User Onboarding in Enterprise SaaS #prodmgmt

Guest Post by: Prakhar Agarwal (Mentee, Session 4, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Sara Varki]

saas[1]Introduction

Nowadays, we all consume applications and platforms (software) over the web. “Software installation” is quickly becoming an old concept, especially for end users. Be it documents, photos, marketing, sales, or product, it’s all moving away from installing software on an operating system to just creating an account for a web-based service. This is the world of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Growth of SaaS companies in recent years has been explosive. Like all companies, these SaaS companies face several challenges broadly defined by the following three questions (along with the associated function of the company):

  • How do I get more visitors to our service and get them to sign-up? (Marketing)

  • How do I get more users to return to our service? (Product)

  • How do I get returning users to become customers? (Sales)

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), Churn, and LIfetime Value (LTV) are the KPIs used to check the health of a SaaS business. We track the funnel, calculate conversion rates, and search for repeatable patterns to make our revenue numbers. To be a successful company, the value proposition should be easy to understand, the product should be easy to use, and it should be easy to buy. If any of those three things falls short, the company fails. In my opinion, it can all be summed into Customer Experience. A blurb from Wikipedia [1]:

Hand writing Smiley on the Customer  - Customer Retention Customer experience (CX) is the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. This interaction includes a customer’s attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy and purchase and use of a service.

In this article, we will briefly explore one part of these interactions, specifically between the user and product itself. An effectively designed product will solve one or many user problems. A key element in successful user adoption is User Onboarding. While it sounds simple, it is the most critical and often the most ignored part of the product development cycle. We will explore this subject in the context of Enterprise SaaS where a solution is expected to solve multiple pains and generally has a lot of moving parts and complex workflows. We will discuss why onboarding should be a priority and how to do it correctly.

Why User Onboarding

Everything is about people.

People use things, people pay for things.
People require services, people provide services.
People use products, people develop products.

In all of the grand things in life, people are the only constant ingredient. So, it’s imperative that the experiences people have are delightful and memorable. All the functions in an organization should focus on this metric.

Above statements are a true reflection of my way of thinking about businesses as is evident from my LinkedIn summary.

1480302922795[1]Providing a great experience on all user touchpoints should be part of the core of all functions in a company. Specifically, user onboarding for the products should not be a project or a feature that gets released but then is not looked at for months or years; rather, it should be an element that is always evolving.

The essence of user onboarding is how quickly a product can provide value to the user by helping them solve their problem and getting them to the “wow” moment. For users of Enterprise SaaS products, it is critical that they feel in control of achieving their goals. There are several reasons why User Onboarding is so important:

  1. Quick Adoption and Frequent Releases: Traditionally, users are accustomed to locally-installed enterprise software, also known as shipped software. This software is not updated frequently and thereby a user gets a lot of time to become comfortable with it. Ultimately, such software gets very sticky and the companies reap rewards for a long time. So, these users bring a lot of baggage with them when they are trying to adopt new SaaS products. Therefore, it is important that the initial transition to the new SaaS paradigm is smooth and quick. The Unique Selling Point (USP) of SaaS products is mobility for users and an abstraction of several moving components. Successfully delivering such an abstraction requires replacing existing workflows while eliminating barriers. Also, this delivery model provides an opportunity for companies to introduce improvements and features more frequently. Extra care should be taken in such shorter release cycles to avoid disruption to users’ current workflows.

  1. Competition: Since SaaS products are now becoming mainstream, users have a lot of options and the cost of switching to a new product is relatively low. For the companies, the cost of customer acquisition is increasing since there is more competition. So, products can’t really win purely on functionality; achieving desired stickiness with their users will require a lot more. The usability of a product and onboarding experience is quickly becoming the differentiating factor. Consumer products were the first ones to take advantage of these notions and with a strong user-base overlap between consumer products and SaaS products, it was only a matter of time when users felt that business software needs to match the experience of non-business software, also known as “Consumerization of IT”.

  1. Lifetime Value: The goal of a great user onboarding for a SaaS product is to allow a user to extract maximum value in shortest time possible so that they become repeat users and potentially paid customers. Often, a user would be willing to pay for a premium service if it offers great onboarding experience and either eliminates a steep learning curve or manages it well. Bad user onboarding is a sure way to alienate potential customers. A user will try a product, and if they can’t reach to the value quickly, they will leave and never come back. In an Enterprise SaaS company, the sales cycles are short and the payback period is long. And, there’s always a risk of churn. So, the company should invest in right onboarding to reduce their churn and thereby increase their customer lifetime value.

Now that we understand why user onboarding is so critical to SaaS world, let’s see how it can be done right and few mistakes to be avoided.

How To Do Enterprise SaaS User Onboarding

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAw9AAAAJDdmZmFjZjNmLTJkNDItNDliMi05ZDI2LWViYWEwNGQxMTk3NA[1]One quick search about “SaaS Onboarding” will show thousands of results for books and articles advocating various methods to improve the experience for a new user. All these methods and ideologies have one thing in common – “reduce and control friction in the product”. Even with all the advice, the products that we develop and use on a daily basis have great visual appeal but less thought out user journey. In the last ten years, the advancement in application frameworks has had a significant impact on the visual layer of Enterprise SaaS products. The development is so quick that there’s a new framework every six months or so.

On the other hand, there has been less emphasis on measuring user perception and behavior and improving the onboarding based on those insights:

  1. Why did this user not use the product after signing-up?

  2. How much time does it take for the users to reach the first milestone?

  3. What percentage of the expected first-interaction behavior is the user completing?

  4. Are there any dead ends in the workflow that prevent the users to get early wins?

All these are important questions for a product manager to be able to improve the product adoption with first-time users.

Here’s a short framework to kickstart the improvement of user onboarding (and entire product in general) for Enterprise SaaS:

  1. Start from the end goal and work backward: Understand the user and their specific problems, and then design the product and market the value proposition. This way of thinking is getting standardized via the disciplines of user experience design and lays the groundwork for designing user onboarding. Result: With the user research done properly, the user onboarding will cater to the acute problems that a user faces while solving their pains and this will lead to a simple and focused product.

  1. Convey the value proposition clearly: People’s attention span is getting shorter; providing a clear value proposition goes a long way to create excitement and motivate a user to try the product. Correct messaging is a critical first step of onboarding. Find the content that led current users to the “aha” moment. Work with the sales team to learn what potential customers perceive as the value proposition. Then work with the marketing team to make sure those nuggets are presented well to the visitors in all web and print material. Show the users the promised land. Result: Users will be motivated before trying the product.

  1. framework[1]Get them in the door: Once a user understands your value proposition, it’s important to keep that momentum going by getting them into the product as soon as possible. Design the sign-up process to be quick and let the user get an early win. For example, if the sign-up process requires collecting a lot of information, it’s better to collect the most critical items first and the remaining information as the user progresses in the product. Tie the collection of these nuggets with various product actions. Result: Users will not be overwhelmed and would give you more information as they use the product.

  1. Find conversion actions: Track all the user activity in your product to identify the actions that led a user to become a customer. Or, just watch the users use your product and see what they do to reach the main goal. If available, work with the sales team to participate in potential customers’ product evaluation process. There is a heavy component of product analytics in this part of user onboarding improvement and always reveals very interesting insights! For example, if one of the conversion milestones for a data analytics product is to enable an integration, find out how much time a user takes  to get to that step and the number of steps that lead to it. In other words, work with the product analytics team to understand the user journey. Result: This will help reduce CAC.

  1. Balance Friction: Using the insights above, improve the flow to let the users reach the conversion actions more quickly. Eliminate all the extraneous steps that are not strongly tied to the value of the product. Make the flow intuitive so that a user  This will reduce the time from first interaction to conversion actions. Provide relevant feedback to the user during their onboarding to establish the notions of security, reliability and fun, wherever applicable. It’s best for the users as they extract more value and feel more confident, and it’s great for the company as the product gets sticky with user’s each new win. Result: This will drive down the churn rate.

In summary:

  1. Create meaningful experiences that let users get to the value immediately and continually

  2. Include user onboarding in the foundation layer of product development and let the entire organization strive for improving the user experience.

  3. Anything we can do to make it easier for a customer to get started with the product, the better.

Great user onboarding facilitates problem solving and gets out of the way of a user!

More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Managing Your Career and Yourself Like a Product

Guest Post by: Hansa Vagadiya (Mentee, Session 4, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Ladislav Bartos]

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Recently, I participated in a product management mentorship program run by The Product Mentor.

Ladislav Bartos, who was assigned to me as my inspirational mentor, has been working with me to further hone in on my product management skills. I have improved my stakeholder management techniques; learnt about service design thinking and enhanced my Google Analytics knowledge. But the most important thing the product mentorship can unconsciously provide, is guidance and support towards clarifying what your long term career goals are as a product manager.

Think of your product management career development as a new product that is going to be released into the market. You want to be the product that is useable, feasible and valuable to the target audience/customer ie you’re selling yourself as the solution to some specific company’s specific problem.

In product management you’re schooled to, identify who your customers are; identify a value proposition strategy and to persuade stakeholders of the vision you want to achieve. You can stand out from other product managers by applying these skills to yourself.

MVP of you

In product development, the minimum viable product (MVP) is a product which has just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development. If you are just starting out in your product management career it is important to look at where you fit in the market.

This is where you will need to do carry out market research and value proposition testing.

  1. Who is the target audience/segment/customer? (Which company should value the attributes you have to offer?)

  2. What problem are you solving? (What are the company’s problem you can help alleviate?)

  3. What product features can solve the problem? (What special skills and experience do you have?)

Release 2

Image result for product releaseNow that the MVP has been launched to the user – it is time to iterate and make improvements on the product based on customer feedback and lessons learned.

  1. How can you improve on a current feature? (What skills do you have that can be enhanced?)

  2. How can you further establish a competitive advantage in the market? (Do you want to have a competitive edge in having experience towards a particular business function? UX, Business or Technology focussed product manager?)

Tapping into a network of people that have experience in product management and/or reading product management books/online resources will help you to answer these questions.

Release 3 (Pivot)

As a product, you have been available in the market for some time and have either succeeded in solving your target audience’s short term problem and/or are struggling to add any further value and you have decided to pivot. A pivot is a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.”[1

  • Is there another target audience that is better satisfied with the product you have? (What other company could benefit from your skills and experiences?)

  • Does the value proposition need tweaking or changing completely? (Are there other industry/product types that interest you? Ecommerce? Publishing? etc)

  • Are your product features not solving the user’s problem? (Are your skills and experiences no longer suited towards the role you are currently in?)

When deciding to pivot it is good to think about these questions beforehand to evaluate the costs and benefits of pivoting.

Do you have a Product Roadmap? 

As a product manager the management of your product roadmap is the same as the management of yourself and your career.

What is your product vision? What are your goals? What are the metrics that will determine if your goals have been achieved? (Where do you want to be in the next 5 – 10 years? What industry excited you and has potential growth? What skills do you want to develop by x period of time and what are the success metrics?)

Without having a product roadmap, it is difficult to know what stage you are in your product lifecycle. It’s a question a lot of budding product managers face. Do you keep iterating on your product after the initial MVP launch or is it time to pivot?

As I come to the end of the mentorship program I would like to advise all other budding product managers to create your own product roadmaps. You’ll be surprised at how much it can help you answer your own questions.

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More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

How Communicating More Can Help You Succeed as a Product Manager

Guest Post by: Lonnie Rosenbaum (Mentee, Session 4, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Marc Abraham]

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Sharing product information within your company is one of the most valuable things you can do as a product manager. Whether it’s your plans (roadmap), feedback you’ve heard from users, product usage data (analytics), or posing questions — getting what you’re doing and thinking in front of a cross-departmental audience will provide you with input that helps you make better decisions and will help align others with the goals you’re looking to achieve.

Spreading info can also help other people be more effective in their roles as they’ll be able to better prepare for upcoming changes. It can get them excited about the direction of the product, and it can make it known across your organization that you’re a person to bring questions or feedback to — opening up more lines of communication to help inform your thinking.

Tactics

funwheelswingin[1]Hold a recurring meeting once per month that gets you in front of a cross-departmental audience

  • Invite people not only from Product & Tech, but also Support, Sales, Training, and any other relevant group.

  • Create slides to walk the audience through:

    • What’s been happening with the product (e.g., recap the last release, usage data)

    • What’s coming up soon (e.g., the next release)

    • Future thinking (e.g., distant roadmap possibilities)

    • Research initiatives (e.g., what problems about your users or business you’ve identified recently and their impact, what solutions might be viable, what you plan to learn about soon)

    • Competitive analysis (e.g., if you recently discovered a new competitor that you think would be valuable for others to know about, or if you want to highlight how a potential new feature could be a differentiator for your company’s solution vs. others)

  • Solicit feedback.

  • At the end, recap any next steps and actions.

While this might take you a few hours to prepare for each month, sharing information (ideally in an engaging way) is one of the most valuable things that can be done within a company, not only bringing info to others but also to you.

These sessions can also give people better insight into how you think and approach things as a product person, which is particularly valuable to stakeholders who you don’t work with on a regular basis. And it’s a way to take people on the journey of the product, showing where it’s been and where it’s heading, growing support and buy-in along the way.

stand out from the crowd

Sync with certain people in advance of this meeting to prepare material

  • Ask co-workers in Support about common user pitfalls and analyze Support case trends with them.

  • Ask co-workers in Sales and/or Business Development about common sticking points that prevent a deal from closing. (Or if your company is more Marketing-centric, sync with the Marketing team.)

  • Ask the appropriate people about why users stop using your product (i.e., cancellations / churn).

You’d ideally be able to see quantitative data on these topics, in addition to having conversations about them. Depending on how much detail is made available to you, it could also be useful to speak with some of the users who these topics relate to so that you can dig deeper into the reasons behind what they said to your co-workers (i.e., learning why something happened, instead of only what happened).

Example

The following is an example sequence of slides that you could use or adapt

  1. Intro / purpose of the meeting (state a goal of sharing information and identifying better solutions)

  2. Recap of last release

  3. Plan for next release

  4. Insight / question #1 (takeaways from recent research you did, a trend that you think is worth raising awareness for and getting feedback on, or some other topic you’d like to increase visibility on)

  5. Insight / question #2

  6. Questions / feedback (while you should welcome questions or feedback throughout the meeting, it’s a good idea to dedicate a couple of minutes at the end for anything not already covered)

Tips

Don’t feel like you need to do all of the above from the start

  • You can start simple with a small audience and short list of topics to get feedback and adapt for the next session, gradually inviting more people.

  • The most important thing is to get started with something, and be open with participants about how you want them to get value out of it and that you welcome their feedback. Adjust the format over time to find what works best.

  • Aim for a 50-minute meeting. If you find that 50 minutes isn’t enough, trim some content for the next time so that you can get it done in 50 minutes. If you engage the participants (e.g., by asking some to help prepare material in advance, and by inviting questions/feedback during), this will feel like a short meeting packed with insights and takeaways for everyone.

0155351_PE313641_S5[1]Frame the meeting in the right way

  • It’s not meant to be a collaborative prioritization session. Some open discussion among attendees is great, but it’s not a debate on what to work on.

  • You’re sharing information and believe that everyone benefits from hearing insights, both from you and others.

In general, respond quickly to whatever comes your way

  • Even if you don’t have an answer that someone is hoping for (e.g., if your answer is that it’s going to be a while longer until their concern is addressed in the product), getting back to people in a timely manner gives them reason to reach out to you again in the future, which can provide you with valuable intel.

  • Sometimes you might pass someone’s question to someone else who is better suited to answer it, which is fine. Whether you or someone else answers it, you helped get the answer.

Recap

Communication is a two-way street. When you share information with others, they’re more likely to share information with you.

Having a steady flow of communication with a group of people from across your organization enables you to test ideas sooner, hear feedback sooner, and make ideas better — resulting in better product decisions and benefits for both users and the business.

Overall, communication can be a big factor in a product manager’s success, both with a product’s success and also the product manager’s career trajectory. Seize the opportunity to spread information and to learn from others, and position yourself as a go-to person in your company.

[Note: This article didn’t touch on external communication, such as with users, partners, or vendors, which is worthy of its own writeup.]

About Lonnie Rosenbaum
LonnieRosenbaumPicture-Choice2Lonnie is a product manager with experience in both web and mobile, currently working at Booker on their native mobile apps. Previously, he held product roles at three other technology companies, two of which he co-founded. Lonnie blogs about product and entrepreneurship at http://lonnierosenbaum.com.

 

 

 

More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Driving Product Growth with Customer Interviews in 20 days

Guest Post by: Jeffrey Owens (Mentee, Session 4, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Chris Butler]

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In the startup mindset of move fast and break things (thanks Mark Zuckerberg), often times customer interviews and getting to know how users interact with your application fall behind. At SpotHero, we have recently graduated from the “startup” product style of push as many things through as possible to a more mature and calculated product lifecycle. Product vision, no longer determined by emotion, rather derived from sound metrics – is executed through the product roadmap, with clear and measurable goals in mind.

Determining what goes into your product roadmap to execute on this vision can be boiled down to two things: quantitative and qualitative research. From a planning perspective, quantitative research and feedback is pretty straight-forward – note: I didn’t say easy. Ensure all correct funnels and events are being tracked, analyze, and pull out key trends (to over-simplify).

The “art” of determining the product roadmap comes through qualitative research. Being able to pull the pain, motivations, problems and reasonings behind every user interaction in the application and finding tangible solutions to these problems is both critical and challenging.

Knowing minimal amounts of what was involved in customer interviews and gathering qualitative feedback, Chris Butler, my mentor and friend pointed me toward the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) methodology. If you’re not familiar you can find it here: JTBD Interview Structure

Like Newton’s first law of motion – an object at rest will stay at rest – often the hardest part is finding where to start, and then actually starting. Personally, I have found it easiest to put together a quick project (product) plan that lays out clear goals with target dates, helping me reach towards a goal. The 20 day plan begins here:

Image result for plan

Day 1: Create User Segments

Creating users segments is the act of defining groups of customers that use your application, usually based on purchasing behaviors. After much deliberation, I eventually narrowed down my user segments from 6 to a more manageable 3. The process was simple – find the majority users and optimize for them. I found the other segments I created were around edge cases, which ultimately would be uncovered in talking to the primary users.

  1. Segment 1 – Users who have purchased monthly parking through SpotHero and still parked

  2. Segment 2 – Users who purchased monthly parking through SpotHero and cancelled

  3. Segment 3 – Considered purchasing, but didn’t

  4. Segment 4 – Users who started purchasing monthly through SpotHero and decided to stop

  5. Segment 5 – Users who are thinking of purchasing monthly parking, don’t know about SpotHero

  6. Segment 6 – People who buy enough daily parking to make the switch to monthly parking make sense

Day 2-3: Communication Plans for Segments

  1. Segment 1 – Pull list of users from database and offer customers $30 off future monthly purchase in order to have a 15-20 minute conversation with us.

  2. Segment 2 – Pull list of users from database and offer customers a $25 amazon gift card in exchange for a 15-20 minute conversation with us.

  3. Segment 3 – Using our analytics tool find users who dropped off in our sales funnel before purchasing, and reach out offering a $25 amazon gift card to have a 15-20 minute conversation with us.

Image result for budget

Day 4: Determining Budget

Of all the things, this one was the most unclear to me. I wasn’t sure how to get the conversation started, and when I did, it never really went anywhere. To resolve this, I did three things

  1. Pulled numbers on the impact of monthly parking for the company’s GMV

    1. This shows the value of reaching out to customers and justifies the cost for providing credit or some sort of gift card.

  2. Determine how many users I needed to talk to in order to reach qualitative significance

    1. 4-7 users per segment will get you all the information you need. Usually after 1-2 conversations, any glaring needs become apparent. Conversations 3-7 confirm and provide additional insights.

  3. Proposed number value of how much each outreach would cost

    1. Segment 1 – $30 in monthly credit

    2. Segment 2 – $25 Amazon gift card

    3. Recording Software – $10

    4. Total Budget – $395

Day 5-7: Scripts for Interviews

Simultaneously with budgeting, I started building the scripts for the customer interviews using the recommended JTBD framework. The general framework I followed was:

  1. Introductions – get to know the customer’s background

  2. Point-of-Purchase – bring them back to the moment they purchased

  3. Finding first thought – what made they want to make the purchase

  4. Building Considerations – what were all the options they explored to solve the problem

  5. Searching – what was their experience looking for monthly parking with us

  6. Booking – what was their experience like when booking

  7. Post-Purchase – what was their experience after purchasing parking with us

    1. Cancellation Recap (if applicable) – what caused them to cancel their reservation

  8. General Questions – allow them to give feedback and ask questions

Day 7-17: Getting People on the Phone

Getting people on the phone was easier than I thought – once there was an incentive. I had originally tried outreach to customers to get on the phone without an incentive, and did not get a single person to email back. Once I introduced and incentive, I was amazed by how many people want to talk for $30 off parking/$25 dollar Amazon gift card. Beyond the expected cancellations and rescheduling, I was able to get my goal of 5-7 users per segment.

Recording the Interviews

Image result for recordingFirst thing to lay out – record your interviews! I cannot iterate this enough. Not only can others in the organization listen to these interviews, but taking notes during the conversation takes away from the interview and makes the interview very choppy as you scramble to write down everything the customer says.

During the interview, I found it was good to stick to the script as overall architecture and gave good reference points to go back to, but the most useful product information came from the tangents or stories that occurred only through natural conversation. The script should act as a guide, not the thing you read to customers, get their response and move on. Don’t be afraid to go into rabbit holes or pry a little more. Know when you’ve gone too far, and reference back to your script to bring the conversation back.

Day 18-19: Reviewing Feedback and Building Roadmap

By the 2nd conversation you’ll notice hints of trends and by the 3rd or 4th conversation you will be able to confirm. Even if you product is “flawless” – which it isn’t – customers (or all to often, investors) will find issues with it. The key is to listen for their problems and not their solutions. Chris taught me a great prioritization technique through questions:

  1. How much time do users spend on this problem or trying to solve this problem?

  2. How frequent do users run into this problem?

  3. What’s the impact of this problem?

  4. Will this problem stop users from using your product?

  5. Would a solution for this problem drastically change consumer behavior?

Answering these questions helps you put an apples-to-apples comparison against all the feedback you get from customers. A good equation for determining priority (higher the number, the higher the priority):

# times occurs * seconds it takes customer to solve + 100 if deters user = significance

The output will give you a list of problems in priority. You still need to determine if these can be solved with or without product solutions.

Wrapping it up

As you’re looking at your product roadmap, it’s important to make sure those solutions being built to achieve this roadmap are being built for the users of your product. I DO NOT promote the product roadmap being a list of static features that solves the problems. Rather, the roadmap should be a nimble document that lists out the problems you plan to solve for customers in priority order.

Customer needs change, and what you think is the most important today, will not be the same importance 1 month out, certainly not 3 months out. Set expectations within your organization that the product culture and roadmap will be to solve the biggest problems currently facing your customers. I challenge you to go no further than 3 months out and to always be gathering customer feedback both quantitative and qualitative to make a product that best solves your customer’s current problems.

Image result for feedback

Afterward

With all the above being said – we don’t work in a vacuum. Things come up, priorities change, and ultimately leads to many reasons why it won’t get done or can’t get done in 20 days.

Here are some things that got in the way for me, and how I worked around it.

Focus

Depending on your product culture, you may have more than one product you are focusing on. In my case it shifted many times throughout the twenty day period – our internal admin tool, monthly focus on web, external admin tool for parking operators to bugs and general run-the-business type features.

Key is to keep laser focus. It’s ok to miss a couple days, but similar to working out; the more days you miss, the harder it is to return. Be transparent with others in your organization about what you are doing, and don’t be afraid to tell people no or not right now. Make sure you are clear on the why and benefits what you are doing brings to the company.

