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Category Archives: Product Management

How to design a great product which delivers Wow!

Great Products are a result of a design process which understands that users should get two essential values out of a product.

1. An emotional value (“Wow! I love my iPhone”)
2. A utilitarian value (“A mobile phone…wow, now I can call my friends from anywhere!”).

These are linked so closely with each other that you just can’t have one, without having at least ‘One’ other one!

Now question comes how do you deliver the Emotional and Utilitarian value? Well there are three ways (Which again are related);

Aesthetics

The product looks good, is “fun” to interact with, has smooth transition, a “clean” layout, is symmetrical, feels “professional”, and has a “cool” factor associated with it, etc.

Functionality

It just does things I really value. For example, I value that I can scan my laptop for viruses, though I find it extremely hard how to do so, but I do value that I can do this!

Usability

The way functionality is delivered. Is it effective, efficient, satisfying, and simple?

Majority of the IT companies, and now even the mobile companies focus on the utilitarian value of a product, and the functionality of the product.

They are forced to sneak in as many ‘Functionality Feature’ in a release as they can; since this is the way ‘Success’ is measured for them.

Apple never re-invented the features of a Phone! They just made the experience beautiful!

On the other hand Samsung did the opposite…adding features [primarily of very less usage] will give them success in short run…but the way experience is delivered – it’s a Steve Baby!

I mean its tough for companies too, cut throat competition, a mindset, which puts more emphasis on ‘Features’ and less on ‘Experience’; the companies are forced to follow the path!

A great product delivers a user experience that combines aesthetics, functionality and usability to meet both the user’s emotional and utilitarian needs. So next question is

How do we do it?

I would call it a ‘Fiver’

Expertise – Have in house expertise, or call upon Expert!

Techniques – Use Appropriate techniques!

Leadership and Culture – Appreciate value of UX from business point of view!

Processes – Define processes!

Perspective – Apply principles and process in the broad perspective!

And You?

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You think you have a great Business Idea?

Ok, so it’s all about an idea…as a famous tagline for one of the telecom giants in India goes on to say, ‘An idea can change your life’…well for sure it can, but do you think your idea is indeed a ‘Great’ “Business” idea? What does it take to have your idea a successful business implementation? What are the measures you should run your idea through to see the light at the end of tunnel? The very first question that you should be asking yourself is;

Do you have the passion to see your idea through?

If you don’t, well then you should re-think. Because you should do what you love! If you’re not passionate about it, don’t even attempt it! Say you are passionate, but passion alone will not help…

Do you have the knowledge, required skills, and experience?

If you don’t have these, well networking helps you here…you should stick to what you know, and then try and gather support for your idea! Say you are passionate, and have the required skills too, but

Do you have a goal? What is that you want to get from your business and how will you achieve this?

If you don’t know what do you want out of your business, how will you achieve this…well you need to know that. Because there is no point having a map in your hand, when you don’t know where you are! Ok…so you now you have your goals also…wonderful, and things seem to be coming in shape here…but wait a sec…

Who are your customer? Any idea?

Hmmm, you should get your head immediately in to market research See here Because whatever you do…but if you don’t see or have a good customer base, you are bound to fail! Now comes the cracker…

Do you think your idea is big enough that people will pay for it?

Did you say ‘No Idea’? Well, Start Again , well if you are a millionaire you may not actually, but if you are not…your idea has to make money for you!

Ok, so good to hear that you know who your customers are, but

Have you tried it out in front of customer…even as a trial run?

Well here is an old advice…’Test the depth of water before you plunge in! Test the water with your product or service with a limited trial to gain valuable feedback. The most important measure for me to device the value of your idea is:

Are you making something which is filling the void? Which is able to fill a demand, meet a need or solve a problem?

Did you say NO? Well then why bother even starting with the idea…you should know what you are addressing, what the needs are! And this is my favorite

Can you define your product in 25 words sales pitch?

You said you can, wonderful. Ideally it should not take more than 25 words to define your product. Because Complicated won’t sell.

How about the resources?

Do you have the resources that you would need, the skillsets and knowledge that you are lacking? Where will you source your people, and/or offices? You should have answers for these if you want to have an ideal implementation.

The idea which is yours…is it similar to some other feature or product in market?

Your product must have features that set it apart: it needs unique selling points (USPs) to lure consumers away from competitors! Here is a brilliant video

Another very important thing in managing product is, do you know what are the limitation of your product!?

If you tell me…”No, my product is the best”, well I am sorry, it’s not…even the great iPhone has its own flaws…better you find yours…before your competitor does so… We would come to the logical conclusion of this article in next post…till then Happy Thinking 🙂

 

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Enterprise Usability – Simple tasks must be simple, and complex ones must be possible

“Some 70% of failed CRM projects claim lack of user adoption as a primary contributor. Even successful projects cite low user adoption as a barrier to timely project completion” – As per research from Forrester.

So why do intelligent, experienced, educated designers and product managers produce software that frustrates their user base?

Let’s know this for once and all;  For Enterprise users the focus is shifting from ‘In the office’ to ‘anywhere, and anytime’. With this change in trend the enterprise vendors must adapt to the user experience which can be adopted by the users.

Primary reasons for Enterprise software to be ‘So-Hard’ to use should fall under following;

1. Enterprise buyers in most of the cases will never be the Users.

2. The Constraint faced due to Architecture

3. There is always a risk of ‘Change’ being ‘Challenged’

4. No specific target groups of users – Solution being generic

Let’s take them one by one;

In order to understand #1, think it this way, In majority of the ERP solutions, people who buy the product are not the end users. This ‘Divorces’ users from any decision making capability. Majority of the time the senior management will put features, cost, and most importantly the ‘Trust and Relation’ on the vendor at the top.

There’s been no cost justification for simplifying the solution.

The customers who have been using a version 3.0 of a product will upgrade from 4.5 to 5.0 just because they don’t want to start again with another application, and the learning curve, customization, and deployment that comes with it.

Majority of the time usability problems are addressed as Complaints or as an expensive training.

Management needs to understand ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ doesn’t end at install.

Let’s talk about #2

Majority of the enterprise solutions look like the solution from 90s. And that is fine, because that is what they were supposed to be. They were designed by Software Developers and not by UI designers. The entire focus was on to utilize Computation power and not the user’s need! Let’s make it clear, it’s not the job of a developer to think about the psychology of the users on the other side of mouse!

The development team did their job, and did it well enough to stand the test of time. What it can’t do however is to test the prowess of usability.

I am not a developer, but what I understand of enterprise product’s code is; their GUI is deeply embedded in the product with workflows being hard coded. Hence it becomes tough to change or re-write the code!

One major contributor to lose of usability is; Acquisition. You end up merging not only the culture but also the architecture of several different modules. You think that this makes the offering more robust and keeps the acquired users happy. But in reality combining different architectures and technologies might result in a richer product, but it leaves the underlying code a goopy mess’, which makes it tough to comply with usability standards.

We will talk about other 2 elements and further solution in this regard in up coming posts. Thanks for reading / visiting.

Before you buy software, make sure it believes in the same things you do. Whether you realize it or not, software comes with a set of beliefs built in.Before you choose software, make sure it shares yours. – PeopleSoft Advertisement

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Product Management, Usability, UX and Usability

 

Installation isn’t the same as adoption!

Consumer v/s Enterprise; these are the two major paradigm in today’s mobile world. You call it B2C or Consumer, or B2B aka Enterprise; the lines are merging when you talk of user experience.

If you think of it, the Consumer is pretty straightforward – We build a product for the end user and, if they like it, they’ll go ahead and pay for it. Having the excellent UX (User Experience) is quickly becoming a fundamental ‘Feature’ and no more is a luxury. The competition is fierce and the treacherous one-click adage puts competitors just one click away.

Now think of enterprise world; the user and the purchaser here are different people with different needs. And this is what requires a product manager to have a different product management approach. In the early days of having a top-down adoption of software development meant that the end user experience didn’t really matter – as long as whoever was paying for it was happy and hit their goals. But then happened – ‘the consumerisation of the enterprise’.

Due to the revolution in user experience in consumer apps, end users simply gave up on crusty old systems internally and demanded better tools. And, if they don’t get them, they simply get around their IT department and use whatever they can to make their work more efficient. And this is what made companies realize that installation isn’t the same as adoption and that to truly benefit from new products they have to be used.

But the cliche’ is: Many ‘consumer’ products are driven by a sense of desire, a want, and frequent ‘need’ doesn’t even enter the picture. Enterprise products flip that formula on its ear. If it isn’t needed, justification is hard to get, unless there’s an executive champion with enough clout to drive ‘want’ over need.

More to follow on this in my next post…

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Product Management, Usability, UX

 

CMMi – Project Planning – Estimation

Talking of Project Management, we have always been told…that the project is or was failure due to project manager. I strongly disagree! And why do I do this, because, I know that project manager as individual are not the only reason for any project’s failure, this is more due to the lack of project management resources or you may call it process which results in a failure!

So starting from where we left yesterday, lets begin by understanding what all we have in Project Planning, and how the Project planning combines with requirement management, project maintenance and control etc.

Basic Project Management Process Area

Basic Project Management Process Area

My question would be “What is the objective of Project Planning”?

So your answer should definitely be close to “The purpose of Project Planning is to establish and maintain plans that define project activities.”

One of the keys to effectively managing a project is project planning. The Project Planning process area involves the following activities:

  • Developing the project plan
  • Interacting with relevant stakeholders appropriately
  • Getting commitment to the plan
  • Maintaining the plan

Now the biggest question is what is PLANNING? What do you know by planning, lets see:

Planning includes

  • estimating the attributes of work products and tasks,
  • determining the resources needed,
  • negotiating commitments,
  • producing a schedule,
  • and identifying and analyzing project risks.

It may be required that these activities have to go through various iteration to come up with a project plan.

So here in these articles we will surely not go towards explaining each and every special or generic practice but yes, we will surely talk about the work products. Our plan is to make it very simple for you. So how do you : 

Write an Estimate?

Before this Do you know what is an estimate! An estimate would be how much does it take to make a cup of tea? Or say How much does it take to make a Pizza?

In software development, how much time does it take to write a Webservice, which should take parameter from FB APIs, and return the “Common Friends” between you and your friend?

Now how will you tell me the estimate of this: There are two ways :

One : Guess(ti)mate

Second: Gut feeling

Third: Past experience

Issue with all these is, you eventually have no idea which one may fail or even pass for that matter! And by the way what are the parameter you are defining the estimate?

Coming back to What is an Estimate? 

Estimate is a parameters which includes EVERY information needed by the project to perform necessary planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting, and budgeting.

Hmmmm, sound interesting? Or even sounds familiar. You’ve been doing this, every now and then…you have been telling your leads about your leave plans (Staffing / Resourcing), you also told them about how will you report to them every day end, you also have planned for doing a review of code, which you feel would take half a day…so see, you have ben doing all this…what does this mean…hey you’re already a champ in estimation.

So what is here for you, well a new way to learn “how to Estimate”, and do it in a mature (Level-2) and defined (Level-3) way…

Now as we discussed above as to what should be the parameter? Well parameter should be aaything which instill confidence, LIKE:

Means these parameters include project requirements, including product requirements, requirements imposed by the organization, requirements imposed by the customer, and other requirements that affect the project…

This is good…right, since now you know the basis for vital parameters over which you should do the Estimates…

I guess this will be good for today, tomorrow, we will talk about How to establish a Estimate, Project Plan, and how you can obtain COMMITMENT to the plan… Cheers!

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in CMMi, Product Management

 

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CMMi – Tailoring the processes!

Most of us have this question that why is it that one process or procedure can’t be implemented in all the projects with similar flavor! Why is that you’ll talk new, tailored processes for every project?

CMMI, is smart enough to recognize that one size does NOT fit all. Organizations which are tempted into the “one true process” quickly realize that actually “one size fits no one”. Even if the you create “one true process” by carefully looking at projects in progress at the time, no two projects can ever be the same and hence no Single process really fit new projects as they come along.

In fact CMMi is smart enough to make sure and embodies ideas to stop organizations falling into the “one true process” trap.

This is how we have been doing this at Tekriti. We first as part one of this entire exercise are trying to build a “set of standard processes” – enough processes to support the different types of projects that the organization has to deliver. We can think of these types of projects as forming families – for each distinct family there is a distinct standard process.

Then since CMMi allows us, we will go further and tailor the selected processes to better fit the needs of each specific project. Tailoring can only occur within permitted guidelines – to ensure that the performance of different projects remains comparable.  In particular, the quality of the work products produced will be comparable across projects.

CMMi is so very beautiful in terms of giving us further allowance for very unusual projects.  Recognizing that every organizations evolve continuously and will have to tackle new and unique challenges, projects are permitted to seek exceptions to the standard processes and tailoring guidelines. But there is a condition, your  project has to have a reasonable case for its exceptional behavior and describes how it will perform its work to ensure that the organization’s policies will not be violated.

If your organization is attempting “one true process” well, then from CMMi side you’re not fulfilling its requirements – they cannot achieve maturity level 3.

The “one true process” becomes a straight jacket that is almost impossible to change.

Now you may ask question that isn’t it easier to change one process than to keep several processes current? For to be kept up to date, that’s certainly true. But consider the problems from the other side. Different projects have different needs and it is though always good to have one process which fits all, BUT the problem comes when these projects requires contradictory changes – one project needs more agility, the other more formality…

Now, which changes are we going to incorporate into the process? If we incorporate more formality, the agile project is disadvantaged.  If we go for more agility, the formal project is disadvantaged.

And then, very quickly the strains on the process and the demands to change the process become so great, the “one true process” becomes an unsustainable position. Then comes the problem, which you never have solution for!

So One size NEVER fits all! And this is something you’ll will learn as and when we will come and talk to you all, and make you understand about the processes…and make you realize that your project needs are different from someone else’s, and hence a different process!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in CMMi, Product Management

 

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CMMi – Capability Model

All right…with understanding of what CMMi is all about, what do we mean by maturity levels, and how we can actually map the maturity levels with the process areas, we are all set to learn about Capabilities, the maturities and capabilities have a great role to play in the entire CMMi journey.

In CMMI models, there are six capability levels designated by the numbers 0 through 5.

  • 0 – Incomplete
  • 1 – Performed
  • 2 – Managed
  • 3 – Defined
  • 4 – Quantitatively Managed
  • 5 – Optimizing

So I am sure you all will be in better control of things even as you have a look at the above mentioned “Capabilities”.

Let’s understand as to what they mean, we will start with very small description of these:

Level 0: Incomplete

An “incomplete process” is a process that is either not performed or partially performed. One or more of the specific goals of the process area are not satisfied and no generic goals exist for this level since there is no reason to institutionalize a partially performed process.

By Institutionalize we mean a process which is tailored as per Organization needs, and is stemmed out of your Organizational processes.

Level 1: Performed

A Capability Level 1 process is a process that is expected to perform all of the Capability Level 1 specific and generic practices. Performance may not be stable and may not meet specific objectives such as quality, cost, and schedule, but useful work can be done. It means that you are doing something but you cannot prove that it is really working for you. This is what that happens with quite a few project which you’ll or we have worked with! We know we are doing something, and that is why we are being survived, but that has nothing to do in terms of improving our cost. and quality.

Capability Level 2: Managed

A managed process is planned, performed, monitored, and controlled for individual projects, groups, or stand-alone processes to achieve a given purpose. Managing the process achieves cost, schedule, and quality. As the title of this level indicates, you are actively managing the way things are done in your organization. You follow metrics, you follow things like variance, scheduled variance etc., to make sure you and your project is on track.

Capability Level 3: Defined

A capability level 3 process is characterized as a “defined process.” A defined process is a managed (capability level 2) process that is tailored from the organization’s set of standard processes according to the organization’s tailoring guidelines, and contributes work products, measures, and other process-improvement information to the organizational process assets.

Again, I won’t go in to details of level 4, and level 5, so this is it for today, assuming you all are having a good go and learning experience in this journey!

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Blogging, CMMi, Product Management, Product Marketing

 

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