Category Archives: Product Management

How do you get respect for a Strategist without any real world experience? You don’t!

People usually say that Strategists can only think of crazy ideas because they are not the actual “doers” of the work. If they were “doers” then they would not  be coming up with such crazy ideas.

I pride myself because I come a technical background myself. Even though I am a strategist myself and I don’t condone strategists that do not have real world experience  and coming up with ideas. Actually I have really little respect for such people, because they are mostly people that do not like to upset the apple cart. Since Strategy can be so nebulous, it can be made to appease anyone’s thinking especially if people end up designing a strategy based on the HiPPO rule.
          I prefer working with people that have been through the trenches and can empathies with situation of others. Strategist who have history of being the “doers” and getting s*it done are usually the ones that come out on top, everyone else just rides their coat tails.
What you think ?
You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments

3 things that need to be considered when Job Mapping with Jobs to be done

My first blog after a long summer break, I hope all of you had a safe and sound summer as well.  I did catch up on a lot well-deserved reading but somehow my reading list from amazon has not gotten shorter. I bet you if Amazon did a customer lifetime value analysis on me, I think Amazon has probably made quite a pretty penny off of me just on books.
When I wrote the “Jobs to be done” write up on my blog, I did get a few feedback from folks who read it.  Some of them mentioned that the “Jobs to be done” notion sounds great but it is mostly theoretical (Cleary some folks have not read Clay Christensen’s Innovator’s solution), because when have to jobs you want get done in real life there are constraints. To which I thought a little bit and realized, and a little inspiration from the book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by C.K. Prahalad, that innovation is not limited by constraints but actually happens because of it. With realization I went through the process of retracing my steps on activities which forced me to improvise or bootstrap projects in the past, the reason I had to improvise were because constraints along with a few other things such as effort and risk. Considering these limits in mind I did proceed to execute with a series of actions.  I know this sounds trivial because this behavior is so ingrained in us that most of us don’t think twice.  So this blog is dedicated to those 3 things that me realize I had not done justice to my earlier blog on “Jobs to be done”.

Constraints

For innovation to happen constraints can come in various forms. These constraints could be the usual suspects like finance/budget, resources, business model at a micro level or these constraints can be imposed at a macro level such as Political, Environmental, Social, or Technological. There is a reason why such decision-making tools exist whether it is the SWOT analysis framework or the PEST analysis framework. These tools allow us to look at the constraint in an objective way and figure out the right course of action.  I mean think about if these constraints were not put in place how would we have gotten some of the greatest innovations of our time. These constraints become even more relevant as our economy moves on from a post-industrialized society to knowledge driven society. Just think about the Reinvent the toilet challenge held by the gates foundation with a very simple constraint “it should be useable by 2.5 billion people that do not have access simple, hygienic, and sustainable toilets”.

Effort

Beyond the constraint this is usually the top most thing in our mind. I know it because every time I have been given a project my initial request is always more resources and the answer usually is work with what you have.  Because of this limitation, I am forced to improvise and work around ways to get my job done. My usual formula is the get the maximum efficiency with the most minimum amount of effort but it does force me to think in ways that I would not thought in an environment that is more comfortable. That is the other thing comfortable surrounding means bad news to me it means you are going to go stale pretty quickly  (that is topic for a blog later)

Risk

This is the other big one. With everything you do there is an element of risk. The only question you have to ask yourself is what is the threshold you and are team can withstand.  I know there are plenty of books and magazines that romanticize the notion of risk taking, which sound a hell of lot cooler than saying that before a so called rock star CEO was about embark on a risky proposition he/she was sweating bullets. Which is why I am a big fan of things like continuous integration, delivery, A/B testing, and data driven analysis. All these paradigms help reducing the cone of uncertainity that we know as risk. But with all these tools that we have to help us make better decision a few complimentary tools help us in making the right decisions and they are “Observing people and what they do, and sometimes just plain listening”.  Both these non-technical elements that give you ample insight on what you need to do next to innovate (Yes, engaging LinkedIn groups can be a proxy provided that you actually engage in dialog in those groups)
I would like to add a fourth element to this as well (Yes, I know I said 3 things in the blog title, but you folks have not heard from me throughout the summer, so I feel compelled to share with you a little bit more).