Priorities

This was probably the hardest part for me. One week I was focusing on one tool, the next another. Each of them shifting in priority based on our internal and external needs. Each had its weight of being top priority.

We’re product managers for a reason – we can decipher the important from the unimportant (and hopefully everything in between). Only one thing can be top priority. Make sure if something is bumping it off top priority, it truly is top priority. Working on one-off projects that come up – i.e. fires or must-have features – generally don’t lead to moving the needle. Ask yourself if you’re firefighting or product managing. Avoid the former when at all possible.

Resources

This is a fun one. You go out, do all your research, and you hit a wall because there aren’t enough design resources, engineering resources, data science resource, whatever resources… you get the point.

Don’t let this stop you, and should certainly not be an excuse. Do what you can to get it to the point where you could hand it off, and if it never makes it there – that means there were other priorities that took it’s place. If this is your top priority, make it the top priority of your teams to get it done.

Remember, as the product manager, you represent the customers needs in every decision you make. The best way to arm yourself with what the customers are currently facing is to get in front of them and have a conversation. This not only builds brand loyalty, but ensures that your product will be solving real problems. You have the power to get in front of them – if you don’t, someone else will.

About Jeffrey Owens
JeffOwensProduct artisan, aspiring Entrepreneur; adventure and travel connoisseur. Jeff Owens is on a quest. Reach out to learn more.

 

 

 

More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

How to transition from a Product Manager to a Product Leader

Guest Post by: Avinash Bajaj (Mentee, Session 4, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Nis Frome]

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So, you did whatever it took to become a Product Manager. Either you stumbled your way into product management, or you planned your way through. Whatever the case maybe, you are here now. You have done it.

Now, how do you transition yourself from a product guy to the product guy in your organization? How do you get others to respect the area that you love? How do you grow yourself and shape the organization around a product culture to make it more sustainable, more scalable and more efficient?

That is where I was – I was the first Product Manager in my organization, and now I have managed to carve a new Product Management discipline/department in the organizational structure.

Below are some of the takeaways of the experience that can hopefully help others who are at a similar transition phase of their lives:

(*Note: These are my personal experiences. These certainly do not mean this is the only way to follow, but hopefully these can help give guidelines on how some actions worked for me)

1.Challenge the Status Quo

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If you want to become a Product Leader, act like one, NOW! When you are a Product Manager, your product is your business. But as a Product Leader, everything is your business. Just because things are a certain way doesn’t mean they should be. Ask questions – lots of them. Challenge assumptions and theories. Be bullish and aggressive in proposing product ideas, but at the same time, be stable and dependable to execute on those ideas. Don’t go into the position looking specifically to change everything. Give it a chance and try to understand why the ‘established’ practices exist. But don’t be afraid to challenge them and reconfigure them.

2.Be Entrepreneurial

entrepreneurial-growth-in-greener-industries-caption-image[1]I heard somewhere that great Product Leaders make great Entrepreneurs. I don’t know if that is true, but what has been true in my case is the attitude of “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”. As product managers, we often need to, have to, take decisions. But as Product Leaders, your decisions matter a lot more. There is more on the line. So we cannot be afraid to take hard calls if needed, and we have to be able to stand our ground and back ourselves when such a time comes.

Another aspect that is equally important for Product Leaders is the tendency to almost “walk” into chaotic, conventionally troublesome situations – that could mean standing up for a Product Manager colleague and taking the heat if something goes wrong, or, taking responsibility to solve a problem which you just became aware of, something that does not strictly lie within your product roadmap/portfolio.

3. Delegate and Support

As a Leader, you don’t have to take all decisions, in fact please don’t take all decisions. Learn to accept that people closest to certain topics are best to take those decisions. Your job is to lead and support those decisions – you don’t have to know 100% on the topic but you need to know enough to support the business case around those decisions. There is a reason you work with experts in areas that are not your expertise. As PMs you naturally learn to do this on a smaller scale, but as a product leader, you have to learn to inspire and teach PMs to get this awareness early on.

About Avinash Bajaj
AvinashBajajSean Echevarria is Head of Products by day and passionate about making a difference in the field of education.

 

 

 

More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

A Designer’s Perspective on Working with Product Managers

Guest Post by: David Pasztor

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A product manager just stopped by the desk of the designer on a lazy Thursday afternoon. The designer showed him something, and they started discussing a new feature’s design loudly. The manager used wide gestures to show where he wanted to move certain elements. The developers sitting nearby just watched the show for the first time, but after a while they stood up to join the party one by one. Soon the whole team was standing behind the designer’s screen shouting new ideas and tips about the layout, the colors, the icons, the fonts and everything else. The designer just took a deep breath and hid his face behind his hands. He thought it will be an easy Thursday.

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I’ve been in this situation while I worked with various product teams as a designer. I also know how much effort these team put into finding out how to work with developers. Unfortunately design is a completely different world and what works with devs does not work with designers. So after growing our design team at UX studio from 2 to 20 people, I share my learnings with you about how to work with designers.

How to give designers tasks and keep them motivated?

Just like engineers, designers are also problem solvers. We like to get painful user problems to solve. You can ask me to change the color somewhere or put a button on a screen, and I will probably do that, but I really like to get challenging problems where I can do my research build prototypes, do user tests, and come up with a solution that will raise our product to the next level. So give designers bigger challenges like: “We should redesign the sign up flow to decrease drop-offs” or “add a new reporting module to this business app, so users can easily present their results”.

Designers and UX researchers will be motivated if you give them important product issues to solve. Frame them from the user’s perspective, and tell them why the given problem is worth it to be solved.

Also give them free hand with the solution and enough time to go through their process. Many people think design is just a quick task before development, which is not true in many cases.

When you give them a task, the best designers will always ask back instantly “why?”. Not because they don’t trust your judgment, but because they will ask for every small detail and background information that will help them during the design process.

What to expect from a design team?

Designers can help product people a lot. Let’s take a look at all the things we can do to make your life easier.

The role of design is to build a bridge between humans and technology, so a design team’s most important goal is to get to know your customers really well. That’s why we have UX researchers working besides designers, because good design needs a lot of research. The design team has to bring new insights from your customers all the time. They have to know and communicate what are their pains and needs. The design team should also deliver insights from your products or prototypes. They have to tell you what people understand (or don’t understand) in your product, where do they get stuck, and what are the annoying usability issues. This is essential to design a product that works well.

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Agile development doesn’t just mean faster turnarounds and sprints. In an agile product team everyone is aware of the customer’s problem we solve, and everyone can make decision and react on issues. Design workshops, like persona, jobs-to-be-done or customer journey workshops can help the team to get a better understanding of customer’s pains and needs. These workshops are fun, and they are also useful to align the team and get everyone on the same page. You can expect your design team to facilitate these workshops when you start developing a new product or reach a bigger milestone.

Designers can help with validating new feature or product ideas. The best designers always adjust the sophistication of their work to the given design phase. When they work on a new feature, they start with paper sketches to communicate ideas quickly, then they do clickable prototypes to test different solutions with real users. These are low-fidelity materials, the goal is to get feedback quickly. But when time comes to development designer can also create pixel-perfect, detailed UI design plans.

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Designers are not the genius artist types any more, like you see on Mad Men. The best designers are not the ones who create one concept and push it through the whole team with a cool presentation. The best designers always explore many different solutions for a problem and share them with the team. They can tell you what are the advantages and disadvantages of each one. They also share research and test results, and they let the team choose the best direction together.

Designers has to work well with developers. The truth is noone likes to read written documentations, so the final UI design and the clickable wireframes are the best specifications for any software feature. As they say, an image worth thousand words, and a prototype worth thousand meetings. It is just easier to understand and can save you from many misunderstandings. The best designers also use tools like Zapier or Avocode to help coders to get the necessary parameters from the design files.

What do designers expect from a product manager?

It’s a no-brainer, but the most important thing a good product manager can give to its team is clear goals. We have to know the vision we have behind the product, which means who do we design it for and what problems do we solve with it? Besides the long-term goals, a simple, high-level roadmap is also good, to communicate the most important areas we have to cover to achieve our goals. The goals and the roadmap has to be crystal clear to everyone in the team, not just designers.

Design takes place in the early-phase of the product development, when we still have many open questions. So unfortunately it is difficult (if not impossible) to predict the time certain design tasks will need. Sometimes we just need a few iterations, sometimes a lot more. Don’t expect designers to do perfect job for the first time, no one can. Let them do their design rounds, as many as they need. One more week of design is not a big cost for a feature that will serve your customers for years.

Designers and researcher will ask you to access existing customers. Give them the chance to visit or talk to real customers. It is impossible to design for someone who you’ve never met. Designers are usually very good in communication and empathy, so you don’t have to worry, they won’t bite your precious clients.

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The design team will also need access to usage statistics. Sometimes it is enough to share your analytics tools, but in some other cases they will have questions you can’t answer with these, so a database expert will have to help them and dig into raw data.

Design is not just a task you give out to your designers, it will need your active participation. First of all, be available on online and offline channels, because designers will have many questions while they work. You will also have to attend design meetings. In our UX minimum checklist we propose week-long design sprints with a design meeting every week, where the product manager and someone from the developers are there. Designers will also do workshops time to time where product people, or sometimes the whole product team has to attend.

Designers will also ask for feedback frequently. Feedback is essential part of design, so please spend some time with it. Designers are used to getting feedback from many different people, so you don’t have to be too polite, honesty is more important. You are welcome to tell your concerns, but you also have to highlight the things you like. The best is to use the 3+3 formula: tell the 3 things you like in the design and the 3 areas you would improve. The best designers will always ask you why you like or not like certain things. This is a very important question, because it will help them to understand your thoughts and step forward. So if you want to give good feedback tell designers why you love or hate something. If it is hard to describe your thoughts by words, you can still look for other good or bad examples on the internet. Saying “I miss the wow effect from this website” will not really help the designers. Show them an other site that has the “wow effect”, and they will understand better what you mean.

I hope these tips will help you to work together with your beloved designers and UX researchers. Just treat them well, and they will do an enormous job to make your product successful. If you want to learn more about UX you can also download our ebook: a product manager’s guide to UX design.

About the Author

david-pasztor.jpgDavid Pasztor designs digital products for more than 10 years. He is the founder of UX studio, a 20-person user experience company in Budapest. They have Berlin, London and US-based startups within their clients, as well as international brands like HBO. David also teaches design on his own design course, and he was invited as guest lecturer to various universities

4 Lessons That Set My Mind About Becoming a Product Manager

Guest Post by: Sean Echevarria (Mentee, Session 3, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Dustin Levy]

Image result for product managerTwo years ago I threw myself into the deep end of the Silicon Alley tech scene here in NYC. I joined a growing user experience agency called Motivate Design, without having any real knowledge about UX and its function within product strategy. And I caught what some might say was the product bug! I signed up to be a mentee for the third session of The Product Mentor to learn how to break into the space even more.

The session has given me the chance to gather a lot of industry knowledge and have great conversations with my mentor. His advice and the know-how shared by others through the live stream presentations have made me think a lot about whether product management was the path that I wanted to take in my career. But before I tell you what my next steps are, let me share with you the top four lessons I’ve learned by participating in this program.

IDEAS CAN COME FROM ANYWHERE IN A COMPANY

Image result for ideas from anywhereThis is a belief that I’ve always had well before being in the tech space, but it seems that we live in a world where this concept is still not fully supported by everyone. Companies still isolate innovation to a lab or a new product development team, and the reality is that ideas can come from anyone whether they work within engineering, sales, marketing, etc. The ability of a PM to pull ideas from everyone and filter them to meet customer needs is truly the mark of someone who knows what they’re doing. 

RESEARCH IS MANDATORY, NOT OPTIONAL

This didn’t come to me as a surprise; I would say that in the UX space you should always start with research so that you can gather insights that will drive your design process. That being said, coming from a company that focuses on qualitative research methodologies (usability testing, in-depth interviews, and Friendship Groups™) it was interesting to hear that one of the balancing acts that PMs deal with regularly is the balance between qualitative and quantitative research. However, it seemed that it was unanimous that a great PM will do their best to conduct both and collect as much data as possible, even if they have to be resourceful.

SOFT SKILLS > HARD SKILLS

Image result for soft skillsYou hear it time and time again from successful entrepreneurs that you hire for passion and the person and then skills come secondary. And I’ve always found that interesting considering we still live in a world that highlights all skills and accomplishments via the dreaded resume (can’t really show passion there). However, after several conversations with my mentor and other product managers it was quite apparent that this rang true for them. The ability to communicate effectively with a wide breadth of different people and make sure that everyone was working towards a common goal is one of if not the most crucial part of the job.

ALL OF THE BLAME, NONE OF THE GLORY

It seems that no two product managers are the same, but each one did have a similar lesson to share with me. That is, if you’re a good product manager be ready to “take responsibility when things go wrong, and give away any credit when things go right”. This was something that was advised to me time and time again, with the underlying notion that if I want to be a product manager, it better be because I truly care about making products that users love and help improve a business and not because I want credit for building a popular app.

As I continue to learn and grow from those who’ve participated in this session of The Product Mentor and others who have been nice enough to share their insights with me, what I originally only thought I wanted is now what I’m sure I want, and I look forward to growing into a role where I can help bring delight and simplicity to users all over the world through product management.

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About Sean Echevarria
Sean Paul EchevarriaSean Echevarria is currently the Manager, Talent Brand for Jet.com, the shopping site dedicated to saving you money. He also is the co-founder of The UX Lab, a UX Meetup with over 3400 members nationwide and is constantly volunteering and collaborating with the tech/startup community. Before coming to NYC, he co-founded a startup and helped build a million dollar valuation for a patent pending redesign of the standard jar, lovingly called Jar~with~a~Twist. He aspires to take his current product management skill set within the physical space and merge it with his knowledge of the UX digital space to join a growing product team with the right mission.

More About The Product Mentor
TPM-Short3-Logo4The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…

Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…

  • Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
  • Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
  • Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
  • Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community

Sign up to be a Mentor today & join an elite group of product management leaders!

Check out the Mentors & Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

The Deal with Agile

Guest Author: Jay Fox

Big week! The company I work for, The Deal (www.thedeal.com), launched a product  that I have been working on for nearly a year that creates LinkedIn-like functionality for people in the deal-making space using our proprietary data.

Not only is this the biggest new product launch for the company in 5 years, but it represents our first effort in transitioning from waterfall to agile development process. I am extremely impressed with our development team in making this transition – and while we have a long ways to go – we are operating much more efficiently than before.

How the transition has worked to our benefit…

Pre-agile: Long, detailed (read: boring), spec docs taking months to write were handed over to dev, who would take months to write code, and then business side would only see the product when it was in test, right before the given launch date. This caused a lot of frustration for the business side when the envisioned product was not achieved, and even more frustration for the dev side when deadlines were missed.

Post-agile: No spec docs, just weekly product development meetings in which daily scrums between business and dev side were summed up and discussed. I used wireframes to communicate design intent, and people in the meeting could give real-time feedback.

Pre-agile: Virtual Chinese wall existed between dev and business side with communication only happening in formal setting once a week at company-wide meetings. Biz side usually think one thing while dev side thinks another. Usually we wouldn’t find out what the other side was thinking until it was too late and deadlines has passed…

Post-agile: Frequent communication with dev team both in weekly formal setting and in daily chats by the water cooler. Much more open atmosphere of tossing ideas back and forth about design, UI, UX, and dev challenges. Collaboration is the name of the game. I believe this is the sole reason the product that launches tomorrow is meeting its deadline.

Pre-agile: Clients only got involved once the product or feature "went live." Feedback then went into an endless ticket cycle that was never implemented.

Post-agile: Dev set up a client testing site that allowed us to "beta" the new product early on in the development cycle. I even showed clients mock-ups before the testing site was available. This helped define what features we needed to be "launch ready". Plus, even after we launch tomorrow, we will still iterate frequently based on feedback. No long ticket process.

Here’s a screenshot of the main tool:

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A few things we are still working out…

  • How can we be truly agile when a large part of our development is outsourced to a team in India? Going back and forth on tweaks following client input was difficult and often ended up in a game of telephone where what was communicated wasn’t what we ended up getting. This process ultimately didn’t affect the launch date but still wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked. Would appreciate folks sharing thoughts or similar experiences in the comments. 
  • I had a hard time getting client input throughout – pinning them down was tough and so iterating through input was not easy. Ultimately, we will launch the product, then get client input and decide if we’ve got an MVP or if we need to go back to the drawing board. I suppose this is a bastardized version of agile 🙂
  • We were operating without a UX design team – it was really me, the project manager, and the developer, none of which have hard UX experience. Any thoughts? Again, please share in the comments.

Thanks & would love to hear what you think!

Guest Author Bio

Jay Fox has been involved in financial and legal industry product development for nearly 5 years and has recently assumed the role of product director at The Deal (www.thedeal.com). The Deal is a media company owned by The Street (of Jim Cramer fame) that reports on M&A, Private Equity, regulatory issues, and restructuring. Follow Jay on twitter @FoxNY1 or on LinkedIn at http://lnkd.in/c2we8c.

On the Track to Success

Guest Author: Raj Moorjani

Hi, my name is Raj Moorjani, and I am the Director of Marketing at Tracks, and basically the Product Person, for a cool mobile application called Tracks (http://bit.ly/tracksapp). Recently, I took a course in Product Management at General Assembly, created and taught by Jeremy Horn, to more effectively communicate my product ideas to the rest of the company.  Below is my story.

First, some background

Tracks is a way for people to make group photo albums (tracks) in a collaborative way. The app launched at TC Disrupt in May of 2011.  It began as a way for users to share photos around any event or experience in a private way. The app has evolved over the last couple of years, as we have better understood how people use it.

Back in January of 2013, I sat down and analyzed various metrics and KPIs such as Cohort, engagement time, retention, K-factor, and Cycle Plots. By doing a data first approach to product development I came up with a list of improvements we can add to the app.

