Saturday, January 22, 2011

Slide Share for Market Research

So a couple of weeks ago I blogged about how I use twitter to make my job as a product manager easier (Check it out here). However, there are some deficiencies with Twitter which I will briefly describe and then I'll dive into another tool I have used (and continue to use) SlideShare.

Twitter Challenges
  • Perhaps It's just me, but I don't really find twitter for researching topics outside of the folks I follow. For example, If I'm doing research for "online marketing" on twitter...the results are just not that helpful. If your network on twitter is not strong in an area of research you have to go find folks to follow and it just isn't quick or easy enough to identify experts and move forward. I want my research on the quick!
  • The strength of twitter being only 140 characters, can also be a weakness. It can be harder to determine if the link is meaningful enough for me to click on. I find myself clicking on shortened URLs trying to find something and it's just not a good use of time. This is where search is easier in my opinion.
SlideShare, on the other hand, has rich content and is easily searched. It's a great source of secondary market research. You don't always have access to analyst reports, etc., but you can find some content online at SlideShare. The slides are great and very visual which, as a product manager who sometimes needs to convey complex topics in an easily understood fashion, is very valuable. There is so much great content there, I can easily spend hours. Check it out here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Understanding your Product - Product KPIs

Many times, Product Managers focus on the launch of the product and then they are off to focusing on the next product or the next feature. They don't realize that the launch of the product is just the beginning. It's time to understand and validate those assumptions you made when building the product. Do you really understand how customers are using and interacting with your product? Do you understand how the product impacts the customer?

Here are some key metrics to measure and ideas to help you better understand your customers:

  • Think about Measurement when Building - Often times we are so focused on building the features, we don't think about how making sure we can measure and understand the product's usage afterwards. It's OK to pay a little bit of a cost penalty to make sure you have the data you need to inform your future decisions and your management. 
  • Weekly KPI Dashboard - Collect the data on a regular basis. I prefer to aggregate that data in Excel with a sheet called "Dashboard" that has a visual display of several graphs while all the other sheets contain all the raw data. There are several benefits to collecting and knowing this data. For example, any time an executive asks me about the product's usage I typically know the answer right off the top of my head while other product managers are left scrambling to find this data. While you may have data warehouse systems or analytics packages that help with this, I prefer using them to store all in the information in one place. Collecting and aggregating this weekly is one sure way to stay on top of what is going on with your product! Use that data to drive conclusions!
  • Talk to your Customers - Ask your customers. I know that sounds simple, but too many product managers are not talking to their customers. What problems do they face in general? Or using your product? What features would they like? Why?
 Let me know what you think about these ideas...feel free to post a comment.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The 3 A's of hiring

So I've done my fair share of evaluating employees and hearing about how others determine who to hire. I've heard one manager list out what he looks for in a potential employee and I thought I'd pass along with my own perspectives. So here they are, the 3 A's of hiring:
  • Attitude - Does the employee have the right attitude? This is very difficult to measure in a short interview. Here are some techniques/ideas that you may find helpful.
    • I would suggest focusing on difficult or challenging situations and probing deeply into what the candidates initial thoughts facing that situation and how they handled it. This line of questioning can also help you determine tHe emotional awareness/intelligence that the candidate possesses. 
    • Another area to look at is at their LinkedIn recommendations. Does the candidate have any recommendations and, if so, do they reference their attitude. Obviously these should be taken with a grain of salt, but look for common themes across several of them.
    • How does the candidate carry themselves in the interview. Are they smiling and actively listening? Are they prepared? Nothing turns me off more than a candidate who has not done their homework. Have they read about your product/company and, if possible, used it. 
    • One interview question I read recently (click here for top 2010 Interview Questions) was "You just inherited a pizzeria, what is the first thing you do?". I think this question can really help gauge how a person would approach a problem and what their attitude would be.
  • Aptitude - Can the employee adapt to change and succeed? How well can they learn? I can't tell you how many jobs I've had where I have gone back in time and looked at the original job description and realize that what I am currently doing in that same job is totally different. Situations and environments change, is the candidate comfortable with that. You can ask questions during the interview about their experiences with change and learned a new skill and how they and others dealt with that.  Do they invest in learning and can they adapt quickly to change?
  • Ability - Do they have the skills to even do the job? Have they done it before? Can they speak with specificity on what they have done? 
    • I can't tell you how many times I have interviewed someone who claims to have written a business case and then the more I probe, the more I find out that someone else wrote the finance section, someone else wrote the strategy section, etc. If you are looking for someone with a great deal of experience they should be able to list out a litany of examples.
    These are 3 criteria that I have started using to help me identify and rate candidates. There are many more such as team fit, etc. that can be used...but I like these...

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    "Growing" your team

    No, I don't mean how to make your team bigger by adding more people. I mean how do you get your team to grow as a team. How do you get them to trust each other and constantly strive to be better? Of course the first thing everyone always says is "Have you read 5 Dysfunctions of a team?"

    But I wanted to present some of my personal observations both when I managed people and now as part of a scrum team. Here they are:
    • Treat individuals as individuals - Folks are at different levels and places in their careers. Some are seasoned veterans who have stepped up and are leading the team, while others are followers. Not everyone is the same and no blanket rules apply. If someone has a particular strength try to accentuate it and improve their weaknesses. Who have to trust your team and guide them. For example, in one of my previous jobs I hired an information architect/technical writer who was very skilled. Rather than try to tell him to do this or that, I worked to give him the tools and guidance he needed to succeed. I let him teach me more about his style and work and then adapted my style to his. This technique really worked!
    • Always Raise the Bar - Challenge the individuals on the team in different ways. As they grow in their capabilities, continue to raise the bar. For example, let's say you have a natural technical leader on your team who was unable to influence the team on a particular matter. Use this as an opportunity to brainstorm and discuss what happened and how it could have been differently. When you wait to discuss an opportunity for improvement you fail to raise the bar! I think sprint retrospectives are a great opportunity to be transparent, but the team can easily fall into a routine of only highlighting items outside the team for the challenges. For example "The business does not know what it wants" or "The server is not working". You have to recognize this and look to challenge the team to understand how they can participate in the solution.
    • Be transparent - Constantly share your feedback, but also expect and embrace feedback. I have worked with a lot of folks who are so reserved you never know what they are thinking. I have found these folks so hard to read that they don't motivate the team since no one knows where they stand. This is easier to say than do. 
    • Enjoy Yourself - Too many times it's easy to get caught up in a moment or are frustrated about a particular person or difficult goal. Enjoy what you do and more importantly enjoy who you work with!
    Just some thoughts and experiences...

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    How I use Twitter to make Product Management Easier

    The rise of social media has really revolutionized the tools I use for my product management duties. Over the past several months I have been using Twitter to really help make my life a little bit easier. Here's how I use Twitter and related tools:

    How I use Twitter

    • Listening to your customers - I like to see what our customers or prospects say about us. Do they like our product, are they complaining about a feature, are they happy about a new feature launch, etc. Just watching the tweets helps give me a feel for how some segment of our customers are responding. Often times, I read a tweet and forward it to the appropriate team/person. For example, if someone tweets about the great service they receive, I take a screenshot of the tweet and send it to the support team to give them some kudos.
    • Listening to your competitors and their customers - The first thing I did when I installed Tweetdeck (see more in the Tools section below) was to add columns for searches for them and I started to follow them. Now I know when their customers are complaining, when the announce a new feature, what tradeshow or marketing event they are going to, etc. I get to see how their customers are reacting to them and all of this happens in real time. I typically check out tweetdeck on my phone whenever I have a free moment, just to stay on top of it. You have to be careful to not check it too often or it will suck up too much time :)
    • Gather Market Data - This is really cool! Before twitter I used Google and it just wasn't effective...It took forever to get through the noise of all the search results. Often times I would click a link and the content wasn't helpful and then have to go back to the search and it just took forever. Now I just add a column in Tweetdeck with some keyword (or hashtag) I am looking for and the research just comes to me! With only 140 characters it is easy to quickly digest the nuggets of information and then find the right content. Because the content comes from people like myself, it is often relevant and helpful.
    • Follow the right people - Easier said than done :). Often times I look to follow key employees of my competition, bloggers who seem to have a lot of good information, and of course employees of my current job. I try my best to use this stream of content to help augment my other twitter streams with content that can sometimes provide more context.
    • TweetDeck - This is a great tool of aggregating a lot of twitter content in a customizable fashion. I know folks who use HootSuite which is a great tool as well.  Check it out here.
    • TwitterVenn - I played with this tool a couple of times. It was kind of nifty but a bit slow. It provides a venn diagram that shows any overlap between tweets with same terms in them. I would recommend playing with it for a little bit by clicking here.
    So if you have noticed I'm not really engaging in a two way conversation with my customers. You might be thinking that takes the "social" out of social media. You would be correct. Depending on your company this may not be desired (some companies have folks whose job it is to monitor and respond to customers). For the time being I just use it to listen and if I find something really useful I can always retweet it.

    Thanks and have a happy new year!