From the Cheapness of Agile to Investing in the Tangible

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


On Product Management…
Weigh the cheapness of Agile.


On Starting Up…
Invest in the tangible.


On Modular Innovation…
Get done more connected.


On Design & Product Experience…
Administer in style.


Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy


From Observing the Trends of Modular Innovation to Robust Agility

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


On Product Management…

Hone your agility and stretch out in front of this great iterative PO’ing video.


On Starting Up…

All the real (good) entrepreneurs do it!


On Modular Innovation…
Socially speaking, a little bitly goes a long way observing trends within the Modular Innovation ecosystem.


On Design & Product Experience…
Power sketching… as easy as 1-2-3-4-5.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Perspectives: Product Management Advice from Jeremy Horn

As we look towards 2013 and the future of product management, I thought it would be a good moment to post an interview I participated in earlier in the year.  As you look towards 2013 and beyond, what product business models will prove out most successful?  What new product management trends do you expect to see?

Re-blogged from an interview earlier in the year on Openview Labs

Over the course of more than a decade in the Internet industry, Jeremy Horn has witnessed some pretty seismic shifts in the constantly evolving technology landscape.

One that he’s particularly happy to see is this emerging trend: Companies are no longer afraid to ask customers to pay for their products.

“That’s a pretty important change in perspective,” says Horn, a Senior Director of Digital Products at Viacom and the creator of The Product Guy blog and The Product Group, a New York City-based product meetup with more than 1,900 members. “Whether customers admit it or not, if they’re not paying for a product, they’re not married to it or invested in it. When they commit to it financially, however, it’s a different story.”

Slowly but surely, that shift in thinking has permeated Internet startups, Horn says, encouraging entrepreneurs to quickly demonstrate and deliver value to paying customers, rather than users who might just be kicking tires.

Horn sat down with OpenView for a brief Q&A to talk about why that change has made the concept of the minimum viable product more important than ever, and what advice he would give to startup founders who are trying to get their ideas airborne.

A lot of entrepreneurs spend months or years trying to develop a perfect product. Why do you think that approach and the search for perfection are counterintuitive?

I think building a software company is about three key things: Figuring out who your target customer is, deciding what you’re trying to deliver to them, and choosing how you’re going to get it in their hands. Those are the questions that tend to eat up a lot of an entrepreneur’s early days.

Once you’ve answered those questions, you shouldn’t waste any time building and delivering a minimum viable product. You might fail and you might be embarrassed by what early customers think about your product, but those are two very worthwhile side effects. By exposing your product to your target market, you’re able to test its usability, acquire feedback, and build something better.

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t be afraid of losing early customers because your product has bugs or because it isn’t yet perfect. Yes, you may lose customers because of some early bugs. But those lost customers will also allow you to gain critical knowledge about what the market wants, what features you should deliver, and where your product should be going. In a way, the value of that information is addition by subtraction.

Why isn’t the freemium model a successful means for accomplishing the same goals?

It’s simple, really. When customers aren’t paying for something, they don’t care as much when it doesn’t work. Ultimately, that means that you aren’t going to get good, real-time feedback that can help you build a better, more responsive product in the future.

Additionally, if you don’t charge for your product, what does that say about it? Unfortunately, customers associate free products with lower quality, viewing them as substitutes for higher quality, more valuable alternatives. So, when users finally decide that a free product isn’t doing the trick anymore, guess where they’re going to turn?

When you charge for your software, you’re assigning a value to it. You’re telling customers that your product’s value is justified by its capabilities — like unique features, fantastic customer support, groundbreaking technology, or superior user experience.

Why is it so critical for startups to establish key metrics and how does lean methodology factor into early stage product management?

The old adage “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” is applicable to virtually any online startup. I firmly believe that you can’t drive a product by gut feeling. You have to measure your progress, monitor your missteps, and mark your course, using all of that information to make relevant, meaningful improvements to your product strategy. If you’re not doing any of that, how can you be sure that the things you’re doing are driving the business in the right direction?

As for lean methodology, it ultimately helps businesses measure the value that they want to permeate throughout their companies. It’s a way to develop hypotheses, test them, iterate, and repeat until progress is made toward a key goal. Every company executes product management a little bit differently; some prefer lean methodology, while others might favor product sprints or Kanban. A startup founder or product manager’s goal should be to find the one that works for his or her team and make sure everyone adopts it.

The Product Guy: Astonishin’ in 2010!


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.


#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…


#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.


#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.


#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.


#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 …


#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.


#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).


#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.




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!

IMG_0700 IMG_0705 IMG_0713

Happy New Year!

Jeremy Horn 
The Product Guy

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

01_luke Guest post by Luke Hohmann of Enthiosys.

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

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

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

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

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

Push the big red button labeled “STOP”.

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

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

“bad” Product Management deliverable >> NO deliverable

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

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

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

What do you need permission to create badly?


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


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

Product Process, HomeField Advantage & More Joy in June!


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

BTW, we are working towards securing a new venue for June. Please contact me ASAP if you can help out.

Our group had a great time discussing Product People-oriented topics.


Over the 2+ hours we discussed…

Featured Product: HomeField
exploring the product, its challenges and successes, from user acquisition and marketing to user testing and social strategy (very special thanks to the HomeField team: Reece Pacheco, Dan Spinosa, Joe Yevoli)

Product Process
from the benefits and challenges of agile to feature prioritization to bug and idea management techniques


The Product Group meet-ups are an opportunity for Product People (managers, strategies, marketers, etc.) to come together to meet, interact, and network in a roundtable setting. It’s awesome to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational gathering like this one and I am looking forward to seeing everyone, new and familiar, at our next meet-up …

Thursday, June 3rd @ 7PM

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


Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

P.S. If you or an organization you represent would be interested in sponsoring or hosting an upcoming gathering of The Product Group please contact me.

From Debating Stack Overflow to Re-designing Janko

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.  Have a great weekend!


On Starting Up…
Questioning the value-add of venture capital, from 37Signals to Stack Overflow.


On Design & Product Experience…
The agile processes behind the re-design of Janko.


On Modular Innovation…
Twitter… Is it the glue of Modular Innovation?


What are you reading this weekend?

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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