Tag Archives: Product Management

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

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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

Strategy and Execution – Web Presence and Vanity Metrics

What does being on the web mean? I have asked myself that question several times. Does being on the web mean having a presence mean just another way to show that are you are on board “this shiny new phenomenon”? Well I am glad to say we over that phase. We have now realized that web is valuable and crucial channel to communicate, conduct commerce, and interact with people.
The days of passive information consumption are gone and static web sites where content is not refreshed regularly are destined to be irrelevant. On that note I promise to all my blog readers to be more frequent with my postings, I have so far been posting only 2 month and I promise to post more frequently going forward.
Now back to the topic at hand, typically when people ask about web presence it is either one of the two elements that define web presence for companies. These are what I call the rockstar elements of your web presence. They are mostly focused on the following:
·      The Website
·      Social Media
But let us go back to the fundamental questions. Why is your company on the web?  
What do you intend to do with your website?
 Generally from a marketing perspective, companies treat web presence as another medium of communication i.e. they treat web presence in the same vein as Television or Radio. The problem with that type of thinking is that unlike those in the traditional media, the web is an interactive media. Which means when you publish something that is irrelevant people will not engage with you. The reason why I am making this statement is because even today (yes, in this day and age), there are people that measure the success of a website with the number of hits.  Real metrics are actionable and Vanity metrics are just a great show and tell effort and most of us are too old for that.

What are Vanity Metrics?

Page Hits: if you currently use page hits as a measurement and refuse to believe that there can be a better measurement metrics beyond page hits, well you may not find my this post useful (so you are better off not reading any further because you are likely to get offended)
Based on the diagram above, if I put analytics a contributor to your web presence. But you can only get good analytics if your web presence encourages your community to do something. Page hits mean nothing!!! I repeat Page hits mean nothing!! If you run a web based business and get 4 million hit a day but $0 to show for.  You have ask yourself are you successful ?
Unique Visitors:This is another one of these metrics that means nothing. Ok you know how many unique visitors you got but it does not tell you whether these unique visitors did anything
Time on site: This again is a “wannabe” useful metric. If spend 2 minutes on a site or 10 minutes on a site. What does it mean? I mean think about it. What is this metric saying?
Number of Shares/Likes:With the advent of social media this apparently means something. If some one likes the content you have produced, well that is good. Ask yourself the question “So What?”. Will these folks who share your content actually will be your most vocal advocates. Advocates, now that is something.
Now that I have bashed these metrics, I would usually add an “it depends” clause, but I am not going to. These are useless metrics no matter what the context is. If your audience does not know what web metrics are, these measurements make you look intelligent but you will eventually be called out.

What are Real Metrics?

Like said earlier real metrics are actionable, which means you can actually do something with the information. I am big fan of Pirate Metrics. Pirate Metrics is a term coined by venture capitalist Dave McClure (you can checkout his blog at http://500hats.com). Pirate Metrics are 5 distinct elements of building a successful business. They are as follow:
·      Acquisition: How are people made aware of you?
·      Activation/ Registration: Do the visitors subscribe, use etc.?
·      Retention: Does a one-time user get engaged?
·      Revenue: How do you make money from such activity?
·      Referral: Do your users promote your product?
If you carefully look at the first letters of all the elements it spells out “AARRR” like a Pirate, hence the term Pirate metrics.
Here are some examples of Real metrics
Conversion Rates: Typically when you have a website you want people to do something i.e. buy or download something etc.  Conversion rates for a e-commerce site would be like a number of visitors who buy something
Top Keywords driving traffic to the site : The terms people are looking for to reach your site or associate with you.
Cost of customer acquisition: The money spent in having a visitor buy something
Enrollment: How many clients become free trial users? (If you are using a Freemium model to do business)
Usability and Reliability:  How many problems, issues reported in the forums ?
Churn: How many users and clients leave in a given period of time?
Customer Lifetime Value: How much are clients worth from the initial acquisition to an ongoing relationship?
These are the metrics that actually give you insight on taking the right course of action with your client base. I would not recommend that companies go metrics crazy and get into a analysis paralysis mode.  What I would recommend is that have in mind what your target clientele is and have one metric that matters at each stage of the project. Just like everything else in business focus is an important element.

You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments

Product Management- How to develop a ROI model

This is one of the topics, which causes certain people to either to scratch their heads or completely ignore it (as it is usually associated with the price of something which by the way is completely wrong). I apologize for sounding clichéd but return on investment is about value not price.  Imagine this scenario, I am watching a hockey game on TV and at the final 10 minutes of the game my wife requests that I put the dishes that are in the sink into the dishwasher. Now I am in a quandary do I forgo watching the last 10 minutes of the hockey game to please my wife or miss out on the winning moments of my favorite hockey team and miss out on crucial water cooler conversation at work. Believe it or not this is also a ROI problem. ROI is an integral part or our day-to-day lives. Not all opportunity cost is financial as evinced by the scenario I presented, although it does make the lives of a lot of people interesting if outcomes such as this could be measured.

So when you start looking at deriving a ROI model, you need to go back to the basics. You again start with what is the problem you are going to solve? ROI represents a customer’s expectations from their investment measured against   goal elements like time, money, or resources along with the status of clients to the business. 

Scenario

Imagine this scenario you are a large bakery chain and your baked good are selling like “hot cakes”. The line from the bakery is so long that it goes on for several blocks.  The baker in the front of the line is having a hard time keeping up with the orders. The bakery manager is can’t optimize his supply chain enough and continues to pressure the point of sale staff i.e. the bakers .  The president of the bakery chain states that because of this inefficiency in their supply chain they are losing close to $600,000 at each branch and the profit per branch is 2% of revenue.  As you are aware in the bakery business every penny of profit matters since it is a low margin business.
Now you are provider of an automation system that will solve this problem. Now I want you to understand that solution cost is not the only element to consider when developing a ROI model. There are other elements involved as well such as
  • ·      Solution acquisition costs
  • ·      Maintenance costs
  • ·      Cost of integrating the system into the existing system
These costs you can classify as direct costs and then there are indirect costs such
  • ·      Adding System administrator to the headcount
  • ·      Training to the bakers on the new system
So we now know what the problem is with this bakery and we have seen problem from the baker’s, manager’s, and the president’s perspective (this element is key, you need to empathize with the various stakeholders that your are going to solve the problem for. This is one of the key components for designing your solution as well, checkout my earlier blog).  Let us now proceed to put together an estimated ROI model (it is estimated because it is not validated by the client or even realized via the implementation).
Our solution costs
Bakery Savings
Solution Cost
$100,000
Revenue/Bakery
$600,000
Maintenance Cost
$20,000
Gross Profit @ 2%
$12,000
Integration Cost
$150,000
Branches
100
Total Solution Cost
$270,000
Gross Revenue
$60,000,000
Indirect costs
One Headcount
$150,000
Training all bakery staff
$100,000
Total ongoing costs
$250,000
Total Cost
$520,000
Savings per year
1,200,000
Total Payback
Within 5 months
I understand this is trivial but something like this can actually resonate with a potential client in a presentation. If you have been listening to your community of potential clients to draw up something like this is not hard.
The above ROI model is an estimated ROI model of what the solution might potentially save the client. The alternative is that the client continues lose important clientele or go with a suboptimal solution from a competitor (Maybe this could be a topic for a future blog on competitive analysis, if the readers of my blog demand it).
It would be amiss if I did not provide proper attribution to the book  “The Four steps to the Epiphany” by Steven Gary Blank. I still believe that this is the best reference to client development.
As for what I did when faced with the quandary mentioned earlier in the blog. Well I am still happily married and I know my priorities really well J. I can participate in a different topic at the water cooler @ work. 
You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments

Product Management – Jobs to be done

You can do a lot by observing. you can unearth value by just observing people.  Seeing how they do things or work around things etc. I am reminded of an article written in Sloan Management review by Clay Christensen and other authors of a simple concept called Jobs to be done. Recently I was reading a book where that same statement was referred to again ( the book is called innovator’s toolkit by David Silverstein, Philip Samuel, and Neil DeCarlo) and the statement was “Most companies segment their markets by customer demographics or product characteristics and differentiate their offerings by adding features and functions. But the customer has a different view of the marketplace. The person simply has a job to be done and is seeking to “hire the best product or service do it” or concoct something with an existing solution to address the problem.
                                                               Jobs to be done is a simple concept,  yet sometimes we end up complicating things beyond all the possible means. In some cases when you are building products and you are internally focused or being driven to neutralize a competitors advantage, there is a tendency to “hunker down” and look internally  and assume what the customer perceives to be valuable. Because customers might be buying a competitors products in droves but it does not mean that you start looking inwards and come up with things that do not make sense.  At such times you should be encouraged to look more externally and identify other elements that are frustrating users. Think about it. How did innovations like micro-finance or  mobile commerce come to be? There was a job that was being addressed well by the big players and little players saw a niche filled the gap. The “Job” in the case of micro-finance was to provide financial services to communities with little income. Now I am not encouraging people to go create another NINJA loan market (we already have evidence that does not work), but what micro-finance did was that it encouraged poor villages in South Asia become entrepreneurs and especially enable women in that part of the world to come out of poverty.  I am amazed how such a complex idea so succinctly  stated still continues to make such a difference in peoples lives.

Jobs to be done Old Solution New Solution
Provide
financial services to communities with little income
Get people to put assets as collateral and charge high interest Provide the ability for the entire community  of villagers to get smaller amounts of money that they can start a business  or have the ability to payback

               The case I am trying to make is that innovating is not just the realm of the hip and  the cool but it is also about practical utility. Anything that is practical and designed in a empathetic way has a higher chance of success than something that is hip and cool and introduced way to early in the market space. I think in the current day and age where technology is improving by leaps and bounds we are losing sight of simple things that can drive innovation.

 I would encourage you to try it out yourself and let us have conversation. I can tell you based on my personal experience it has helped me to convey some of the complicated things in life in simple terms.
As always appreciate your feedback via Linkedin, Twitter, or you post your comments in the comments  section of this blog.

           

Product Management – What makes a great product ?

Every now and then a product comes along that changes the way we view and do things. The product becomes a natural extension ourselves and the way we express ourselves. In most cases these products are not net new thinking (i.e. invention) but they innovate upon existing ways. In most cases if you are like me you end up thinking, Duh!! what didn’t think of that!

      Yes, I am little over analytical on matters such as that and sometimes the window opportunity goes away. But there are also times where I don’t think much and just do it, those moments sometimes payoff  but most of the time I end up saying maybe I should have gone slow. In my line of work I get to see a lot of complexity in how we build software and there are a lot of moments where we over think a problem, make the problem more problematic than it already is. After going through several discussions around this topic with folks that much more smarter than me I have narrowed them down to 3 things:

1- Product must be simple 
This to me is the golden rule. When you make your end user or client think for just the basic functions you have lost them. The immediate gut reaction is “If the basic function is so complicated, I wonder how the complicated functions are”. And once that mindset takes hold it is a uphill task to regain any lost ground.  I am not saying that you make your product idiot proof, because that would be wrong and painting everyone with the same broad brush. There can be features that require some advance thinking but those things are not features that everyone uses everyday i.e. the HotSpot  feature on Smart phones, how many people truly know how to use that?

2- Product must understandable 
To this day I have not figured out what was the purpose of the scroll lock key on a keyboard and why is it so important to keep the key on a standard keyboard in the first place? When you don’t make products understandable for basic functions, it makes the end user feel like the product is talking down to them and somehow questioning their intelligence. Don’t do that, you might start alienating people without even knowing it.

3- Product must be complete
Last point is when you think of the basic function or whatever basic scenario you are delivering. Make it complete. A great example of a complete product is a power utility company, when you have electricity the only thing you worry about is flicking the switch and the power comes on.  You don’t even think about how the power gets transmitted to your home. That is a complete product and definitely miss it when it not there because it has become such an integral part of your life

These are just some of my musing on how a product or service ought be delivered. There are several great examples of these ideas in the market place today. Just think of them if these products did not have these capabilities would you have incorporated them into your daily lives.

Strategy – Is Standardization is good thing? I think not!

When some one says Standards or Standardization, what comes to mind? Maybe something that is well known or accepted. In my mind the term commodity comes to mind, which means when something is a standard you have to work really hard to differentiate yourself. This problem is even more acute when you develop products within the confines of your organization.  The general model that worked in the past was that when people developed in a waterfall model. 
                   Standardization also means everyone can do what you do just as effectively and in a cost efficient way. In short when you have a Standard is easy to duplicate what you do and then worst thing happens, you compete on price and not on value.

Value  =  Worth/Cost 

Based on the formula, when you standardize i.e. a standard way of doing things. This means it can developed cheaply and value diminishes because there are many suppliers in the market place that do what you do and hence the worth of what you do lessens and hence value is lowered. In the above formula  worth can be expanded to the following (thanks to Baldor electric company)

Value(product) = (Quality(product) x Service(product)) / ( Cost(product) x Time(product))

So if the quality (from your clients perspective) of your product is indistinguishable from the competition and if the services to implement your product are expensive or not (even though it is standardized). Cost to make the product is less due to standardization and the time to make the product might even be less. You might be able to eek out some value but that value proposition is temporary, eventually (based on the above formula) the value number drop below zero and your product will be a commodity (because it already on a downward trajectory). 
 Standardization is not all doom and gloom, look at it another way if you want to broaden adoption then  go for it (you might not make a significant amount of dollars in the process but people usually recognize the utility of the product). Now  broader adoption can happen if you develop something that your client base values but if you are stuck between  a rock and a hard place, standardization maybe your only option.
Some people may argue that the Windows operating system is a standard and it is still  making money for it’s company, to that I would say yes. But in it’s hey day the switching costs were high for an average user which is why the Windows Operating System enjoyed a high value status. Today there are a lot of substitutes that provide a standardize UI experience, which is why there is now Windows 8 in order to differentiate itself from the standard operating systems.  When you fall into this kind of commodity trap the best way out is to disrupt yourself otherwise if you don’t your competition will do it for you and it will be too late for you to react.
Appreciate your thoughts on this one.
You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments