Expanding Innovation with Ben Franklin Lead to a Bright Spark in August!

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Thank you to everyone who made it to our latest roundtable meet-up of The Product Group at MTV Networks / Viacom (new job openings), as well as to our other sponsors, Balsamiq Studios, Sunshine Suites, and Ryma Technology Solutions.

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

Featured Product: Ben Franklin
exploring the product, its challenges and successes, from unique twists to taking action
(thanks to Jack Sherry)

Expanding Innovation
from empowering to enacting

The Product Groupmeet-ups are an opportunity for Product People (managers, strategists, 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.

If you are a Product Person and are interested in having your product featured or participating as a featured guest expert at an upcoming meetup of The Product Group, contact me (or email at jhorn (a-t.) tpgblog DoT com).

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

Thursday, August 2nd @ 7PM
RSVP Now!

And, stay tuned for more announcements about August’s Featured Product, Voltaic Systems.

If you would like to attend our next meet-up, RSVPtoday 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.

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Happy New Year! Product Management in 2012

2012Happy New Year! The last year has seen many changes in the world of product management. Yet, with all these changes, we can all expect ever more exciting trends, processes, and, especially, products in 2012!

A Look Back

In 2011, many of the prevailing trends we experienced were…

  • Increased focus on process for innovation and ideation
  • API’s, relationships, modular innovation, integration. You are not a true product unless you have an API.
  • Decreasing use of the free service / product business model. Growing on free is no longer the best policy. You can actually create a viable, sustainable business by charging customers money. (omg)
  • The new form factor — the tablet. While it has been around for sometime, the tablet (specifically, the iPad) has had a profound affect on not just tablet design, but all product design and product-consumer expectations of interaction — more intuitive, more touchy.

The Coming Year

It’s always fun to attempt to predict the future. Based on my interactions with the product management community, the following are my predictions for the big trends of 2012.

  • Offline. There will be a broad-based movement back to enabling the offline application, powered by HTML5, from document management to media consumption.
  • Death of XML. XML is on the wane, and JSON’s time has come. With all of the frameworks that have been developed to extract, transform, and transport XML, there will be great entrepreneurial opportunities in 2012 tooling-up JSON.
  • The number of product management roles will continue to grow. However, they will be filled by more and more junior people. These positions will also focus much more on the tactical side of product management (vs. the strategic).
  • In demand skills of the product manager of 2012 (and beyond)…
    • Tech / programming. There will be increasing need for technical experience or programming skills for product manager roles (even UX centric ones).
    • Statistics. Establishing and gathering metrics will become increasingly central to what it means to be a product manager. You need to demonstrate your value and make smarter decisions. (One of the key drivers has been the growth of Lean Methodology.)
  • Customer driven roadmapping will gain increasing momentum. And, mirroring that trend, but inward facing, more company-wide integrated product management will be taking shape.

What’s next?

What are your predictions and expected trends for product management in 2012?

Enjoy & thanks to everyone who followed, read, and participated in The Product Guy blog and The Product Group, new and old, in 2011! We are going to have a supremely awesome 2012!!! See you there!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

The Best Product Person of 2010, Inside Innovation & Discovering Dinevore!

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_0937 Over the course of the night a few of the highlights were…

 

The Best Product Person of 2010: Giff Constable of Aprizi
out of an abundance of nominations, one product person this year stood out above the rest

Featured Product: Dinevore
exploring the product, its challenges and successes, from automation to ux
(a big thanks to the Dinevore product person: Jeremy Fisher)

Fostering Innovation
from defining to preparing for failure

The Product Group meet-ups are an opportunity for Product People (managers, strategists, 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.

IMG_0947 If you are a Product Person and are interested in having your product featured or participating as a featured guest expert at an upcoming meetup of The Product Group, contact me.

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

  Thursday, February 3rd @ 7PM
@ Pace (163 William Street, 2nd Floor, NYC)
RSVP Now!

And, stay tuned for more announcements about January’s Featured Product, Dinevore.

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.

Modular Innovation 201

image What is Modular Innovation?

Modular Innovation can be briefly described as the products and platforms consisting of or facilitating…

  • Relationships (people-people, products-products, people-products)
  • Control of Experience (from creation to storage to interaction)
  • Ownership of Content (personal content from comments to friend lists and more)

You can also see the trend, itself, being referred to as “Modular Innovation,” much in the same way the term “Web 2.0” is still used today.

The products and concepts that constitute Modular Innovation are those that connect, enable, produce, enhance, extend, and make use of these relationships and, in turn, users’ online experiences with them.

Modular Innovation is increasingly everywhere these days…
Facebook Connect
@anywhere
Crowd sourcing
FourSquare
API’s
Expensify
Plugins
Chrome
Data exchanges
SugarSync
Google Maps
PBWorks

… and many more products, forms, and methodologies.

For the rest of the article, I will walk us through the path of the online product from a time before the prevailing trend of Modular Innovation to today, and set the scene for what is to come.

Web Problems 2.0

It’s hard today to find an online product that hasn’t in some way been touched by Modular Innovation. You might look to the old blogs as a pre-Modular Innovation, with their initial incarnation as log-oriented websites, and the most rudimentary relationship common between website and website visitor of the Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 eras.

Some products still holding fast to the ways of the Web 1.0 and 2.0 worlds…

Web 1/2.0 Products Missing Modular Innovation…
JD Supra
http://www.jdsupra.com/
a forward thinking legal 2.0 product leveraging the UGC of the legal community, but starkly lacking a public API allowing for the accelerated growth of the community by way of 3rd party apps for participating
Turbo Credit Solutions
http://turbocreditsolution.com/index.php
all the entered information is one way; there is no extracting of entered financial information or connecting to any of the services it purports to help with, nor any other desktop- or web-based financial tools
CommandShift3
http://commandshift3.com/
fun and wonderful experience, but lacks any sort of ties to the outside world beyond its basic screenshotting functionality; it could, for example, allow for the creation of accounts, remember expressed views and comments, allow users to save these comments, allow for a widget that can be inserted on websites of recently reviewed / rated items

Interestingly … A Flickr

The very popular product, Flickr, launched at the start of the Web 2.0 age has prospered, in no short order due to its understanding of the importance of interconnectivity and relationships, built into its early foundation. Flickr demonstrated a unique foresight into what would propel it onward through Web 2.0 and beyond, by embracing many of the, at the time yet defined, underpinnings of Modular Innovation.

Building Blocks

Building upon the pre-Modular Innovation archetype of blogs, discussed in the previous section, the Modular Innovations that are blogs today are now seen with clear characteristics of Modular Innovation like…

Allowing bloggers to download / export their content (and often upload it to other locations and competing blog platforms)

Connecting Twitter and Facebook in various manners

Permitting bloggers to drop-in custom plugins and even full commenting sub-systems

In Web 2.0, we had looks, feels, AJAX and communities. Through Modular Innovation, we have relationships, modular products and other services that facilitate the relational parts… all the components, and the Internet environment within which they, Modular Innovations, thrive.

A Modular Innovation can be small, a feature or mini-mini-product, or large, a module-connector service, a social network. Modular Innovations alone, and more so when combined, lead to users’ information that is increasingly…

Portable
Shareable
Interoperable
Customizable
Redundant / Replicated
Accessible

…and, basically, their own, the users’, to do with as they wish, to control via the Modular Innovation(s) within their personally controlled online user environment —a user experience both open and dynamic.

Modular Innovation puts the people in control – of their content and their interaction with it. The people can easily share their data, export it, import it, customize privacy, across different social networks, products and other environments. Their data becomes modular, flexible, and portable. Users’ experiences consist of many modules that make up their total user experience. Content and functionality, with greater Modular Innovation becomes further decentralized across these modules, each providing a single, small or large, set of abilities or experiences, that together break down the walls (silos) that are the proprietary platforms, and empower the people, the users of the Internet, to be in charge of their data and their experience.

As modules leverage open standards, people are increasingly able to publish their content to multiple destinations, manage their content across a variety of products. As Modular Innovations relationally increase so too decreases, as is being seen by way of …

OpenSocial,
Facebook Connect,
Twitter @Anywhere,

… the need to re-find friends, or re-re-re-publish one’s content, as well as port and integrate their personal, content creations with other services, other Modular Innovations. Modular Innovations are increasingly empowering the user through the enabling of greater flexibility and control of interaction with the user’s own data. Data that, through more and more Modular Innovation, is becoming …

increasingly portable,
increasingly integrated,
increasingly customizable.

Products that are or facilitate Modular Innovation are the ones that have proven themselves among the most persistent and continue to gain increasing acceptance in the current evolution of the social and interactive relationships of the Internet.

Looking Forward

There already exist many complex frameworks actively being developed and evolved that will definitely be major influences in shaping the course of Modular Innovation. These modules, or Modular Innovations, can represent a single or group of features and functionality, or a service or framework that augments or allows for new inter-module relationships to be established.

A Modular Innovation often described as a framework that “allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries.aka Semantic Web

A Modular Innovation that represents an image oriented feature set that allows for the easy connectivity to and from other resources as well as the inclusion of the production functionality within and between other Internet products. aka Flickr

Through combining and connecting and customizing modules, an owner, a user, is in control to customize their full experience and interaction with their own content as well as that of others.

Through the connectivity and relationships of modules, users’ ownership of the content that flows through is also strengthened, as well as those relationships among the people with each other and the Modular Innovations with which each interacts.

As the tendrils of Modular Innovation deepen and spread, the user experience becomes progressively more defined by the modules and the relationships between the modules and the individuals using them, not the network or any single product (or feature).

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Modular Innovation 101

bunch of modular innovation Modular Innovation (mŏjə-lər ĭn’ə-vāshən) [noun]

  1. Philosophy and style of modular products and services consisting of the following principles..
    • Relationships between people and modules and the user empowerment that comes from such relationships
    • User control of experience, from creation to storage to interaction
    • User’s unrestricted control of own content
  2. Of, relating to, or based on individualized modules that can be personalized to a variety of tasks and the interconnecting means by which these modules can interrelate
  3. The act of introducing, creating, connecting to, building upon, or working with modules, glue (aka platforms), and/or data that either exist as or enable Modular Innovation(s)

What is Modular Innovation? A trend. A product. An evolution. A market. A process or approach. Yes, to all of these methods of describing and thinking about Modular Innovation. I coined the term Modular Innovation (def. 1) to fill a descriptive and philosophical gap in the language, thoughts, and discussions regarding the present, evolving, and future nature of the products of the Internet.

I have been using Modular Innovation to describe and assess products for some time. More recently, driven by popularity and the public nature of The Product Guy blog, I have been receiving many requests for further elaboration on the meaning of Modular Innovation. So…here it is. Enjoy.

Modular Innovation …. The Next Inevitable Step

In Web 2.0 we had looks and feels and communities. Through Modular Innovation, we have RELATIONSHIPS, modular products and other services that facilitate the relational modules… all the components, and the Internet environment within which they, Modular Innovations, thrive.

A Modular Innovation (def. 2) can be small, a feature or mini-mini-product, or large, a module-connector service, a social network. But when the Modular Innovations are all combined, they lead to users’ information that is…

Portable
Shareable
Interoperable
Customizable
Redundant
Accessible

…and, basically, THEIR OWN, the users’, to do with as they wish, to control via the Modular Innovation(s) within their personally controlled online user environment — not a user experience restricted, like today, but truly open and dynamic.

Modular Innovation (def. 3) puts the people in control – of their content and their interaction with it. The people can easily share their data, export it, import it, customize privacy, across different social networks, products and other environments. Their data becomes modular, flexible, and portable. Users’ experience consists of many modules that make up their total user experience. Content and functionality are fully decentralized across these modules, each providing a single or small set of abilities or experiences, that together break down the walls (silos) that are the proprietary platforms, and empower the people, the users of the Internet, to be in charge of their data and their experience. As modules, leveraging open standards (OpenSocial maybe being one of them) people are increasingly able to publish their content to multiple destinations, manage their content across a variety of products (no longer needing to re-find friends, or re-re-re-publish one’s content), as well as port and integrate their personal, content creations with other services, other Modular Innovations. Modular Innovations should increasingly empower the user through the enablement of greater flexibility and control of interaction with the user’s own data. Data that, through more and more Modular Innovation, will become increasingly portable, increasingly integrated, increasingly customizable. Products that are or facilitate Modular Innovation will be the ones that are sustained and will gain increasing acceptance in the next, and already beginning, evolution of the social and interactive Internet.

E.G.

Modular Innovation is about ownership of content through the connectivity and relationships of modules and, through these modules, relationships amongst people with each other and the Modular Innovations with which they interact. These modules, or Modular Innovations, can represent a single or group of features and functionality, or a service or framework that augments or allows for new inter-module relationships to be established. Through combining and connecting and customizing modules, an owner, a user, is in control to customize their full experience and interaction with their own content as well as that of others.

A Modular Innovation that represents a feature set can be seen in a product like Flickr that allows for easy connectivity to AND FROM other resources as well as inclusion of the Flickr production functionality within other and between other Internet products.

Another Modular Innovation (of many) in the flavor of service or framework for the enablement of inter-module relationships can be seen in the Semantic Web framework that “allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries.

A true environment of Modular Innovation is one wherein the user experience is defined by the modules and the relationships between the modules and the individuals using them, not the network or any single product (or feature).

Out There

Trends and other primordial indicators of the emergence of Modular Innovation can be found in many products that are out there, or in development, today on the Internet. I am constantly studying all forms of Internet products, at times, for fun, others for research or my consulting work.

I will be starting a weekly series wherein I will briefly highlight many of the products that at which I am looking. I will touch on the cool, summarize critical assessments / suggestions for improvement, and identify those products that are Modular Innovations, contain smaller Modular Innovations within, or may and/or can facilitate the proliferation and connectedness of other Modular Innovations. Some of the products touched on each week will also lend themselves to more detailed blogs or interviews with the people behind them. The ‘Modular Innovation Within’ series will act as a supplement, where everyone can quickly get a taste and overview of the latest breaking products on the Internet, from the perspective of The Product Guy and how they do or do not contribute to the emergence of an Internet world of Modular Innovation.

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Start-up Stumbling Points

Building Blocks (avoid stumbling)I help out start-ups all of the time. One of those common, albeit, abstract questions I frequently receive is…

“What are some common stumbling points that web startups come across early in their development?”

Yep, that is a loaded question. In response to those that ask the various flavors of this question, my response and guidance…

One of the biggest things in starting a start-up is recognizing little will go perfectly and that you will definately make tons of mistakes (both small and large). That said, your final success, goes very much beyond your initial idea, but also directly derives from how well (and quickly) you identify and correct mistakes and make other business adjustments and corrections. On day one your plan will look perfect. In the morning of day one, start making corrections. ;-)

So, yes, there are many mistakes, and many common mistakes that are made by all types of start-ups. For this reason it is also important to have good, and experienced, advisors that you can truely trust.

In an early stage start-up, it is very easy to…

  1. lose focus, and try to solve all problems,
  2. let emotions kick logic out of the room, and
  3. not be prepared.

On losing focus…
You have identified a need, you think you can address that need and sell it to people to meet their needs. As you build out your product/service, you will more than likely see 100′s of other things that you could “easily” fix with just a “little” more work or side projects that you could do (a supplemental product, an offshoot company, etc.) Don’t do it! Stay focused on your path to market, with your product or service. Set your clear milestones – hit them – layer in improvements and additional things you can do and fix inline with those goals and milestones. If you don’t have the focus that first milestone you set might just keep moving away from you more and more every day — stay focused on the prize and you will get there. Focus does not contradict with the need to make critical business course corrections. As I started out by saying, you are not perfect, you will need to make corrections, you may even need to change the overall goals and purposes of the company — think it through, and if you need to make those changes, DO IT, and the set NEW MILESTONES and goals and STAY FOCUSED!

On (destructive) emotions…
Emotions are both constructive and destructive forces within all aspects of life, and can spell the success or failure of a start-up if not propperly controlled. It is more than likely that your emotions, your passion, has gotten you to the point where you want to create your new venture, your new start-up. Is is also those emotions that are going to excite your partners, your co-workers, and investors; keep them, harness them, use them to motivate, excite and innovate.

However, other emotions can lead to irreparable decisions and the early demise of your company. Panic, overreaction, paranoia (extreme), will lead you to illogical, erronesous, just BAD decisions. When the unexpected happens, when problems occur, stay calm, think logically, make corrections adjust the company focus (if you have to) — don’t let those emotions throw you off track. By the way, a good, solid board of advisors (whether they are official or unofficial) can be a great way to help you stay logical. Let you advisors speak openly and honestly and HEAR THEM and you will benefit.

On preparedness…
Be prepared for good times and bad times; for great success, and phenomenal failure; for riches and cash flow problems. All types of curve balls may come your way; organize your plan, plan for contigencies, expect the worst, and be pleased when the best works out. Keep all lines of communication open, internally and externally, so that you can easily adapt and to also allow for others to help you be as prepared as possible and as successful as your new venture can possibly be.

Enjoy!

Have questions, other topics, or products you would like me to speak about, email me at jhorn -=at=- tpgblog -=dot=- com.

Jeremy Horn