well, and even the maid for a service well done.

Top 4 things you should NOT do as a product manager!


There are several articles on what product managers should do and what their attributes should be, and even there’s one in my blog.

This time we’ll keep it a little different and see what things a product manager should not do. Here’s my top 4:

1. DO NOT panic in difficult times

Don't Panic

Most teams in product development organizations start with some reference, some starting point, some sense of where they’re starting; however, product managers do not have that luxury. It’s almost a 100% of the time, product managers have to start work and make progress with a clean slate and when things are highly disorganized and chaotic.

A typical day would have at least one of the following situations:

a. Uncomfortably Exciting
b. Exciting Uncertainty
c. Uncertain Excitement
d. Excitingly Uncomfortable

This is where a lot of new product managers find it difficult to handle. The most important thing when we encounter these situations is not to panic.

We’d win half the battle if we don’t panic.

2. DO NOT think your idea is the best

Best Ideas

Let’s agree — most innovations in the history of mankind have come from technical folks. Products managers have to focus mainly on the problem statement, who the target audience is, why a certain problem needs to be solved, and its alignment with company vision. And not get too hung up on the specific idea/solution which solves the problem.

Product mangers can have a perspective of how to solve the problem, but in a competitive open world anyone could have an idea that would solve the problem in the best manner. So, let’s keep our ego and prejudice aside and be open to ideas regardless of where they come from.

3. DO NOT stop communicating

Communicate

Communication is one of the key attributes of product managers. Regardless of the situation (good or bad), whether progress has been made or not, whether the project is on track or is derailing, communication is of utmost importance.

It is with this one tool that product managers look for allies and rally everyone around them in achieving the vision. The moment a product manager stops communicating, he becomes a punching bag.

4. DO NOT lose focus o the vision

Focus

And now the last one on the list — not losing focus on the vision. As a project progresses, there will be all kinds of distractions and chaos, and there needs to be someone who is taking a step back and regrouping as often as optimal to ensure the team is focused on the vision.

And who would that be other than the product manager. It requires a great depth of patience to keep reminding the team about the purpose of the project. Focus is not about moving in a straight line, it’s about aligning with your purpose. If a product manager loses focus on the vision, failure is guaranteed unless there’s some kind of a miracle.

Hope the article is useful. Cheers.

Backlog Prioritization *Further Refined*


continuous-improvement.png

A few months ago I shared a blog post on updated prioritization of software backlog. This has been further refined to simplify the field values and effectively signify the cumulative effect of various parameters.

Check out the new framework here.

For more details on the prioritization approach and right mix of features, see the original post here.

Cheers!