Oct 25, 2010

Product Camp - Bangalore Oct 23rd 2010

It didn't start out as expected, thanks to two flat tires our car ended up with. We missed out on the opening keynote since we reached the venue only at 11 AM. But the event turned out to be a very good experience. On Saturday, a bunch of people including me and my husband turned up at Yahoo! Bagmane Tech Park to participate in Bangalore's first product camp. Because of the delay, we could just catch up the last few points of the session by Vihari, Product Manager from Google. His topic was on product design. It was good to see that he recommended balsamic for low fidelity prototyping.

Key Take-aways from this session:
   * One of his points was on cognitive walkthrough technique with customers. When you are showing a demo or conducting usability testing with customers on new product features/flow, ask this question  - "Before taking action, what do you expect to see?" Were customers able to guess the flow as designed? This will provide good insights related to discoverability.
   * "Keep desirability uppermost while balancing feasibility and viability". What makes a product (or a product feature) desirable for the end customer?

The next session that I attended was on "Designing for video experiences" by Supreet Singh, Microsoft. This was a completely new topic for me as I haven't read up much on video streaming. Though it was slightly more on the technical side, it was useful to learn on adaptive streaming and caching techniques.

I presented the first afternoon session on "product positioning". After the session, I got some good feedback and felt glad that a few people found it to be useful. Though I was presenting to an audience after a long time (almost a year ever since I completed my PGSEM at IIMB), I wasn't feeling nervous. I should thank my 4 year stint in Oracle Toastmasters for getting rid of stage fear. In terms of structure, I had planned out an outline a week in advance and prepared my content accordingly. After the session, I was thinking about areas where I need to improve in terms of my presentation skills.

   * I need to have a lot more examples handy to illustrate what I'm trying to say.
   * Shifting the discussion between the speaker and the audience could be much more smooth so the points conveyed by audience can be captured or repeated to the benefit of others

My presentation is available on slideshare. If you are interested, do check it out -

The last session was a panel discussion on social media, moderated by Amitoj Singh from Wipro. The panel brought out some interesting insights on accountability and ROI in social media initiatives.

   * Rajesh from BrioTribes Technologies brought out an interesting point. For measuring accountability, the three actors involved in advertising are to be considered - brand owner, advertising enabler, customer
  • brand owner - The ads/creatives should talk about benefits customers actually get and shouldn't exaggerate.
  • advertising enabler - Correct measurement of impressions or clicks
  • customer - don't just complain about bad service. Also provide good feedback in case of good experiences

   * On Privacy, Ganga from Yahoo! mentioned that next generations would care much less and so privacy will not get as much attention as it gets now. On attributing the customer's interest towards a brand, he mentioned about customers viewing branded display ads while they browse and the brand gets registered in their minds. When they are actually interested in making a purchase, they search in Google. So the attribution which led to customer's interest is not very clear in such cases.

   * There were also some interesting questions which were discussed - Will social media replace print and TV? What is the worth of a Like?

It was a very useful and interesting Saturday, catching up with ex-colleagues, meeting new people and discussing ideas. Glad to see such forums are getting initiated. As a pleasant surprise, Yahoo! gave us all a bean bag to carry home !

Oct 8, 2010

Enrich your time as a product manager

Based on the points I put together for a presentation in the recent IIMB product manager's conclave, Bangalore

One of the best things about being a product manager is the number of activities one gets to work on in a day. Broadly, we can classify these activities into three categories – strategic, tactical and operational. All three categories are essential in solving market's problems and adding value to your target customers. What matters most is the percentage split a PM allocates in each of these categories in a given time period. There are no fixed guidelines on a percentage split that will work for a successful PM. But the more time a PM spends on strategic activities, he/she can create a bigger impact in the target market, thereby a bigger impact to his/her organization.

Observe how your time gets spent in a week, consciously noting down the different tasks/activities that occupy your time - the interruptions, context switches, phone calls, emails, meetings, casual discussions, status updates, ideation, brainstorming etc. Group your time under the three different categories and compute your percentage split of strategic, tactical and operational activities. If your strategic percentage is higher compared to the other two, you are doing an excellent job. For the rest of us, we have work to do to reallocate the percentages.

First, see if you will be able to delegate the operational activities to business operations and technical sales support teams. If initial handholding is needed, give the required support but eventually they should be able to take care of customer complaints and issues independently. For tactical activities such as product demos and requirements review with stakeholders, requirements prioritization and bugs triaging, allocate a fixed time in your calendar preferably the time of the day when your ideation or thinking hats would like to take a break.

As a product manager, one has to constantly keep abreast of the market situation, industry updates, competition growth and developments in related industries. These would give you useful insights which would help you plan your product roadmap. Subscribe to relevant blogs and news articles and ensure you catch up on reading on a regular basis. Setup 30 minutes in your calendar exclusively for catching up on these blogs everyday. Most importantly, to plan a high impact product roadmap, interfacing with customers preferably face-to-face or at least over the phone will give you a better understanding of their pain points and how your product is solving or not solving those pain points for them.

With inputs coming from all these different sources, it is important that you spend some uninterrupted time with yourself, interpreting these different inputs and brainstorming on how you can evolve your product in the next few months. I have found timeboxing / Pomodoro techniques to be very useful to ideate or brainstorm within a specific box of time.

I hope some of these points are helpful in enriching your precious time as a product manager and launching awesome market oriented products.

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