If you’ve found this blog….welcome. But, as of June 2010, the blog is now hosted on http://www.onproductmanagement.net.
Head over there for current content.
If you’ve found this blog….welcome. But, as of June 2010, the blog is now hosted on http://www.onproductmanagement.net.
Head over there for current content.
Year 1 – Happy (belated) birthday to us!
It’s become a bit of a tradition, missing our birthday by a day or two.
Officially it was June 1, 2010.
Well, no one else remembered. 😦
By my count we had 135 posts last year, so we’ve kept pace with the previous years of about 140 posts per year.
A more formal birthday post is coming in a week or so.
We’re going to be doing some maintenance on the blog in the coming days. Most of it should be transparent to you, but we are moving hosting providers so the site may be down for a short period while the various DNS settings are propogated wherever they need to go.
But don’t worry, we’ll be back. There are other changes to the blog that you’ll notice over time. We’re looking for ways to grow the blog and serve the community better.
If you have some ideas or suggestions, send them our way. You can leave a comment or email us at:
onproductmanagement (at) gmail dot com
From only 3 events a couple of years ago — Silicon Valley, Austin, Toronto — the number of ProductCamps has grown steadily. In fact, there are 3 events in the next 8 days, and there are 9 events on 3 continents in the next 2 months! I find that simply amazing.
Here’s a list of upcoming events:
You can get more information on our Events page.
And if you’re in the Toronto area, why not come to our event on May 30th?
If there’s one company that is the envy of the high-tech community these days, it’s Apple. Steve Jobs is hailed as a genius CEO and lauded for a string of hit products. Apple’s market capitalization is over $200 BILLION dollars currently, easily ranking it in the top 10 companies in the world by market cap, and just shy of Microsoft for biggest technology company.
Everyone wants to understand the secrets of Apple’s success and hopefully emulate them. The reasons given by people for Apple’s success are many. The following are a few of the arguments made:
1. Vertical integration – Apple owns most of, if not the entire, technology stack for its key products, and thus gives it advantages over other less vertically integrated products.
NOTE: “Vertical integration” used to be called “being proprietary” and was given as the reason for Apple’s relative lack of success against Microsoft in the OS/PC battles of the 80s and 9os. But phenomenal success has a way of changing people’s minds.
2. Making markets vs. addressing markets – Some claim that Apple doesn’t ask people what they need but gives them products they decide they want.
Does anyone NEED an iPhone or iPad? Not really, but a lot of people seem to want them.
3. The Cool Factor – Let’s face it, Apple does make “cool” products. Attention to design and detail – fit and finish as they say – really distinguishes Apple’s products from competitors.
4. Entering markets after they’ve developed — Contrary to #2 above, some people claim that Apple doesn’t make markets but enters existing markets once they’re growing and takes advantage of latent demand.
The iPod was not the first digital music player and the iPhone was not the first smart phone, and the iPad is not the first portable computing device. In the case of the iPad, products like the Kindle and Netbooks actually paved the way for the market to accept small computing devices, and Apple’s iPad is riding that wave.
5. Differentiated business models – whether it was iPod+iTunes or the iPhone+App Store, Apple innovates not just on technology, but on the business model. This makes it difficult for competitors to play catch up, let alone overtake Apple once it establishes itself in a dominant position.
6. People care about the experience not technology — Apple has always been about the user experience, but for a long time, the majority of the market didn’t care about that.
The majority of desktop computer users cared about “techs and specs”. Now the tables have turned, and the majority don’t care about the specs, they care about the experience. The iPod, with it’s “1000 songs in your pocket” motto and iTunes which radically simplified purchasing music latched onto the experience wave, and Apple has been riding it ever since.
7. Simple product offerings – Apple has a very clear and simple set of products. It’s easy to understand the differences between their products, product families and the various configurations. This makes it easy to buy an Apple product if you want to.
A lot of companies complicate things unnecessarily. How many iPhone models are there? How many Blackberry models are there? How many Nokia smart phone models are there? See the difference between Apple, RIM and Nokia?
The same is true for the iMAc, the iPod and the iPad. Granted, there are actually a number of iPod models (Nano, Shuffle, Touch etc.) but they are very distinct amongst themselves. This can’t be said for digital music players from other companies.
I’m sure there are other reasons for Apple’s success, but it’s interesting to see how much debate is happening today on this topic. What it says to me is that there is no single reason for their success. And keep in mind that Apple has had failures as well. Notice Apple doesn’t talk much about Apple TV. And remember the G4 Cube? The 20th Anniversary Mac? Even the ultracool MacBook Air has had far from stellar success.
So, what do you think are the reasons for Apple’s incredible success over the last 10 years?
Only 12 more days until ProductCamp Toronto.
It’s on Sunday May 30, 2010 and will be held right downtown at the Ted Rogers School of Business near Yonge and Bay.
Here are links to more information on the event. Remember, the thing that will make ProductCamp successful is your participation: Attend, Speak, Network, Share, Volunteer. However you want to participate, we look forward to seeing you.
Pre-registration — Almost 200 people have already registered, but if you haven’t done so, go to our pre-registration site and sign up. It’s FREE to attend and lunch will be provided. We’ll feed your mind AND your body. – http://bit.ly/pct-reg
Sessions and Voting — You can suggest sessions, vote on existing ones and even sign up to speak if you want to deliver a session. Go to our session voting page and have your say. – http://bit.ly/pct-sessions
5 minute talks — Have something you want to share, but don’t want to commit to a full session? We’re providing a new format of 5 minute talks for people like you. Come on, everyone has something to share and it’s only 5 minutes of your time. We even have a (5 minute) video explaining how to give a 5 minute talk. – http://bit.ly/pct-5min
Keynote speaker — Stephen Pollack, software industry veteran and former CEO of PlateSpin — one of the fastest growing technology companies in Canada when it was acquired by Novell in 2008 — will be leading of the day with an insightful 30 minute talk based on his experiences in the industry. It’s more than worth the price of admission 🙂 and certainly a reason to get up early and make it to ProductCamp. – http://bit.ly/pct-keynote
Industry analyst — Tom Grant, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research will present at ProductCamp. Tom is a former Product Management executive and covers the areas of Product Management, Product Marketing, Agile Development and Social Media. We’re looking forward to his thoughts and insight. – http://bit.ly/pct-tgrant
Giveaways and end of day reception — After the day of learning is over, we’ll be holding a reception and giving away books and other items provided by our sponsors and contributors. These include 280 Group and Pragmatic Marketing as Platinum Sponsors, as well as Sequent Learning, Quantum Whisper, Rich Mironov and BlackBlot Product Management.
So there it is. A great day of learning and networking, the chance to win some great prizes and a free lunch. Sign up now. http://bit.ly/pct-reg
Steve Johnson has a video on his site that shows a wonderful optical illusion. I’ve embedded it here for your viewing convenience.
This video is a great example of how important a role perspective plays in how we interpret our environment.
Perspective is also incredibly important for people when researching, designing or building products.
Specifically for Product Managers, it’s important to be conscious of how your perspective (your background knowledge, assumptions and existing viewpoints) on a situation influences how you interpret it.
To maximize your perspective, and avoid false assumptions and conclusions, try to get as many inputs as you can when researching requirements. This does not simply mean talk to more people, but make a conscious effort to to improve your domain knowledge, document and validate your assumptions clearly, and talk to different types of people in different roles, in different types of companies and with different needs.
It’s actually quite amazing how much insight you can gain by consciously broadening your perspectives on a given situation.
DOWNLOAD AND LISTEN to the interview with Lewis Cirne.
Lew’s first company, Wily Technology, was a classic garage-based tech startup (actually started in his living room in Santa Cruz) that grew from one person to 300+ people before being acquired by CA in 2006 for $375M. (Full disclosure: I worked for Wily as director of strategy from 2003 through the exit.)
After a year with CA and some time off to reflect, Lew started again, solving a similar business problem, but with a mission to hack out the massive cost of sales associated with most enterprise software. Lew points his team to the craftsmanship of the iPhone, and the friction-free design of Facebook and Twitter as models for New Relic’s enterprise offering, and in fact his lead investor is Peter Fenton of Benchmark Capital who also led a huge round for Twitter in 2009.
New Relic is now 2 years old and has over 4,200 customers*. Lew tells us that this approach eliminates as much as 80% of the delivery costs, and takes months out of the innovation cycle. Is the model sustainable? What kind of exits are available to SaaS-based enterprise software companies? What does this model mean to the future of enterprise software?
Check out Lew’s answers in this episode of Take 5: our conversation on leadership, technology, and product management.
DOWNLOAD AND LISTEN to the full interview with Lewis Cirne.
* Errata: The audio uses the number of 40,000 websites; this was my error. Lew wrote me to clear this up: “We collect data on more than 40,000 JVM’s or Ruby Instances every minute, which does not correlate 1:1 with applications. (Many apps aggregate across multiple JVM’s or Ruby runtimes.) I use the 40,000 number to talk about the scale of the data we collect, rather than the size of our customer base. I don’t have up-to-date numbers on the number of actual apps we collect data on, but I would imagine that it’s over 5,000 since we have nearly 4200 production customers now and some of them have multiple apps (some have dozens in a single account). Anyway, just want to be sure we’re not over-representing ourselves.)”
Thanks Lew! Alan
My conference call on PM Metrics with Tom Grant went quite well yesterday. It was a round table discussion with good points made by several participants.
While we did talk about a number of topics, the metrics discussion dominated the first 1/2 of the call.
One of the questions — What metrics should be used to measure the effectiveness of Product Managers? — got me thinking a bit.
My answer on the call was that first the focus should be on metrics for the Product Management organization, and then a breakdown from there on metrics for individuals based on objectives and tasks that support the goals of the organization.
To me that seems like a logical approach, because all other organizations in a company, includes sales, marketing, technical support etc. have metrics defined and measured that way.
So what’s the problem?
So why is it so hard to come up with metrics for the Product Management organization? Well, it goes to the heart of the major issue with hi-tech Product Management today.
And that is that most companies don’t look at Product Management as a holistic function within the company, but rather as a set of individuals or small teams working on a variety of product related tasks.
Look around and see how the focus of Product Management is different in different companies.
Look at how widely the reporting and organizational structures are for Product Management. It is part of Marketing in some companies, part of Engineering in others, a standalone department in others.
Look at the ongoing debates related to when Product Management roles should be defined and introduced in a company.
If you’ve worked in or have been exposed to Product Management in different companies, compare and contrast the tool sets (or lack of them) used by Product Management organizations versus the tools used by other departments to do their jobs.
And if people don’t look at Product Management and it’s objectives in any holistic and standard way, how can they set about defining and measuring key metrics for the Product Management organization?
Metrics should focus on measuring intended outcomes
For Sales organizations, the key metrics (product sales/bookings etc.) are directly tied to the intended outcome of the function: generating sales and revenue. There are numerous secondary metrics that are tracked such as sales breakdown by product/product family, by deal size, by geography, by new vs. existing customer etc.
And don’t forget all the sales funnel metrics that are used to track progress and success, such as average time to close, win/loss ratio etc. The important metrics are clearly tied to the intended outcomes of the activity of the sales organization.
For marketers it’s a bit more complicated because there are different roles in marketing and different intended outcomes. The two primary outcomes that can be applied to marketing are related to lead generation and market/industry awareness.
And from there numerous metrics can be identified related to number of leads, cost per lead, lead quality, lead to prospect conversion ratio etc.
Metrics for awareness are numerous, but basic metrics focus on “mentions” by press, analysts and other influencers in publications, reports, blogs, and via social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
And what of Product Management?
What is the primary objective of Product Management? In a previous article on this blog entitled Product Management Metrics (part 1), I defined the mandate of Product Management as:
To optimize the business at a product, product line or product portfolio level over the product lifecycle.
To deliver measurable business results through product solutions that meet both market needs and company goals.
I like Don’s definition. Both definitions share the same spirit about business focus, but Don’s phrasing is clearer and more explicit than mine. But I do think that mention of the product lifecycle is needed because that has a huge impact on the objectives and the required focus of Product Management.
Don’s use of the words “measurable business results” is crucial to this discussion.
So what are those business results? Well it depends on the business and the company goals. 🙂
Those goals depend on the many things. Some companies care about revenue. Others care about market share. Others care about profitability. Others only care about getting acquired. And those goals can change with time.
Some choose to be technology focused, while others are sales, marketing or market focused. Some companies have a single product, while others have portfolios of products.
Depending on the company’s goals, size and level of maturity, the market conditions, it’s financial status and it’s overall strategy, Product Management’s objectives will change and so the metrics to measure Product Management will also change.
I’ll stop here, but I’ll pick up this discussion in an upcoming, and long overdue post that will be entitled Product Management Metrics (part 3).
On Wed. May 5, I will be participating in a live teleconference with Forrester Analyst Tom Grant and a number of his clients.
We’ll be discussing a number of issues related to Product Management, but focusing on metrics that are important to the field of technology product management.
I’m looking forward to the discussion and hope to learn as much as I contribute.
You can find more information about the call on Tom’s Forrester blog.