The list of ideas I jotted down:

From this point, I had a brief discussion with the CEO, and then it was announced that we would be launching a 2.5 version of Tracks in the springtime!

On Track

Fortunately, I had signed up for the Product Management class at GA taught by Jeremy Horn. I learned the tools to be able to more effectively communicate my ideas to the rest of the Tracks team.

The top product ideas I wanted to focus on were:

  • Public Tracks (making it an option for users to make public as well as private Tracks).
  • Redesign of the Track list
  • Track it (ability for users to track any photo they discover to their own account).
  • Refining Twitter Invites (invites sent via Twitter).

I started drawing up the wireframes…


I imagined a redesigned home screen. Focused on the photos and the varying sizes of the pics changing depending upon popularity of them.
The “Track it” button (later renamed to ReTrack) would allow users to take any public photo in the app and place it in their own Track or album.

Here the Track it button would be placed below the photo.

After hitting the button, the user is taken to a screen to select where to put the photo.
Wireframe of a ReTracked photo from the perspective of a user.
Improved invites sent via Twitter by taking advantage of the Twitter card functionality. Instead of just showing a link in a tweet, a Twitter card shows a whole photo with descriptive text. The whole area is clickable to any website. 

Tracks 2.5 – What ended up being built

This is the main activity screen that shows all the Tracks.
Implementation of Public Tracks. Discovering any track around specific tags such as Fun, Love, Friends, etc…
Tap the share button under the photo.
After hitting the Share button, you see an option for ReTrack.
After hitting the ReTrack button the user is taken to this screen to select where to ReTrack the entry to.

Track to Success

Launch Day and Apple’s Feature on April 16th, 2013!

Then got some great press …

Now, I am heavily involved in the product direction of the app and we’re working on some really big things for the next version.

Thanks & stay tuned!

Guest Author Bio

Raj Moorjani, Director of Marketing, brings more than ten years of digital media experience in both mobile and web environments. He is proficient in employing state-of-the-art data analytic tools to evaluate and increase user acquisition and engagement. For the Tracks mobile applications (iOS, Android, and Windows), he has used Cohort, ETL, K-factor, retention, funnel, cycle plot, and engagement analyses, resulting in a one hundred percent increase in social connections and installs since the app’s initial product launch. His technical skill set includes expertise in wireframing, storyboarding, and developing roadmaps and preparing FRDs to help implement viral growth strategies. Specific product development contributions to Tracks are Public Tracks, ReTrack, and Twitter Cards implementation. Follow him on Twitter @rajmoor .

The Product Guy: Astonishin’ in 2010!

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Wow! Another year of The Product Guy is now coming to a close… an awesomely astonishin’ 2010! Together we explored many exciting products and enjoyed the perspectives from very smart guest bloggers, from startups to user experience to modular innovation and more — all while getting to meat and speak with many of The Product Guy’s steadily growing readership.

And, once again, let’s take a brief look at the top posts that made this year on The Product Guy so awesomely astonishin’…

#10 Stribe to be Instantly More Social

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

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#9 brainmates Interview with The Product Guy

Two weeks ago I was interviewed by Janey Wong over at brainmates for their brainrants blog. We touched on some really good Product Management topics in which I think you would be interested.

So, here it is, reblogged straight from Australia…

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#8 Why Startups are Agile and Opportunistic – Pivoting the Business Model

Startups are inherently chaotic. The rapid shifts in the business model is what differentiates a startup from an established company. Pivots are the essence of entrepreneurship and the key to startup success. If you can’t pivot or pivot quickly, chances are you will fail.

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#7 Quick-MI Worksheet: Spreadsheet to Sustained Online Success

Over 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.

#6 Modular Innovation 201

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. Let’s get to understand them better.

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#5 Facebook PDQ

In answering the question of Usability, "Can I use it?" the sub-category of Page Load plays an instrumental part. Facebook is one such excellent example of a web product with Prompt Page Load Time.

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#4 Automating the Path to a Better User Experience

Quick-UX evaluates the degree to which a product successfully addresses the following 3 questions: Can I use it? (Usability), Should I use it? (Usefulness), and Do I want to use it? (Desirability). Now, through the help of Google Docs, as I did the other week with the release of the Quick-MI Worksheet, I’m sharing the Quick-UX Worksheet to make it even easier and faster …

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#3 jQuery ThreeDots: yayQuery Plugin of the Week!

I’ve been a fan of yayQuery since shortly after their initial podcast episode. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise and elation when I heard them announce that my ThreeDots plugin was this week’s jQuery Plugin of the Week… almost falling down the stairs as I listened this past Friday while entering the subway here in NYC.

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#2 jQuery Plugin: CuteTime, C’est Magnifique! (v 1.1) [UPDATE]

I am very pleased to announce the latest major update to the CuteTime jQuery plugin. CuteTime provides the ability to easily: convert timestamps to ‘cuter’ language-styled forms (e.g. yesterday, 2 hours ago, last year, in the future!), customize the time scales and output formatting, and update automatically and/or manually the displayed CuteTime(s).

In addition to the inclusion of French CuteTime in this latest release, version 1.1 features: ISO8601 date timestamp compliance, insertions using the %CT% pattern of computed numbers within the CuteTime cuteness, support for all foreign language characters and HTML, Spanish CuteTime translations, courtesy of Alex Hernandez, richer demos and test, improved settings flexibility of the CuteTime function, documentation updates (corrections and clarifications).

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#1 jQuery Plugin: Give Your Characters a NobleCount

In my quest I have been on the lookout for a jQuery plugin that would provide the ability to: (1) provide real-time character counts, (2) enable easy to customize visual behaviors, and … While there are other similar tools out there, none adequately met these goals. Therefore, I created the jQuery NobleCount plugin.

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This year The Product Group grew beyond all possible expectations! Now with 600+ active members in NYC we Product People of all sorts and levels of experience to meet, interact, and network, in a laid-back, conversational environment on first Thursday of each month. Thank you to our sponsors, Balsamiq Studios, RYMA Technology, and Sunshine Suites, and to every one of you who attend, engage and help make The Product Group the astonishin’ success it has become!

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Happy New Year!

Jeremy Horn 
The Product Guy