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Product Product Management

Just make it work

One big lesson I learned early in my career is that key to success for most products is to just make it work.

Whatsapp was whatsapp because if you send a message on whatsapp, it would reach.

Zoom became Zoom because the video adjusted to slower speeds and broken connections

Clubhouse is doing good because you can almost talk real time(Kudos to their Audio API provider Agora)

Being best at the most important promise you make to the user is the key element, rest all is bells and whistles

If you are a startup and your USP is simply a few additional features that your competition does not provide, it will give you PR, but perhaps not sticky users.

And you want to eventually own your USP and not use off the shelf commoditised provider. I won’t be surprised if Clubhouse eventually invested in or acquired a voice API company


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Validating your product hypothesis with a fake door : Here I talk about how you can quickly test out a hypothesis or validate a new market


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Product Management Reflections

Negative signalling: Being bad on purpose

While we would like to be good at everything we do, it’s neither possible, nor an attempt advisable.

You will always be bad at something either due to skill or by choice. I want to talk about the latter today.

Being bad by choice: Your profile, your CV, your choices, are all reflection of what you want to be. While you want to be strong at what the job you want to do requires, it maybe a good idea to be bad or be perceived ‘not great’ at stuff you don’t want to do.

For example: when I was in consulting, my company offered to pay for PMP certification for any consultant willing to take it. PMP is almost an industry standard for becoming a project manager.

While it rightly got a few people excited, I blatantly refused to do it. I am not against being good at project management, I feared I would suddenly become eligible for project manager roles that may need urgent fulfilment within the company.

It’s super hard to say no early in career and I specifically did not want to be a project manager. I did not last long as a consultant either, but that’s a story for another time.

Doing so saved me from two things:

  • I knew if the need came, no team looking for project managers could force me or my manager to let me take that up. I preferred bench over Project Management.
  • A lot of Product Management roles in India are disguised project management roles. Due to my lack of PMP I was not considered as a candidate for them. I auto rejected myself

Traditionally, we assume, amassing certifications and varied skills increases our likelihood of landing a job, but it can also reduces our chances of landing the one we want.

Just because it’s free knowledge does not mean it’s good for you. You need to opt out of and close doors you don’t want to be tempted or forced to enter.

Will I ever do a PMP? : Never say never. I have deep respect for Program managers who can handle large projects and keep seeking guidance and help from them, but if I do take up formal certification I’ll most likely not tell people about it :).

I am at peace with being labelled as a Product Manager who is great at Design, Research, and Data, but sucks at Project Management. I don’t think that has hindered my career yet.

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Product Management

Why Twitter will never and should never have an edit button

Edit button on twitter is possibly the most requested feature in any product EVER, but somehow twitter never really introduced it. It is also possibly the only “Social Media” where you cannot edit as soon as you post. You can only delete and repost or add a correction in reply.

The feature is so highly requested that even twitter trolled the world by saying, you get an edit if everyone wears a mask. Great way to spread the message but basically saying, NAAAH


My Take is that

Twitter will likely NEVER give an edit button. It’s not a simple social media. Tweets are public, they are quoted, and become news. Tweets are a system of records of a person’s opinion

Tweets are a system of records for a person’s opinion.

There are no edits in it, only new versions. All history is maintained in perpetuity unless it’s useless.
Each person is aware of exactly which version of persons opinion they interacted with.

Ideally they should not have delete but thats survival, you probably wont use it without an ability to delete.

I suspect if ever twitter decides to allow some kind of edit, it will come up with some kind of versioning system for tweets.
Each interaction would be tagged to the exact version. 10 comments on version 1, 20 likes on version 2
But most likely that wont happen anytime in the near future.

While as a user I hate not being able to edit, I can clearly see its utility. This system of record is so powerful that you now have an authoritative view on what the person thought in the past. It’s either authoritative, or it has been deleted. There is no guessing.

Its a phenomenal space to be in.

Twitter is more valuable because it does not have an edit

I see the value so much that If Twitter ever added an edit button like Linkedin or FB, I will probably sell whatever Twitter stocks I hold

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Product Management

Validating your product hypothesis with a fake door test

You cannot and should not build every feature that is there in your backlog. One way many companies, especially startups, gauge the need of a specific feature is via a Fake door test.

What is a Fake door test

To put it simply, instead of building the feature your product simply pretends to have that feature and shows user a Call to Action to use that feature. When the user clicks on this CTA, you either tell the user that this feature is not yet ready and you have noted their interest, or tell them how they can use alternatives ways for completing their tasks.

Example: You are a Product Manager at twitter and twitter introduced a way to animate your tweets. This feature is only available on the app and you are trying to gauge user interest on desktop.

Instead of building this, you simply add an “animate this tweet” button on desktop and if a user clicks on it, you can tell them

” This feature is not currently available on desktop but you can always go too the app and use it, click here to see how”

How does this help

  • You get data on potential size of the market
  • You know which segment of user needs this feature
  • You can validate almost all potential new features

Isn’t this disingenuous to the user?

It may seem so, but your job is to solve the most important needs of the user. If this helps you prioritise better, it is a win win for everyone. Sure some people will be a bit pissed but will be overall better served if you build the right features.


Some things to keep in mind

  • Make sure the call to action is super duper clear. You do not want to be in a situation where users may get confused. Example: in Uber if we wanted to test if people wanted to schedule a ride on the web, giving users a CTA such as “Schedule a ride” would have been misleading because Schedule may mean, schedule for NOW. So a good CTA might be “Schedule for future”. You can work to fine tune the verbiage later
  • Run this as an A/B if possible and only for a very small segment. You do not want your entire customer base pissed off
  • When users click on the fake door make sure you explain it well. Don’t leave them hanging. Even better, if you do end up building this feature, maybe send a note to these users
  • Measure effect on other interactions as well. You need to know the unintended consequences
  • It is perfectly ok to not run a A/B if you don’t have the infra or enough traffic and collect data only for CTA interactions. But be clear about that miss
  • Make it dirty and cheap. Don’t over think. Don’t end up doing user studies on what the fake door should look like. You are looking at directional results and your outcome should ideally be “Yes we are building this”, or, “No we are not”

Fake Door vs User Study and Surveys

User study is an awesome tool and can really help you understand the customer better. It also helps you test out multiple things at once.

Fake doors are super helpful when you have a very specific thing to know.
While you can also run surveys to gauge interest in certain features (Eg: survey to find if the new integration you are thinking of is valuable to the user), going by the old adage goes “don’t listen to what they are saying, but look at what they are doing”, Fake doors can be supremely helpful and surprisingly accurate even when not stats sig

Fake Doors for Validating Startup Ideas

This seems to be common. I have read multiple accounts, and have seen multiple examples, of people who setup simple websites with a real looking product page, and when you click on “Buy” or “Subscribe” they tell you its not yet ready but you can enter your email ID for early access.
If you gather enough email IDs, you have a winner idea and its time to Build

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Product Management

Product Strategy – Marty Cagan

Please note book links in this article are referral links and I make a small commission for qualified purchases

Listened to a great talk on product strategy by Marty Cagan, author or Inspired [It is one of the top books I recommend for Product Managers] . Here is a summary, you can also listen to the talk embedded below

On Product Strategy

  • Most companies don’t do strategy, they do roadmaps
  • McKinsey and likes would give you Business Strategy not Product strategy
  • It starts with a talented leader who identified 1 or 2 critical issues and how to derive leverage from them, and then have everyone focus
  • Why is Strategy Hard and how to do it:
    • Have focus : Most companies suck at it. They are not able to chose, leading to bad strategy
      • Focus first, prioritise later. Find things that can move the needle before making a feature list and prioritising them
      • If you work on too many things at once, everything slows down
    • Generate insight
      • This is where magic happens
      • Many companies ignore insights because they are too focused on satisfying the stakeholders
      • Insights lead to great product work
      • Qualitative insights
        • Come from customers , your or even your competitor’s
        • You can gather insights every single week
      • Quantitative insights
        • A/B test that surprises us
        • Lot of great insights are blends
      • Technology Insights
        • Things that are now possible
      • Industry Insights
        • Your and other industries ( Eg B2B learns from B2C)
      • Product Leader’s job is also to collect these learnings and disseminate
      • Leaders are “learning distribution machines”
    • Coordinate actions of each product team
      • Point is not to get features out faster
      • Hard part is working on the stuff that matters
      • Empowered teams are assigned problems to solve not features to build
      • Adding OKRs to feature teams is a flop. OKRs work for already empowered teams. So first move to empowered team model
      • For OKR to be success
        • Empowered product teams and not Feature teams[ recommended article]
        • Only product teams get Objectives not Individuals and managers to start
      • When an exec asks for a feature, they have taken the responsibility for its viability
      • Colocated squads are better for innovation
      • Its ok for multiple teams to focus on same problem, its intentional
    • Actively manage work
      • Active leaders not passive leaders
        • Objectives NEED to come from leaders
        • Servant- Leadership. Clear the road, remove the obstacles.
        • This is not less management, its better management
        • Its also not micromanagement
  • A product team serves the customer, a feature team is there to serve the business stakeholders
  • Short Summary
    • Product Vision: Destination where we want to be
    • Product strategy: Identify which problem to solve
    • Product Discovery: Tactics necessary to solve that problem. A roadmap is a strategy
    • Product Delivery: Build and ship
  • Recommended strategy Books

You can get Marty’s Audio book Inspired on Audible for free when you signup for free

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Product Management

Structuring your thoughts: for Product managers

In product management and In general one powerful weapon in your kitty is the ability to organise ideas and features in a logical structure. It helps you think better and in a more focussed way

My favourite being (the one I use) the flow of information. It has 3 parts

1: Creation
2: Curation
3: Consumption

You can literally fit hundreds of things into these buckets

Eg : You are at Twitter and you want to improve Twitter

Think creation
– how to get more people to tweet
– how to get people to tweet more
– more ways to tweet
– what apart from tweets

Think curation
– hashtags
– lists
– personalisation
– follow
– organize in replies and threads
– curated bookmarked tweets
– trending
– add metadata to tweets -og tags

Think consumption
– how to view threads
– different devices and surfaces
– read me tweets
– api integrations to send tweets to external providers
– surface og tags,images etc
– tell me why am I seeing this

Sounds pretty simple, because it is. Breaking down into simple structures can help you focus your attention and prevent you from getting overwhelmed

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Product Management

Some unpopular opinions I hold -Tech Corporate world

Some unpopular opinions I hold (Subject to change, of course) -Tech Corporate world

  1. Presentations are mostly useless. They waste time, encourage intellectual laziness, are manipulative by nature, and lead to bad decisions.
  2. Open offices are bad for both productivity and collaboration. They mostly increase distractions., and any gains in collaboration are small in comparison to the losses of productivity.
  3. Almost every tech worker who can work from home will benefit from doing it once in a while. There is no one who works best ONLY in office. Companies should actually force employees to work from home once a while, this forces them to create a good “working corner”  at home, and can actually be better for their mental health.
  4. Forcing an early start time for your company is bad for business. If you treat your company like a school, you will get school children to work for you.
  5. Culture is almost always top down. Bottoms up is only feedback and can do very little to actually move the needle.


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India Product Management

The Fallacy of Anecdotal Evidence

Heard this?

“The Tarot card reader was able to pin point the exact reason for my suffering”

Or  

“I know homoeopathy does not work, BUT my uncle was cured of chronic headaches when he started taking those medicines”

Or

“I was able to pass the exam after the holy man blessed me”

Are you one of the people who has experienced stuff like the ones stated above?

You are a logical person and believe in scientific approach of double blinded study , but you cannot ignore what happened to you and the people you know  “personally” when they tried  occult and other scientifically disproven hocus pocus.

Anecdotal evidence is SOME evidence,and MUST count for something, correct?

Let’s discuss a popular possible “scam” .

I am really bad at picking stocks(Fact) , but I decide to start a stock TIP service where I tell people which stock to pick. This is how I could do it

Step 1: I buy a list of 1 lakh phone numbers .

For the purpose of this post, I will represent 1000 phone numbers(target users) with 1 sheep.

I know that Infosys is about to announce its quarterly result, and post every result the stock price either goes up or down significantly. I send half of my list[Part A] a message that “Infosys will rise , Buy as many shares as you can” and the other half [Part B] “Infosys will fall, sell sell sell”

Actual result: Infosys went up.

Step 2 : I discard the Part B of the list. I divide the remaining list in 2 parts and repeat the same process with Reliance stocks.

Step 3: I do the same process 3 more times for 3 different stocks, discarding the portion of the list that received a wrong prediction for each subsequent iteration.

ITERATION 3

ITERATION 4

ITERATION 5

At the end of these 5 iterations, I will have: 

  1. 50,000 ppl who know I am just a bogus guy. The first prediction itself was wrong.
  2. 25,000 will think my predictions are as good as flipping a coin, 50, 50
  3. 12,500 will think i have some talent
  4. 6,250 will think I am good.I got 3 in a row correct. Not a mean feat
  5. 3,125 will think i am a genius , i got 4 out of 5 correct. They just had to follow my advice and make a lot of money.
  6. And last 3,125 people will think I AM GOD OF FINANCE. I just predicted the FUTURE with 100% accuracy . There is NO WAY I could have done that with such consistency . I either have a LOT of insider information or I practice occult. They will believe anything I tell them.They will refer me to all their contacts, hold my words as dear as financial gospel.

All I have to do now is send a message to 4,5 and 6 to “Signup” with a low low fees of 1000 rs for getting more updates. Any guesses if people will sign up?

If you are part of group 6, would you NOT sign up? You could have made crores by just following my last 5 free advice, what is 1000 rs in front of that?

I just did some quick projection of how much the scammer can make (lots of assumption).

Now, the question is : Do I really know how to pick stocks?

And that is how ladies and gentlemen I can become anything I want.

I can tell you how to solve your marital problems using cow dung. Given enough solution seekers, I bet I can find at least some couples who will swear by my “cow dung therapy”.

This is one of the MANY “tricks” used for the spread of pseudoscience.

So repeat after me “Anecdotal evidence is NO evidence”

#DontBeSheep

I make a final prediction : But shares of a company calles Suzlon. They will breach 18 in 2018.

If it works, send me some bitcoins ( 1hLkqHf4swDqowvAgnpiMSaSNAojXNScM ) , if it does not, well I already said I am bad at picking stocks ;). Deal?

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Product Management

Here is the problem with defining what a Minimal Viable Product is

Minimal Viable Product: One of the most used and abused buzzwords of the startup ecosystem.

Ability to define an MVP also happens to be one of the key criteria for hiring Product Managers.

One of the most common follies that many potential product manager hopefuls make is, focusing only on the “Minimal” aspect and forgetting “Viable”  and “Product”

Minimal: What is the least thing you can do in the fastest amount of time to get the product out and test the market.

Viable: What is the least you NEED to do to make sure it works. This implies it would include the key differentiator that you have from your competitors.

Product: It HAS to be a finished product in itself. There HAS to be a market for that product. It may be your MVP but customers do not buy your MVP. They buy products.It can do only 1 tiny thing, but it should do it well.

To give an oversimplified example: If you were to build a WhatsApp rival that will differentiate itself by giving users an ability to hide messages in a group from certain group members, Your MVP has to be a messaging App with an ability to hide messages from group members.

You can cut corners on speed, multi-browser support, group sizes, encryption, starring, tagging, blocking, spam fighting, heck even real-time updates, or don’t even  give users an ability to invite anyone(Do it via email, manually for each user ), but not on the very core feature

Sounds like such a simple thing to do…

And since I am fond of haikus on Product Management–Here is one on Minimal Viable Product

Minimal Viable Product
was minimal as a blank slate
forgot Viable Product

 

 

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Boring Chat Bots are Coming – #ChatBots #Future

Disclaimer: Before you ask…as always all opinions are mine/personal. This article is my take on how Chat Bots would evolve in the near future

Dear Product  Managers,

Heard this? “bots are the next big thing” and “Chat bots will solve your communication needs” and especially “your apps will become redundant”  and let me not forget “your business is dead if you do not have a Chat bot”

Yes bots are great and you will probably see more of them around and we need to prepare , especially you ..the  next gen Product Manager trying to build the best awesome personalized human like bot .

So here is a list of my complaints/rants  against bots and how many Bot scenarios are sometimes potrayed

 

Chat Bots to replace everything

God knows what all can Chat bots replace or even God does not know what Chat bots cannot replace.

One of the most common examples I have heard is “Pizza ordering bot” , Like a full scale pizza ordering chat bot

Heaven’s it is a bad idea to even think of.

This is how many scenarios play out in our heads(Would seem normal to some and unnecessarily drawn out to many..to the latter, I am sorry)

 

Me: Hey I need Pizza

Bot: Awesome, what type? Your regular?

Me: Naah, want to experiment. Suggest me some veg options

Bot : We just launched Awesome Veggie supreme  pizza. It has pineapple, mushrooms and tomatoes

Me: Anything with broccoli

Bot : Sure , How about Broccoli surprise ?

Me: Swell . Broccoli surprise would do

Bot: What size

Me: Medium , oh and please add extra cheese

Bot : Cool! Anything to drink? We have coke, pepsi and Mirinda

Me: Coke 1 ltr please

Bot : Great . Total is 1 gazzilion Rs.

Me: ok

Bot: Your address is same as before

Me : yes

Bot: Great , order received. Will keep you posted !

Me: Thanks

 

Sounds decent enough, like talking to a normal person at the counter, doesn’t it?

Boring Chat bot

NO! THIS IS A BOT.

Typing  Typing Typing and Typing

You basically ordered Broccoli pizza and a coke and had to do a long drawn conversation. What if you wanted to replace pineapple in one pizza with broccoli ?

What if you got in a mood for No extra cheese?  And god forbid if you were ordering for a group.

It takes me 30 minutes trying to get a group to agree to a pizza order, I don’t want to have that same conversation with the Bot. This negotiation does not work.

It’s a BOT

What’s all this crap about having a conversation …”Natural language” . Yes giving a personality to a Chat Bot works, but why exactly are people trying to impress a Bot?

What is this need for ” Hey ” “Can you please” .

Not people’s fault, it seems that is how many advertisements around bots expect us to behave.

These are dumb machines, can’t even pass a Turing test (1 did I guess) and we are trying to be Nice to them?

Think about all the human potential wasted trying to be Nice to Bots

Do you go to google and type , “please tell me the nearest pizza places since I am hungry”

Someday, bots will feel bad but that day is not today. Last time I checked, my car does not give better mileage if I talk nicely to it.

You could argue that this can be further simplified , heck you could, and that is exactly the points.

 

Many Chat Bots will and should become dumb and stop hiding that they are bots. You would either see many new bots that do just 1 job (while the app can do 1000–Eg  Dominos bot–you say Pizza and you are done) or drop the pretense and talk to you like they should…Like an IVRS system. Yes the ones that everyone hates , but are still very prevalent

Eg–something like this

Me: Pizza

Bot: Please select which one

  1. Your previous order (Broccoli blast)
  2. Veggi paneer
  3. Spices Maximus
  4. See Non veg also

Me: 2

Bot: Please select

  1. Complete order
  2. Order more
  3. Edit order

Me: 1

Bot: Great ! The total is 1 gazzilion dollars

 

This Bot is BORING , this bot is efficient.

It is like an IVRS. Whenever you think about bot scenario, think about how an IVRS system  works, would you do that on an IVRS?

IVRS: Please speak your name after the beep

Me: Hello IVRS, My Name is Madhur

IVRS: You are stupid Madhur

 

But there is ray of hope.

Bots platforms have started and soon will go gung-ho on giving a rich interface to bots within chat .

So in the pizza example, you could open the entire menu inside the chat and just Tap on the one you want

You would make a selection on the first chat message and add cheese on the next, again by a simple click/tap

This sounds very familiar. Where have I seen it? THIS IS AN APP

Now you see? Bots are just screens of your App, starting with few functionalities and possibly finally your entire app,just another UI surface .

Do not force fit your entire app into  a chat interface, it will just give you PR, not happy customers.

Would you browse amazon using an amazon chat bot ?

 

Do Bots fit nowhere:

They do, they are awesome, especially when you do not initiate the conversations, but an external event does. These are the best use cases IMO

Eg:

Finance Bot : Pssst: ICICI just crossed 1200 Rs. Wanna sell? I recommend sell , all of it. Press Y

Me: Y100

Finance Bot : Kewl! Sold for 1210, you made 10,000 rs profit…you rich spoiled brat.

 

Your apps are not dying, you can survive without BOTS,it is OK.

There are a LOT of advances made using AI and computers can figure out your stated needs : Eg:”Veggi delight pizza enough for 4 people” can directly order aVeggiei pizza large size.

But you need to know what you really want

So yes, dear product managers and users: your next wave of bots will be boring , they will be as close to chatting with a person as IVRS is to talking to a human. Even Siri and Cortana wear off the novelty in a day(OMG, it can tell me a joke)

Things will improve,but you need to go past boring bots first( we are still dealing with IVRS, remember)

 

A new ERA begins…The Boring Bot Era

 

Sincerely Yours

Broccoli pizza fan #LeaveMyPizzaAlone

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