Metric

What is the measure of success that people use for the job they want to get done? This dawned on me the other day that in the West, we don’t think about price when we know that a product has a high level of performance and reliability. But if you think about products in the emerging markets, performance is the least of the concerns, their threshold is so low that they want to be able to do basic things at reasonable price.  In both these cases you can observe that the metric of success for one constituent is performance whereas for the other constituent it is the price.  You can take a performance product and place it a price sensitive market but at best you will skim the market but if you listen to price person you might design a product that could not only work in the emerging markets but also in the rest of world there by creating a new market (this is part is a bonus).  The intent of this section to make sure success metric is not forgotten. Too often we get carried away by other things but really do not pay attention to actual metric that will define success for the target constituent. This is something we need to pay attention do and it might just be a statement like “Minimize the time to reinitialize after an emergency to eject thrusters”
Just take a look at what GEis doing on this whole notion of reverse innovation, it really shows that they looking into all 4 things, when it comes to the jobs to be done framework and it’s implementation.
As always I look forward to a very enriching discussion. You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments

The world has not changed. It is just the medium that has

Unlike my past blog posts this is more of me just being reflective on the way the world has evolved over the past decade. People say the world has changed and I believe that the world has not changed but the medium has changed. Those who don’t understand the medium, well they believe the world has changed.
It is funny that these days traditional companies still view their service to their clients based on products and offerings and ignore the complete “experience”. Yes I know experience is a catch all term but in the context of this blog the term “experience” is the culmination of both product and services.
I will be the first to admit, this is not something new, but if you look around the Internet. You will think everyone has found this new talisman to profitability called “experience” or even better “Delighting your customers”. To me terms like “Delighting your customers” does not mean much, what is more valuable is what can you do for them that will make them look better in the eyes of their clients.  That is more meaningful, because you can focus on the kind of jobs you clients want to accomplish.
The web was founded on the principal to allow humankind to collaborate irrespective geographical and political boundaries (it took a while to get there) but it has not changed one thing our innate tendency to be social (matter of fact it has amplified it exponentially). Which is why the power of Web of equalizes the people who consume a service with the people who produce a service. Social computing has now allowed people to be more informed about a product and service and also understand what other people like them think about the “experience” before they commit to such a service themselves.
As most of you know I am very big Apple fan, the reason for that is Apple as a company does not do everything well, but the things that are part of my day to day routine, it does extremely well. Which is why I as a consumer will pay premium for that kind of service. Yes there is a market for a Samsung type client but that is not a demographic that belong too.
What is amazing is that most smaller companies and some big have figured out the engagement aspect of the web and have really created a fan following, where as the rest of the industry is still using the web as an online brochure for their company. In the future companies that will survive are the companies serve their clients well and use the web channel effectively to engage and build a community around them.
There are still companies that still believe that slow and steady wins the race. But unlike in Aesop’s Fables I imagine today’s world there is a big hare competing with 1000’s of tortoises and each tortoise covers piece of the track they are going to race in and they do it really well. By racing like that the hare has already lost the race before it even started because each slow tortoise is a specialist in a micro conversion (i.e. each segment) which all work together in the context of the macro conversion (i.e. win the race).
Companies of the future will all have passionate user base and community. They will have a 1000 tortoises racing and that will enable a more fluid and complete experience against the bigger hare (unless the hare come forward with a 1000’s hares themselves).They will value more what each of their peers has to say instead of “vendor speak”. They will focus and engaging rather just being consumers.
So the net is nothing has changed except the medium ….. and some are just figuring that out
You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments

3 ways to research an Opportunity

I know I am not an entrepreneur but I do know a thing or 2 about intra-preneurship. Working in technology company, every now and then you come across new cool things. Being product manager in my prior incarnation, I have been called a buzz kill  when it came to taking out the “coolness”  from the shiny new thing (Although I must confess I do enjoy working with cool things too). 
          When I am look at cool technology especially since I am in the business of selling software. I have to ask myself the following questions:

  • Does this new solution or cool technology solve a pressing problem?
  • Is the problem big enough that a potential customer is willing to pay for it ?
  • Does the opportunity match with my ability or my teams ability to deliver a solution?
  • Are the profits worth taking the risks?
Granted that one cannot be a complete expert in everything but that is where your ability to research comes in  and I am not talking about going on the internet and searching on the topic.  The internet is one of the few tools in your quiver that you use. 
The first thing you need to do is a frame the problem by asking yourself the following question:
What is the problem you are intending to solve ?
By answering that question you have identified the problem area/s you are going to research (It is critical for any venture actually_ .  Once you have identified the problem then  these are the following 3 areas that I would look at to evaluate the opportunity further:

1 – Meeting with Clients about a potential problem to be solved

Clients will tell you what their specific problems they are facing without even prompting and also the jobs they want to get done. Some might go to the extent on how you should help them to get their job done.  To me clients are a great source innovation. Now if you believe the Henry Ford’s old adage (which I do) “If I had asked my clients what did they want ?  They would have said faster horses”. But when working with your client base, the framing of the question needs to be different   instead of asking them the opportunity problem ask them the kind of work they are trying to accomplish. You may find some surprising inputs that might validate the opportunity at hand. Too many people expect their clients to just get it and understand the problem space they are going after or intend to go after.

2 – Meet with your Business Partners and Sales force

Both of these constituents are hungry to look at new opportunities and they are usually one of the few sources of validation. Business partners are useful because their business depends on you being successful and they also have access to first hand knowledge of why they are being employed by your clientele. 
Your sales force is the other constituent (if you don’t have a sales force then you should go back to doing #1). Sales always wants to win and as they should. They are one of the strongest advocates of  your products/solutions and they would be first one to let you know why they are losing on certain opportunities

3 – Internet based 3rd party research

The internet is truly a boon to doing tertiary research. You can get access to papers written by some well established analyst at a large analyst firm or you can take the simple route of trolling websites where your potential user base gets together to exchange and share ideas. I would go as far to say that trolling forums is just as effective as reading up on analyst papers (there is an art to it, but it can be done). It is called social listening. What do I mean by social listening ?  Well in the “internet of things” there are congregations of people in the virtual world building relationships especially on forums like “Linkedn” or even “Twitter” for that matter. Sometimes, all you have to do is join the right group or follow the right hashtag and you can get your answer/validation of the opportunity at hand. The analyst paper will probably give you a better idea of the market size but these two efforts combined provide a winning combination.
Let me assure you these are not fool proof activities and sometimes no matter how much research you do you may deliver a dud sometimes (just do it fast enough, so that you can course correct early on).
What are some of your ways to research an opportunity ? Appreciate any insight you can provide.
You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments

How to get your business idea going

I am big a fan of Spreecast, but this topic is something that is close to my heart. Some insights on how to implement a business idea and get it going.

Product Management: 5 Ways statistics can help product managers

Statistics was never one my favorite topics but I was reintroduced to it when I went back to school  and now I cannot stop talking about. It also helps that BigData is now affordable to a lot people, cheaply I might add and the fact the predictive analytics is “in” thing right now.
                          I usually get a chance to talk to few new product managers and I am always surprised how little value they give to statistics in general. Yes doing regression analysis on variables may not sound cool but if you master a few techniques you can actually go far. In this blog I document 5 areas where a little bit of statistics can help

Segmentation

If you are product marketer or product manager this is one activity you have to do. Segmentation is critical activity even in the context of a startup.  If you need to create a new niche in the marketplace or focus on a particular type of client archetype or experience this is key. One statistical technique you can use effectively is regression analysis to see which independent variables influence the dependent variable. If you don’t know what I am talking about I would recommend the following books as a great primer on statistics
Heads first Statistics or Statistics in a nutshell  both book happen to be from O’Reilly media because they are actually useful books

Value Analysis  

Every once in a while you are asked what is value or how do you know what is valuable to your client base. In statistics there is a tool you can use called Conjoint Analysis.  Conjoint analysis let you look at different aspects or features and figure out how to maximize and identify the right features and function to deliver by looking at the data (which you should have after meeting your clients). One of the best explanations of Conjoint Analysis is given in the book Marketing Metrics. Conjoint Analysis is very powerful tool and can also give you broad insight into managing your requirements better for the various products you bring to market

 

Analyzing trends 

Trends are the anathema of product managers especially if  the trend has already taken a foothold in the marketplace.  Obviously the most simple way to spot a trend is a to plot on a graph and see the trend (if you are doing that, it means the trend has already taken hold and you are late in the game). In order to stay ahead of trend and if you are constantly engaging with your clients, you should be able to see what variables are important to them. There are some tools like binomial distribution that can help in identify a trend manifesting in a sample survey you with your client base. Binomial distribution can always provide a good proxy for a full blown research effort but they can offer a quick an dirty way to get an idea of what is going on.

Client Satisfaction analysis 

I am big fan of Pareto Charts or most commonly known at the 80/20 rule. You can  identify the top issues that matter to clients and focus your efforts in remediating those top concerns in your overall user experience. There are plenty of credible examples of how to develop a pareto chart but the simplest explanation that I have read is on a blog written by blogger Duncan Haughey. Please check out his blog at the following URL:  http://goo.gl/4E2VV

Quality

The definitive book in this context is Katrina Maxwell’s book called Applied Statistics for Software Managers 
There simple regression analysis techniques that Katrina highlights that can be used not only by software managers but these techniques are applicable to anyone launching a new product whether it be software or hardware manufacturing
As you can statistics can be applied very effectively in product management activities and just like everything you can provide context. I do want to emphasize just looking at raw data would not do, you actually need to get out of the office and talk to clients and get the data.  You can use other 3rd party research to do the same.  The emphasis on using statistics will start to happen more and more in every one’s jobs as Big Data infrastructure continues to be accessible to people.

You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments

Social Media: 5 Rules to engage in social media

I don’t claim to know everything about social media and honestly I am learning more everyday by listening my friends on Facebook, my connections on LinkedIn and my followers on Twitter. It annoys to me to no end when people use social media as a way to broadcast their own voice. Social media is not another broadcast mechanism, it is way to engage.




Rule #1: Don’t just broadcast take genuine interest in the people you connect with. Do you really want to be the person that you encounter in a social outing that just talks about himself or herself.  Remember “The Jimmy” episode from Seinfeld, you really don’t want to be that.



Rule#2: Don’t try to be everything to everyone. You cannot make everyone happy. As a Canadian one of my favorite band is the Bare Naked Ladies and I can’t help but use few lines from their song “Everything to everyone”


You know all the right people 
You play all the right games You always try to be everything to everyone Spin around and fall down, do it again You stumble and you fall Yeah why don’t you ever learn Spin around and fall down, do it again”

This relevant even in Social media. Narrow your focus, if you want to have a following, focus on few areas. You don’t need to be on every social media outlet possible, focus on few and focus on those topics that are close to your values and interest. Believe people will appreciate you for that


Rule#3: Write with a purpose. This is the hardest part and builds on top of Rule#2. The areas that I like to focus is on Product Management, Strategy, and Social Media. That is pretty much what you are going get on this blog. If your not clear about your purpose in social media, you are not going to get far

Rule#4: Give something of value to your audience.  If you expect your audience to do something for you, you need to give them something first that is important to them. I would recommend that people the book “Influence” by Robert Cialdini
Try it out and you will see engagement happen


Rule #5: Keep at it. It is easy to give up. It always takes an effort to get things going. Some times things take off quickly some times thing don’t. Don’t be discouraged, use it as a learning experience, improve and keep at it. 




These are just 5 simple rules that can help when you want to start interacting in social media . So if you are blogging, tweeting, Pinteresting, Facebooking, or whatever your social media platform you use, these rules should apply to them equally. Just one request though, figure out where you want to engage with your audience instead of taking a scatter shot approach. That will also be helpful.

You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments