How do I know my idea is worthy of becoming a product?


This blog post is a synopsis for a talk from Teresa Torres (@ttorres) called An Introduction to Product Discovery.

It was an excellent presentation — here is the condensed synopsis for my product management friends.

We should immerse ourselves in our customers’ worlds, actively working to develop a deep understanding of our customers, what their needs are, the context in which those needs occur and ideas emerge through this deep understanding. We should not be sitting in a room deciding what to do next, we should go out meet customers and ideas emerge out of deep understanding, and still we move forward cautiously by iteratively testing our ideas.

Assumptions in this approach are (1) We don’t know about our customers until we observe them (2) Customers are the experts (3) We are wrong, so experiment.

There’s two aspects to product discovery: (1) Deep shared understanding of the customer’s world (2) Iteratively test ideas

1. Develop a shared deep understanding of the customers’ world grounded in research

Exercises/activities

  • Customer development interviews
  • Customer observations
  • Dairy studies
  • Participatory design

Tools

  • Customer journey maps, grounded in research
  • Empathy maps, grounded in research (thinking, feeling, seeing, doing)
  • Customer personas, grounded in research
  • Any tool that helps visually communicate what we’ve researched

Build empathy for the challenges and pain points that our customers are experiencing. We want to provide enough context about the customers’ world that our teams would feel the same pain, start to empathize with our customers, and want to help them out.

2. Evaluate whether an idea is worth pursuing by iteratively testing it

Don’t go ahead with full steam and build too much. Quickly learn that the idea is not going to work so that we can move to the next idea that will work.

  • What has to be true for this idea to work → every idea has a whole set of assumptions that have to be true for the idea to be successful.
  • For each idea, you might have a dozen assumptions.
  • For each assumption: What evidences support our assumptions and what refute them (past experiences, win-loss, customer requests, inventory of existing evidence) → classify each assumption as valid vs. risky
  • For the risky assumptions, turn them into formal hypothesis with experiments, with experiments we are going to collect more evidence, we are trying to de-risk a risky assumption, based on the evidence collected from experiments make a final judgment call about the risky assumptions

Iteratively test assumptions

How many assumptions are true and how many are to be iterated on / evolved → most often it’s not a go/no-go decision it’s about refining/modifying the idea based on what we are learning.

At some point when we have enough evidence, we can decide to go ahead and iteratively build and test it.

If there is insufficient evidence with a lot of risky/unprovable assumptions, we could park the idea and move onto the next one.

The loop will be time consuming for the first few assumptions, and then it’ll be okay. Because most of our ideas could share the same set of underlying assumptions.

Summary

Ideas emerge from our deep understanding → those ideas get iteratively tested/validated → we start to learn about which assumptions are true and which are not → that feeds back into our deep understanding → and that makes our ideas better and better.

Building blocks

Hope you find this post useful.

Advertisements

Backlogs: How many do you have?


Backlogs are an inherent part of software companies — many articles talk about the need for a backlog, prioritizing it iteratively, having more details for higher priority items, etc. but there’s not much guidance on how many backlogs should a company have. And that’s what we’ll discuss in this blog post.

Some people I’ve come across think there needs to be one backlog and pick the top items from the list for implementation. That’s a flawed approach because in a typical ‘single backlog approach’ the items would be weighed in a mix of several business priorities and at the end of the day you’d have achieved less-than-100% of few things and not 100% of even one thing.

So, how many backlogs should a company have?

One?

Two?

Five?

One for each VP… maybe

multiple-goalsImage credit: thedigitalprojectmanager.com

The correct way to tackle backlogs is from the perspective of business priorities. Below is a simple step-by-step guide:

1. Jot down all the corporate objectives & business initiatives, with their preferred timing (let’s call them ‘goals’)

2. Allocate budget for each goal

3. Have a separate backlog for each goal

4. In each backlog, prioritize items with value, effort, and impact to its specific goal. Typically, the stronger an item impacts the goal the higher is its priority. This way the rank of each item in the backlog could be assessed against the impact to its goal.

5. Time the backlog implementation (based on the overall goal timing, see #1)

6. Using the allocated cost/resources, knock down items starting from the top of the list

I believe this method helps us to concentrate our resources, remain focused, and create meaningful impact to the business.

Would love to hear how many backlogs you have and on what basis do you build them!

Top 9 differences between Terrific Companies & Terrible Companies


Sometimes the difference between success and failure is the result of how some companies approach their business and the values they stick to.

Here’s a list of differences between Terrific Companies & Terrible Companies, at least how I perceive them. Whilst the list could be long, I’ve trimmed it to the important ones.

This is a topic that is close to my heart, and has been sitting in the drafts for a while.

Hope you enjoy the list.

Terrific Companies Vs. Terrible Companies

Please do share your thoughts!

The Originals…


“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs

A while ago, I bumped into a TED Talk called ‘The surprising habits of original thinkers‘ by Adam Grant and this blog post is inspired by it.

 

Originals

Image/screen-grab credit: Adam Grant

Two key takeaways from this talk are:

  1. Originals start fast and let the idea incubate in their minds for long periods
  2. It’s okay to be not the first mover, you just have to be different and better

I see a correlation between the ‘crazy ones’ mentioned by Steve and the ‘originals’ in Adam’s talk.

Both (the crazy ones and the originals)

  • Do not care for the status quo
  • See things differently
  • Have a burning desire to succeed
  • Want to a make a valuable impact
  • Are in their own creative world
  • Take calculated risks
  • Are not afraid of failures
  • Do not want to finish first just to look good

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Thank you @AdamMGrant, for the topic and the inspiring talk.

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.

Back to the product life-cycle management topic…

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!

Synopsis: The Art of Product Management


I was fortunate enough to bump into a presentation from Sachin Rekhi (@sachinrekhi) called The Art of Product Management.

VSDE

It was an excellent read. Here’s a synopsis from it, for my product management friends.

Product managers drive the Vision, Strategy, Design, and Execution of their product.

Vision – articulates how the world will be a better place when you succeed

  • A compelling vision articulates how the world will be a better place when you succeed
  • Get excited about being at least one step forward, one step closer to it
  • Best format: write a customer oriented vision narrative. Jeff Bezos expects a 6-page narrative!!
  • A vision is valuable only if it inspires the entire team
  • Communicate the vision — the power of repetition — just as it takes 7 impressions to garner a response to a marketing message, you need to constantly repeat your vision. Ask your team about what they’re doing and gauge if they are communicating along the lines of the vision, using words & phrases from the vision.

Strategy – iterate & refine until you find product-market fit and you are dominant in your market

  • It’s about how are you going to win
  • A vision should be stable, but your strategy needs to be iterated on and refined until you find product-market fit and until you are dominant in your target markets. Again refine to expand to new markets and find product-market fit there.
  • A better fit leads to a more appealing product for the target market
  • A faster fit means the product will enjoy maximum differentiation for a longer period of time
  • Best format: Product-Market Fit Hypotheses
    1. Target Audience — bulls eye of your very best potential customers
    2. Problem You’re Solving — it’s important to articulate the problem independent of the solution, get to the root of the problem than scratching the symptoms, fall in love with the problem you’re solving for your customers and not with the solution
    3. Value Propositions — not the feature list, but the promise to your customers on the value you will deliver for them
    4. Strategic Differentiation — why is your solution 10x better than the leading alternatives
    5. Competition — how will your solution win against direct competitors and indirect alternatives
    6. Acquisition Strategy — how will you find & attract your potential customers in a cost-effective way
    7. Monetization Strategy — what are your primary and secondary ways to make money, is there strong willingness to pay
    8. KPIs — what are the right metrics for you to know if you are headed in the right direction. Spend time frequently (almost everyday) reviewing critical metrics & dashboards.
  • Minimize your dimensions of innovation. Don’t innovate on all aforementioned dimensions, instead innovate on few and use best practices for the rest.

Design – keep it simple and bring emotional intelligence

  • Work hard and iterate to keep it simple
  • A compelling design delivers a useful, usable, and delightful experience to your customers, by bringing emotional intelligence to your design
  • Develop personas – a persona typically describes the goals, pain points, behaviors, and psychology associated with members of a particular segment. Give them a name, a profile image, and sometimes associate a background history with them. A team usually develops one or more personas to represent the core audience of users they are optimizing their product/experience.
  • Increase Exposure Hours — it is the amount of time your team spends with observing customers
  • Delight through attention to detail and by making people feel accomplished
  • Measure delight through NPS

Execution – it’s not about project management it’s doing whatever it takes to win

  • Be relentless, it determines whether you’ll make your vision a reality
  • You must spend about 60% of your time in execution, else it will go wrong
  • Execution is not about project management, but doing whatever it takes to win
  • Ensure you’re pointing the team in the right direction. Reward engineering velocity.
  • Execution Loop: Define >> Validate >> Iterate
  • #1 Goal: Increase execution loop velocity
  • Establish yourself as the curator, not the creator of great ideas. Everyone contributes great ideas.
  • First nail it, then scale it — first build software quickly (no elegance required in architecture, etc.), validate it, and then scale it with elegant architecture.
  • Invest in retrospectives

Hope you found this blog post useful. Thanks to Sachin Rekhi @sachinrekhi. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

3 qualities of leadership folks I most enjoy working with


The leadership team is ultimately responsible for the success of their companies.

They have teams of their own — product, marketing, sales, engineering, etc.

Being product managers sitting in offshore offices across India, as we are not part of the leadership team in the headquarters (due to timezone differences, onsite office vs. offshore office mindset, etc.), it is essential the leadership team attempts to take the product managers along with them in their journey of steering the company.

Essentially, there are some qualities we expect in our leaders and below are the top 3 qualities of leadership folks I most enjoy working with:

Three fingers

1. Groom team members into future leaders
2. Share business, company, and priority updates instantly
3. Give credit to team for successes

Would love to hear what others think!