Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
- Listen, and show empathy
- Be consistent but don't be afraid to admit that you were wrong
- Don't abuse your power or their may be a backlash
- Recognize when things may be escalated, and prepare management
Saturday, March 28, 2009
These small fish maintain so-called cleaning stations where other fish, known as hosts, will congregate. Remarkably, these small cleaner fish will safely clean large predatory fish that would otherwise eat small fish such as these. The cleaner fish get the nutrition that they need, and the larger fish get a service with the removal of dead skin & parasites. This is an example of mutualism, an ecological interaction that benefits both parties involved
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
- they make good money, and/or
- by adding your product into the mix they sell a bigger solution, and/or
- they can sell services alongside your product
- Value proposition. Aka "what's in it for me". Show the partner why their investment is worth their while.
- Training. Show the partner how to sell, how to position, how to do a proof of concept. Give them product for free or at cost.
- Support. Give the partner easy access to help when they run into a stumbling block
- Leads. This is critical - pass good, qualified leads to the channel partner.
- Marketing support. Give the partner assistance with marketing. help them run their own seminars for their customers aka Seminar in a box. Give them easy access to collateral.
- Recognize and reward. Show how much you value their selling, and help resellers grow their business
- An environment of trust. We want mutual business success. Resellers will very quickly drop companies they feel are going to compete with them. I can recall back in the 90s when Novell introduced their own (direct) paid consulting services it caused tremendous friction with the channel. At Netoria, if a deal came through directly that a reseller had initiated, we sent the reseller their margin. Our intention was to stop selling directly altogether, but we were acquired by Novell in 1999 before this could be implemented.
Monday, March 23, 2009
- Some organizations hire another PM/PD - this works temporarily, but usually it isn't sustainable long-term since there are relatively few people who are actually capable of being a PM/PD. Most companies also find that they can't hire an external PM off the street to be an effective PM/PD since that new person simply won't have the in-depth product knowledge or historic context to be successful. Even if these problem can be overcome, the bigger issue with this staffing approach is that it tends to breed a cadre of feature-driven product managers/product designers who ultimately lack business and strategic vision.
- The other approach, which I believe is ultimately more successful, is to begin to delegate PM/PD responsibility and then scale across the functions. This delegation can occur in a number of different ways. The PM/PD can become either a business and market focus product manager with the technical responsibilities farmed out to a technical product manager, product architect, or dedicated product designer. Or, the PM/PD becomes the technical product manager and is backed up by a business-focused product manager.
Monday, March 16, 2009
- Focus on individuals and interactions (over process and tools)
- Working software (over comprehensive documentation)
- Customer and stakeholder collaboration (over contract negotiation)
- Responding to change (instead of following a plan)
Friday, March 13, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Does your product and organization have a clear vision of where you are headed in the next 3-5 years?
Can you explain it clearly to employees, customers, channel partners, analysts etc?
When you do a roadmap review of an individual release, do you explain how it fits into the overall vision?
Do your product people spend at least 20% of their time working out where they are headed (strategy)?
If your answer to any or all of the above is NO, then you're not alone. Your company may be succeeding and winning in a feature shoot out or just by focusing on the next release - tactics are an essential part of business, but by themselves will almost never lead to success (hey, there are lucky people in this world who win against all odds).
The good news is that it isn't hard to create a vision, and it doesn't need to be real. A vision is something that lets everyone understand where you are headed, and is a filter on the roadmap, product and company to ensure that each step is taking you somewhere. Obviously there is a business context behind this vision, which I won't go into during this post, but the vision is really the ultimate output of the business plan.
Instead of describing your vision with words, leverage what we all know, that people remember more of what they see than hear - create a visual vision. Some screen shots, a flash demo, or even a short movie are good examples. In this day of digital editing creating a movie can be very inexpensive, or you can go for the full production values (if you have a nice marketing budget)
The grand-daddy of visual visions is the Apple Knowledge Navigator series of concept videos. You can see one of them here http://www.digibarn.com/collections/movies/knowledge-navigator.html, or do a search across YouTube. Done in the 80s, they were clearly defining a future far ahead of their time, and were not technologically possible to implement (probably not even now). But these videos created a huge amount of buzz, analysis, criticism and praise - the main thing was that Apple was willing to put out a vision of the far future that made them a leader.
When I worked at Citrix we created a similar "Access Navigator" video that really helped to focus the company. I saw the most impact with this within the company, as it helped employees to grok that Citrix was more than a one-trick-pony thin-client company. Like all visions this was useful for a period of time, and then the company continually refined and created how they communicated the vision.
Even done on the cheap a visual vision can be very effective - at one company we had a graphics artist create a series of six screen shots that showed a future system. Every customer and analyst we showed it to loved the vision, but we had to be very clear that this was just a vision and not a prototype (that's the risk). We also got some really good feedback on how it could be changed to be more effective - we ended up having the customers engaged in building an even better version of the vision. Following the vision was always the 18 month roadmap, so the customers could then see how each release took us closer to the vision - it provided a united framework for our whole product strategy, instead of customers just seeing a series of point releases.
This strategy is not without risk - many of your tactically focused colleagues will criticise you for showing something too far out. But they are missing the point. Customers want to engage with companies with vision that align with their own. You're also getting very early validation of being on the right path as you make your visual vision a reality.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Without a doubt the most common competitive strategy that you'll see in the valley is the drag race. It's also the least successful and imaginative.
When companies engage in a drag race they are telling customers that they have similar solutions and the choice should be made based on who has the best features right now. Product Management and Engineering is driven by an endless cycle of trying to 1-up the competition, and often the leader will flip-flop as they each strive to catch up and pass each other.
Ultimately this strategy will always fail. Why? Because all products reach a point of maturity where they do enough for most users. The extra bells and whistles only appeal to a small number of users - while the mainstream now sees that each product as essentially equal.
When you can't compete on extra "gee-whizz" functionality, the inevitable outcome is price competition, and product commoditization. A good example of this is the portable music (MP3) player market (let's ignore the Apple iPOD for the moment) - open up a flyer from your favorite electronics store, and you'll see an endless price battle between the various MP3 player manufacturers - consumers believe that these players all do essentially the same thing - allow you to upload, organize and play music.
There is an alternative - smart companies create their own unique market where nobody else can compete. W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne coined the term Blue Ocean Strategy - "The aim of BOS is not to out-perform the competition in the existing industry, but to create new market space or a blue ocean, thereby making the competition irrelevant."
Their book and framework for describing strategy is essential reading for any business person - why compete when you can create your own unique market space.
Back to the MP3 player example - Apple created a Blue Ocean by linking the iPOD to iTunes, and creating a business selling music (and other entertainment online). No other MP3 player can compete with the iPOD, simply because they do not have access to iTunes, and cannot deliver the complete experience. It doesn't matter to me what features an iPOD has, as I want to use iTunes - so I don't even compare the competitors - Apple has made them all irrelevant.
Selling a Blue Ocean strategy inside your company is often difficult, as you have to first stop the drag race - a lot of communication and education is required, especially when the sales force has been accustomed to feature selling, and expects a new slew of "competitor killer" features ever quarter or two. Remember that the aim is for the customer to not even want to evaluate the competition, as they see only you can deliver what they need.
You've got to get the sales force and SEs on-side, and you likely will still need to deliver some drag race features until you can deliver on the blue ocean. Find some sales people who succeed at selling a Blue Ocean model and make examples out of them - show the others how they made a sale without getting involved in a long competitive shoot-out.
There are countless more examples of successful Blue Ocean strategies, and my advice to everyone is to head to Amazon and grab a copy of the book. Why not buy a whole lot of them for the marketing team, and the organize a workshop on possible Blue Ocean Strategies.