Author Archives: Suyog

About Suyog

A Busy Mind

Product manager and Movie-Director

My family owns a theater and movies have always been part of my life. As I grew older I started becoming fascinated by a process of movie making. And I was completely taken by the role of the “director”. As a film critic, I have always analyzed/criticized/praised/enjoyed director’s creativity the most. I follow director’s careers as opposed to actors.

Life happened. As career started taking turns in software industry, my movie habits stayed as it is. And I started realizing an uncanny resemblance between roles of (Software) Product manager and movie/TV-Series-Director.

quote-my-movie-is-born-first-in-my-head-dies-on-paper-is-resuscitated-by-the-living-persons-and-real-robert-bresson-23493

Wikipedia states the responsibilities f0r Film-director as ..  “entails organizing the film crew in such a way as to achieve his or her vision of the film. This requires skills of group leadership, as well as the ability to maintain a singular focus even in the stressful, fast-paced environment of a film set. Moreover, it is necessary to have an artistic eye to frame shots and to give precise feedback to cast and crew,  thus, excellent communication skills are a must.”

Product managers responsibilities wouldn’t be any more different. Instead of a film-crew it is a crew in software company. But rest of the description fits perfectly.

As software is launched just once and then updated thereafter,  I would say TV series director (mostly for the series which runs all 12 months; soap-operas) would be more appropriate comparison. TV serial directors’ job would be like leading agile team for software development. Director has to think about overall vision for the season. They have to plan for the next episode and complete the shooting within a matter of a week. After each week, all TRP ratings flow in and good/bad/ugly feedback of is  analyzed. This feedback is constantly incorporated to make next episode interesting. More likable characters get more air-time, not likable characters are disappeared, every episode ends with glimpse of scenes from next episode, most episodes are ending with twists and turns to keep users guessing/interested, and so forth. Director is responsible for all these changes and prioritization.

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source: http://www.pminheels.com/2014/01/what-does-product-manager-do.html

Product managers setting is similar as well. She plans for major releases. Have roadmap updated for each minor release. Take feedback from market about good/bad/ugly features. Analyze usage and adoption rates. Align the roadmap for more value-added features, lower the priorities on less used features, have constant presentations of upcoming release, always keep users interested (and get subscription renewed) by providing glimpse of future. Product manager is responsible for all the changes and prioritization.

Both realize the vision overseeing artistic and technical elements of film/TV-series/software-production.  Both have to understand the market well. Both have to worry about timelines, release schedule, contradicting ideals/visions within the team, budgets, and aligning the team towards singular/identical vision. Both have to be good at conflict resolution. And finally both are the most pivotal roles in their settings. These roles are not for faint hearted. Both roles exemplify vision, leadership, understanding all aspects of the production and realization of end goal. Ultimately team-(wo)man.


Role of (Software) Product Manager

Product Management

As Product Management becomes more critical for the success of any software company, there is a debate on where to draw the boundaries for the role. In small companies, such role could span across multiple departments such as marketing, sales, executives, engineering and support. Some of those departments especially marketing and support could even be part of the Product management group. Whereas in bigger companies role could be defined as interaction with these departments and have more structured interface for information flow. Ultimately it depends on maturity and size of the organization.

As per following table, Product Manager’s responsibilities are clear. These are minimum responsibilities and tasks Product manager should assume. For smaller companies, she could assume even more responsibilities.

PMRole_2

Personal Traits of Product Manager

Behind every great product there is a person with great empathy for the customer, insight into what is possible, and the ability to see what is essential and what is incidental. This person has a deep understanding of the customer as well as her own teams’ capabilities. She operates from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence. She thinks in terms of delivering superior value to the marketplace, and she defines good products that can be executed with a strong effort.

The good product manager is constantly obsessed with the current and future state of her product. These are some of the questions that the good product manager is constantly asking herself:

  • Is my product compelling to our target customer?
  • Have we made this product as easy to use as humanly possible?
  • Will this product succeed against the competition? Not today’s competition, but the competition that will be in the market when we ship?
  • Do I know customers that will really buy this product? Not the product I wish we were going to build, but what we’re really going to build?
  • Is my product truly differentiated? Can I explain the differentiation to a company executive in two minutes? To a smart customer in one minute? To an industry analyst in 30 seconds?
  • Will the product actually work?
  • Is the product a whole product? How will customers actually think about and buy the product? Is it consistent with how we plan to sell it?
  • Are the product’s strengths consistent with what’s important to our customers? Are we positioning these strengths as aggressively as possible?
  • Is the product worth money? How much money? Why? Can customers get it cheaper elsewhere?
  • Do I understand what the rest of the product team thinks is good about the product? Is it consistent with my own view?

Product Manager vs Project Manager

Product managers own “What” and “Why”. Project managers own “How” and “When”.

Product managers are responsible for the overall product vision, directing the people (including all the touchy-feely stuff) and the roadmap (the strategy) for getting there. Project managers are responsible for getting the logistics, scheduling, planning and task allocations done. Think of is as the Product Manager being the CEO of the product and the Project Manager being the COO of the product.

PJMgr-vs-PdMgr_2

Product Management vs Product Marketing

The easiest way to think about the difference between these two is to think of them as inbound and outbound. Inbound (Product Management) spends most of their time with engineering teams and customers, making critical decisions and ensuring that everything gets done to bring customer-focused products to market. Outbound (Product Marketing) makes sure that once these products are ready that they

get launched and marketed effectively to the target customer base.

Product Management

  • Market Analysis, Business Cases and Profit and Loss investigation.
  • Customer and Market Research.
  • Writing Marketing Requirements Documents (MRDs).
  • Working with Engineering to finalize functional specifications.
  • Competitive analysis for use internally at the company.
  • Analysis of technology trends.
  • Running alpha/beta programs and capturing early customer feedback.
  • Making feature, schedule and cost tradeoffs as the product nears completion.

Product Marketing

  • Writing product launch plans.
  • Product Messaging, including Positioning, Features & Benefits and Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
  • Developing sales tools: white papers, presentations, collateral, competitive analysis for external use with customers.
  • Working with PR to manage launch tours and product review programs.
  • Setting product pricing.
  • Working with Beta sites to generate customer success stories.
  • Running product launches.
  • Working with sales, channel marketing, corporate marketing, marketing communications, technical support, finance, operations and other departments to ensure the product is effectively introduced to the market and continues to be successful.

Product Manager vs Scrum Master

Product Manager is a product expert and scrum master is methodology expert. Product manager ensures the team is building right product whereas scrum master makes sure that all stakeholders understand the process and able to follow it. Product manager is a visionary defining “why” and “what” whereas scrum master owns “how”. Product manager should own the backlog whereas Scrum master should own roadblock (constraints in the project). Scrum master is also addresses all the impediments in order to make progress. Scrum master interacts with Product manager on regular basis to understand and execute product backlog. Although the two roles differ (driving the product vs. driving the team), the intersection of the two positions is critical to delivering a successful product and leading a successful agile team.

References

http://www.researchgate.net/publication/259098637_What_are_the_roles_of_software_product_managers_An_empirical_investigation

http://www.svpg.com/assets/Files/productmanager.pdf

http://www.quora.com/Whats-the-difference-between-a-Project-Manager-and-a-Product-Manager

http://www.freshtilledsoil.com/product-managers-vs-project-managers/

https://www.brainmates.com.au/brainrants/project-manager-vs-product-manager

https://280group.com/product-management-blog/product-management-versus-product-marketing/

http://blog.aha.io/index.php/the-product-manager-vs-the-scrum-master/


China Trip

China has always intrigued me. Just following economic news about China is sufficient enough, but what I wanted to witness is one of the oldest cultures.

Shanghai is a grand and beautiful city. It is a planned city but also have great historical background. Although trip was hectic, I managed to visit few tourist destinations. I first visited famous tourist attraction Nanjing road. It is like New York’s fifth avenue, just little more tourist friendly. The Bund area is just like visiting Hoboken to see New York skyline. One might I also visited area called Yu Garden. A very traditional Chinese architecture with good shopping experience.  Shanghai is vast and over populated. The term “concrete jungle” is definitely derived from Shanghai. Still government has managed to keep Shanghai clean and safe. It is a great tourist destination.And I heard that Beijing is even better.

The first thing I noticed in Shanghai is how life is difficult if you do not know the language. We had to get everything (addresses, notes such as “I am Vegetarian”, etc.) written from hotel staff or host. Ordering food is a big problem due to language barriers. There are always big lines at food joints. The most consumed food in the area was greasy-noodles, steamed-dumplings and some kind of sweets. Milk and milk products are very rare, probably because Milk is very costly.  In general, we were warned against eating any food outside other than well-known hotels. A quality of food is highly questionable. Most people know that they are eating “mystery meat” and they do not care. We had food at restaurants in Marriott. Getting vegetarian food is not that difficult at good places.

We also heard some disturbing stories behind the rise of China. Shanghai real estate prices is highly inflated. Comparative apartment in Manhatten would cost 2.5M whereas in Shanghai it is 7M. Rents are very high. Such high prices are mainly driven by ExPats. But it may not sustain for long. Most buildings in the main business districts only half-filled.  Chinese news-paper always reporting how US and Japan are trying to hack Chinese govt sites. They also report how Beijing-Shanghai high speed rail is under problems due to fraud, but our host argued that it is because they could not copy the design properly from their other high speed lines which was developed by Siemens. China finance minister is pushing reforms and states that inflation is very low. Whereas cars, houses and day-to-day things are getting really expensive. For me, most disturbing fact is the quality of goods. Everything you come across is either fake or of very lower grade quality  OR you can also get international brand of high quality for about 5 times the price in US.  Chinese use too much plastic in day-to-day life.

And there were also few funny experiences. Once Taxi driver could not read and he took to some shady hotel “Magnificent” instead of Marriott. — When you go out in tourists area there are lot of people selling fake watches/purses and massage. It is really annoying that they tap your shoulder when they are asking for it. In 50 meter walk all I did is say “NO” loudly. — There is one romantic-comedy playing in Chinese theaters whose English name is “Love in the Butt”. — Once we joked about getting dog’s meat for one of our lunches, but host explained that it is not possible as dog is considered as delicacy. — Chinese people always cut the line e.g. lavatory, cashier. They will get in elevator first, if you step out for somebody to get out, other people will squeeze in first before you get back in.  — Chinese people traditionally order food for the table. But when sharing, they will take all the good stuff by themselves first.  — They also randomly start speaking in Chinese in the business meeting and keep apologizing for it.

In the end, overall trip was an amazingly experience. I am still dazzled by the blend of oldest culture with modern planned city.

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Public Speaking

Public Speaking

In general, a successful public speaking is more of a science than an art. This science can be learned using various ways. One of the simpler ways to learn is to dissect the process into multiple categories and concentrate on each category. I would like to recommend minimum four categories you will have to get yourself comfortable with. These four categories are openings, story-telling techniques, closings, and practice.

Openings

Openings are the one of the most important parts of the speech because if you get audience engaged with a great start, half battle is won. Openings could include two aspects of the speech. “Laws of the speech” and “Wake’em up”.

As a part of the Laws you can point of few rules which you want to stick to e.g. No questions during presentations, break after 30 min, etc.  As a part of the opening, you should also cover the agenda so that people know what to expect.

As a part of Wake’em up, you might want to get audiences’ attention by doing something drastic e.g. surprise them with story, ask question so that they start to think etc.

By following these simple things of stating the rules, agenda and strong opening sequence, you will have everybody’s attention in the room.

Story-telling techniques

Story-telling is the most effective way to engage audience because it keeps audience interested and engaged. It is a great skill but can be acquired by practice. There are many techniques but I find two techniques are top of my list. First one is to make story real life and something audience can relate to and second one is to split the story throughout the presentation if possible.

Firstly, audience needs to be able to relate to the story then only you have their attention. Use real-life locations, characters to make story concrete. E.g. provide location as New York 56th street instead of standing in big city street. Use the references which audiences are aware of e.g. use sports figure reference from the sport popular in the audience. E.g. avoid American Football references in Europe.

Secondly, split the story. Start the story at the beginning, but don’t finish it. Cut-off the story and cover few points in the presentation and then come back to story. Try to finish the story near the end of the presentation. Everybody likes to hear the story and want to know what happened in the end. By splitting the story, you would be able to hold audience from start to end.

With these two story telling techniques, you can almost guarantee that your speech will be well received.

Closings

Closings are important because they leave the impression about your whole speech. In general you should have your audience react e.g. laugh, introspect, clap, etc. The idea is to have your audience feel great and not awkward. If you end speech with joke, there will be laughter while you get back to your seat. Depending on subject you want to end speech with quotation or small story which will get audience thinking. If you have too much humor interspersed along the presentation you could end the speech on serious note. This will provide the impression that you are fun-loving person but serious about the end-result.

In general, there are few ways to close the presentation and you could choose as appropriate for topic/audience. But main thing to remember is have audience react in the end.

Practice

Practice is the most important part of the speech because without that you cannot deliver effective presentation. More you practice better your speech is going to be. For long speeches you could break the speech into a bit. A bit is a section in your presentation. If you don’t have time, you could keep practicing bits. Also have words/stories associated with bits in order to remember long presentations.

Most successful people also practice in front of the mirror to improve the delivery of the content. They also practice jokes. Perfect punch-line comes after lot of practice. Say a story aloud many times so that you not only memorize important part of the story, but delivery of the story, your body language, voice modulation will be better.

To deliver a great speech, you need to practice multiple time, practice your jokes, stories and delivery of the content.


Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing

What is Social Media?

a group of Internet-based applications (web-based and mobile technologies) that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.

Social Media Landscape

Social media landscape is expanding very rapidly. Following image provides different ways we can categorize the Social Media sites. E.g Publish, Share, Discuss, Social Networks, etc. As of today Facebook leads the way with 800 Million subscribers. You can create and consume contents on any of those sites at click of your mouse.

Advantages of Social Media

Social media does not make money for you. But it does create a favorable relationship with your customer. People will do the business with person whom they like, and trust. Social media is easy way to achieve this. Following are the advantages for Social media. Concept from upsidedowniceberg.com.

As image highlights, Social Media is mainly used to remain “TOP OF MIND” of people, who will eventually become your customers.

A framework

Create Content

Content is the king. You have to have your own content so that people can take some action (comment, share, follow, etc.).

Find People

Embrace top 6 sites including Facebook / Linked-in / Twitter.  Other 3 should be from your niche e.g. Wine.com. Now build a strategy around it to publish the created content. E.g. Every time you have company event, keep posting news about it on all chosen Social Media networks starting few days before. Create a campaign to share information about event, get feedback from last event, etc. Such actions will create lot of curiosity and hence lot of following.

Capture Information

When users start taking actions, you will get content. This content will tell you the how people are reacting. E.g. you publish new WebSite, then people will provide comments about what they like and do not like about the website. This is the age of everything small. People like to click Yes/No rather than giving elaborated comments. Create meaningful questions and let users respond to them.  You will get information about how many people visited, liked, commented your content. This way you can also steer web-traffic towards your website where much more information is available.

Stay In Touch

Consistency is the word. You have to be very consistent in promoting your company’s image. You have to take positive and negative responses in consideration and respond accordingly. This is your company’s image, and you will have to protect it with timely and correct action.

Steps to promote

  • Write Blog/White-paper
  • Publish it on all social media
  • Have employees and other partner companies comment on it. (Like it, re-tweet it, share it, follow-it etc. )
  • Relentlessly process all the responses (mainly negative)
  • Promote Consistently.

Being a part of a Virtual Team

virtual(a): existing in essence or effect though not in actual fact. So idea is to produce the output without a factual team, a team without any existence. Now you get the essence of our work and value of our work.

Virtual Team: A geographically separated team with common goal.

As a team member

  • Be a team member, even if you are in your own room working in your pajamas.
  • Take notes of the conversation; send a memorandum to your manager about the understanding.
  • Most team members are working in good faith. Give them benefit of doubt and provide a second chance to explain/correct mistakes.
  • Your manager, who is 3000 miles away, will care more about the result and less about how you spend your whole day. But it is in your interest to show-case your efforts/skills. Use ways like writing end-of-day email summarizing your day, write blogs about your technical growth, etc.
  • Your manager has his/her own agenda for the day. Make sure you don’t throw surprises. If you are expecting a problem, don’t wait till last minute, it is ok to mention “possible risk”.
  • If you do not understand the importance of your job, ask explicitly. Ask how it fits in overall picture. Most likely you have not understood your job itself.
  • Avoid slangs and colloquialisms. If people do not know the expression it could means entirely something else. E.g. Expression for “you are pulling my leg” in Russian translates to English “you are hanging noodles off my ears”.
  • Respect cultural differences. American English is often direct and might sound offensive to even UK English speakers. Whereas Indians use more words this obscures the meaning. Try and find the balance between meaningful and inoffensive communication.
  • Many people have different time schedules. If you are expecting some work to be done in certain time, ask for exact time. Most people have different snacks, lunch, dinner and sleeping times.
  • Have a mailing list: one internal to project and one for client.
  • Try and use collaborative software such as wiki, discussion forums, blogs, etc. to share idea and mainly document your technical achievements.
  • Be exact about timing e.g End of Business means different for different people. You have to specify End of Business for which time zone. Is end of Friday means start of Monday?
  • Be punctual about the meeting timings. Most of the European cultures are less tolerant about the unpunctual people. Respect your as well as other people’s time.

 As a manager of Virtual team

  • Play multi-player shooting game online. Everyone wants to shoot their colleagues time-to-time. Having common target as a boss is even better J
  • Meet physically once in a while and have a team building exercises, e.g. go for bowling, for a drinks, etc.
  • Use webcams, video chats for regular communications. This will create more life-like environment.
  • Remember that productivity drops over the time. And manager has to make special efforts in order to prevent that from happening.
  • Create a clear structure and assign responsibility very clearly. Assign responsibilities individually but goals collectively. Incentives must be for collective efforts and then reward special individual efforts.
  • Create a more transparent atmosphere by sharing information over mailing list as opposed to individual emails. Have at least one weekly synch-up meeting (if not every day).
  • Provide special attention to build cohesiveness, and trust in the team. This will build relationship faster.
  • When pointing the flaws always provide average of the team. E.g. collectively we have received 50 defects as a team and talk about how we can address them. But talk to individual worse-performers e.g. person who caused 25 defect (out f 50) and create a separate plan. Do not point somebody’s mistakes in open forum.
  • Know about personal life of team members. Give half day off on somebody’s birthday would go long way in establishing positive relationship with that individual and other team members as well.
  • Use chat / discussion forums to collaborate more. Sometime emails seems “my way or high way”. You could have separate discussion session where people just provide suggestions, or “think aloud” about how to resolve the issue.
  • Arrange the meetings in overlapped timings. If this is not possible at least arrange it for convenient time for most people.