Really Bad is MUCH Better than Nothing and Really Great Isn’t Much Better than Bad

01_luke Guest post by Luke Hohmann of Enthiosys.

Product Managers, Agile or otherwise, are asked to create a fair number of documents. Even when we’ve replaced our “Big” MRDs with vision Statements, Roadmaps, and Backlogs, most of us are still expected to clearly document:

  • Who we’re serving (e.g., target markets, market segments)
  • Why they care (e.g., benefits of product often expressed in ROI)
  • Why we care (e.g., market size, total available market, total addressable market, growth, and share)
  • How we’ll reach them (e.g., sales channels, partner structures)
  • Our sustainable competitive advantage
  • The competitive landscape
  • Personas
  • and… ???

My point is that even the most minimalistic approach to Product Management has a Product Manager creating a fairly large number of documents. Which doesn’t concern me, because these are quite sensible documents to create.

What does concern me is that I’ve seeing an increasing number of product managers who are avoiding creating these basic artifacts. The conversation goes something like this:

Luke: “Francesca, can you show me your personas?”
Francesca: “Oh yeah—personas. They’re really great. I like the cooper format, but I also think the format I learned from Pragmatic Marketing is really neat”.
Luke: “Yes, both formats are quite useful. I’ll be OK with either. Can you show me your personas?”
Francesca: “Well, you see, that’s the thing. We don’t have personas. You see, we really didn’t have all the time we wanted to create the persona format that we thought would be great. And since we couldn’t create a really great persona we decided just to skip it.”

Push the big red button labeled “STOP”.

Just because you can’t create a “really great” anything does not mean you should skip it.

Yes, I know. Writing a really great persona is hard. But a really great persona is merely better than a good persona. And a good persona (which looks “bad” in comparison to a really great persona) is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better than a bad persona. Logically:

“bad” Product Management deliverable >> NO deliverable

“really great” Product Management deliverable > “good” Product Management deliverable

To help get you started, I hereby proclaim that creating “bad” deliverables is OK. Specifically:

  • It is OK to have a persona without just the right picture.
  • It is OK to define your Total Addressable Market as a “reasonable guess” Low-to-High estimate of your Total Available Market
  • It is OK to have a roadmap that only projects 12 months into the future
  • It is OK to define your initial market segment as the “customers who bought from us”
  • It is MORE than OK to define your ROI in less than 12 lines of Excel
  • It is OK to focus more on your customers and than your competitors

What do you need permission to create badly?

 

Luke is a recognized expert on agile product management of software products and a former senior software product manager at four companies. He is also the author of three books  and numerous articles on software product management. He is also a frequent speaker at software and other industry events.  Before founding Enthiosys in 2003, Luke was vice president of business development in the U.S. for Aladdin Knowledge Systems; vice president of engineering and product development at Aurigin Systems Inc.; education technical director at ObjectSpace Inc.; and vice president of systems engineering at EDS Fleet Services.

 

Interested in being a Guest Blogger on The Product Guy? Contact me.

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From Bootstrapping to the Next Online Experience

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_smartassess

On Starting Up…

http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2409-bootstrapped-profitable-proud-smartassess
Smartassess bootstrapping to success.

On Design & Product Experience…

http://uxmag.com/strategy/whats-next-for-the-online-experience
Now announcing… the next online Experience!

02_online-experience
03_location-labs

On Modular Innovation…

http://techcrunch.com/2010/06/21/location-labs/
On location with Modular Innovation.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Quick-MI Worksheet: Spreadsheet to Sustained Online Success

clip_image001Over the past few years I’ve been discussing Quick-MI. Now, through the help of Google Docs, I’m sharing the Quick MI Worksheet to make it even easier for you to apply Quick-MI to your products, track progress, and share the results with your team. The Quick-MI Worksheet automatically performs all the necessary calculations and summarizes the product for you.

00_worksheet

About Quick-MI

The more relationships, the stronger the relationships, in turn, the stronger and broader can be a product’s acceptance, support, and success. These relationships comprise Modular Innovation. And it is through Quick-MI that we quantify them.

Quick-MI evaluates the degree to which a product successfully addresses the following 5 categories of Modular Innovation:

Once quantified, products are better understood and clearer courses are able to be set for improvement and solidification of the elements within products directly relevant to Modular Innovation, and subsequently relevant to sustained success.

Instructions

The Worksheet is broken into sections based on Category as indicated by the blue row starting each.

01_blue_rows

Beneath each Worksheet Category are the variables that make up the associated category.

02_variables

To the right of the Category variable names is the Description column providing quick guidance regarding how to quantify each variable. More detailed guidance and examples can be found within article series posted on The Product Guy.

03_description

The next two columns "Select One" and "Select All that Apply" contain the variable values. When a variable has values listed within the "Select One" column, only the variable that best describes the current product’s characteristic is selected and copied, within the same row, to the Total Value column.

04_content

When a variable has values listed within the "Select All that Apply" column each value whose Description matches the current product is mirrored into the Total Value column.

05_permission

The Total Values associated with each Category will automatically update…

06_category_automatic

… as will the Quick-MI Index at the bottom of the table.

07_bottom

Quick-MI Summary boils it all down into one single page, from each variable value to handy visual representations.

08_fullscreen

I also find it handy to use to track product progress over time, as well as instantly overlay against products.

As an additional note, the Quick-MI Worksheet is pre-populated with sample data to make it easier to dive in and get started. As you assess your products, just replace/add/remove the variable values within the Total Value column to match your findings. (Remember, only modified the Total Value entries within the non-blue rows — everything else will update automatically for you.)

 

VIEW THE QUICK-MI WORKSHEET

 

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

From Freemium to Casting Plans in Modular Innovation

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_teachstreet

On Starting Up…

http://techcrunch.com/2010/06/13/free-to-paid-tips/
Transitioning from a free to paid service.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.grokdotcom.com/2010/06/14/scroll-with-me-baby-the-80-20-rule-strikes-again/
Scrolling by the numbers.

02_above-the-fold
03_plancast

On Modular Innovation…

http://techcrunch.com/2010/06/16/plancast-api/
Casting new plans in a cloud of Modular Innovation.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Stribe to be Instantly More Social

stribe-logo Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Kamel Zeroual, CEO of Stribe — Gold prize winner at Le Web ‘09. We covered topics ranging from this Paris-based startup’s origins to where it is going and how it is planning to get there.

00_stribe_homepage

Some Background

The Stribe product is a freemium online service, seeking to provide the capability to instantly create a social network on any website, confronted by a diverse array of competition from the likes of Ning, Facebook, and Meebo. And, it all began shortly after the 20 Kilometers of Paris race where the Stribe team…

“… noticed that all the people were checking their time two days after the race without being able to share, discuss, and experience the benefits of the online relationship. At that time, we (the Stribe team) were sure that all websites held the (unrealized) potential for being a social network.”

02_stribe_panelFrom this Stribe was born, seeking to provide the average online user…

“…more social features, getting more relevant content from any stribed website…”

… the website owner…

“…a plug-and-play service for interaction tools and getting in touch in other websites on the same topic…”

… as well as the application developer…

“…ability to create specific features, to suit their needs, such as casual games, special surveys, and so on. And an API will soon be available.”

Startup, Growth & Revenue

Stribe’s current strategy goes beyond its freemium business model to monetization, driven by virtual goods, casual gaming, advertising, and the crafting of viral mechanisms to drive the product’s growth.

01_stribe_manageIn speaking to the realization of the long-term vision, and where Stribe would like to be in 3 years, Kamel provided the wonderfully framed insight that only a startup founder can — by responding (with a big grin)…

“Well, could you ask me this question in a couple of months?”

“Running a start-up means being able to listen, discover the pain of your customers and users. We are a lean startup … very agile … making the best moves as fast as we can.”

And, as far as tips for the aspiring entrepreneur seeking to follow in the footsteps of Stribe, and other exciting startups like them, Kamel has the following advice…

“While it’s my first company … I’ve learned many things in a couple years. My advice is to focus on customers and market feedback … to figure out the perfect value proposition, price, and service.”

All Wrapped Up

Stribe provides a broad suite of features and functionality that touches the many cornerstones of Modular Innovation, from the Shareability of content to Interoperability with Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail, facilitating relationships amongst and between websites and the users that frequent them.

Check them out — and share your thoughts, advice and experiences in the comments below.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

From the Hottest Social Experiences to the Seeds of Modular Innovation

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_recruit

On Starting Up…

http://mashable.com/2010/06/06/recruit-talent-startups/
It all starts with finding the right people…

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://sixrevisions.com/content-strategy/increase-your-user-activity-with-points-badges-and-status/
On the techniques of game mechanics in today’s hottest social experiences.

02_badges
03_appleseed

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/61884
On the growing seeds of Modular Innovation.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Relationships, Knowing Knewton & Visions of July!

theproductgroup_logo_200909_thumb752
balsamiq_logo2_thumb263333
sunshine_suites_logo
RymaLogoHighRes257_thumb5222

A big thank you to everyone who made it to our latest roundtable meet-up of The Product Group, as well as to our sponsors, Balsamiq Studios, Sunshine Suites, and Ryma Technology Solutions.IMG_1785

Over the course of the night a few of the highlights were…

 

Featured Product: Knewton
exploring the product, its challenges and successes, from dashboard design to effective team management
(a big thanks to the Knewton team: Sara Petry, Brian Fitzgerald)

Building and Maintaining Relationships with Customers
from the customer strategies of popular products, Mint, Zappos, Twine, and others, to the values of surveying

The Product Group meet-ups are an opportunity for Product People (managers, strategies, marketers, etc.) to come together to meet, interact, and network in a roundtable setting. It’s awesome to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational gathering.

DSC06373If you are a Product Person who would like to have your product or methodology featured at an upcoming meetup of The Product Group, contact me.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone at our next meetup …

 

Thursday, July 1st @ 7PM
@ Pace (163 William Street, 2nd Floor, NYC)
RSVP Now!

And, stay tuned for more announcements about July’s Featured Product, OlaPic.

If you would like to attend our next meet-up, RSVP today or visit our group webpage at…

http://meetup.com/TheProductGroup

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn

The Product Guy

P.S. Interested in becoming a sponsor or host of The Product Group? contact me.

Prevent Good Metrics From Going Bad

chris2010 Guest post by Chris Cummings of Product Management Meets Pop Culture.

"It’s not my fault!" Those four words underscore so many of the discussions (or, as I like to call them, blamestorms) that accompany product management.

A reasonable person might expect that to be less of an issue when we’re talking about metrics. After all, good metrics are:

  • Aligned with the business
  • Honest
  • Actionable
  • Measurable
  • Objective

Who could argue with a number that’s honestly calculated, from credible sources, without bias or subjectivity?

Turns out, many people. Especially if they’re on the wrong end of a good metric.

Metrics Affect People

Many discussions about metrics in product management do a great job of looking at things logically but remain silent on the consumption of those metrics or the behavioral reaction to those metrics.

We measure what we figure is important. And if your job is connected to a metric, and you want to look good at your job, then you want that important metric to look good, too. It’s human nature.

Avoiding The Misuse Of Metrics

As a Product Manager, we play a key role in how metrics are collected and conveyed. Here are three tips on how to avoid the misuse of metrics.

Use the right mix of metrics

Too many metrics can lead to analysis paralysis. Too few metrics and you can end up really fine-tuning one particular aspect of your product (the part being measured) at the expense of something critical that’s not being measured.

For example, in online games, there are many things that could be measured (visitors, time spent, etc.) but the most critical metrics generally relate to viral growth (retention and referral) and total sales (revenue per user per day).

The goal is to determine the right mix of metrics to provide an insightful, actionable, balanced view of your product. Measuring in this way amounts to leadership, and encourages others to think about the product holistically as well.

Use metrics to make decisions

Want to a) kill a metrics program, b) get a lot of people mad at you, and c) fail at an importance aspect of your job? Then pay no heed to applicable metrics when making a decision where the collected data could prove informative and valuable.

A reasonable person might say, "Well, duh." But I’ve seen this happen multiples times within multiple organizations, and the end-result is never good–particularly in terms of morale.

No one should be a slave to the data, but if you can’t legitimately explain why you’re opting for what’s in the Box when all the applicable data says to take what’s behind Door #2, you’re demonstrating a flagrant disregard for the agreed-upon decision-making and encouraging others to play the same way.

Remember: Metrics are not maces

It can be really, really tempting at times to wield metrics like a mace and figuratively bash in the heads of those who seem happily misinformed and proud of their ignorance.

Don’t do it.

By all means, convey the information in a way that it can be received and processed. But if you set an example of using data as a weapon, it suggests that others do the same — which inevitably contaminates the data as it gets twisted, sometimes right at the source, in a nuclear arms race where nobody wins and the organization suffers.

"It’s Not My Fault!"

People are going to feel how they’re going to feel and react how they’re going to react. But if you use the right mix of metrics to get a full view of the product; use metrics in your decision-making; and create a context where data is use constructively — to solve problems rather than assign blame — then you’re on your way to diffusing the danger of collecting metrics and using them to propel your product forward.

 

Chris leads product management for the Lycos Network’s games division, including Gamesville.com and white label game solutions. Prior to Lycos, Chris served as product manager for GameLogic, Inc., where he drove alignment among business, technical, and creative resources to create casino-style online games for land-based casinos in the United States and the United Kingdom. These games are available at Foxwoods Resort & Casino, Dover Downs, and Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, among others. Chris graduated with distinction from Merrimack College with a degree in English and a minor in Religious Studies. He received a Master of Business degree from University of Phoenix.

Interested in being a Guest Blogger on The Product Guy? Contact me.

From Walking Like Zappos to Autosaving for Usability

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. For your weekend enjoyment, here are some of those highlights.  What are you reading this weekend?

01_tangible-ux

On Starting Up…

http://www.inspireux.com/2010/05/31/making-a-user-experience-strategy-tangible/
Coalesce that user experience strategy … Today!

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.jankoatwarpspeed.com/post/2010/06/02/Autosave.aspx
Better usability can be found in the promise of the elusive Autosave.

02_autosave
03_zappos

On Modular Innovation…

http://blog.programmableweb.com/2010/06/01/zappos-to-launch-api-for-shoes/
Zappos steps into some Modular Innovation.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy