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Product Management – Amazon Approach

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This is an answer I got from Quora – Answered by Ian (link here)

There is an approach called “working backwards” that is widely used at Amazon. We try to work backwards from the customer, rather than starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it. While working backwards can be applied to any specific product decision, using this approach is especially important when developing new products or features.

For new initiatives a product manager typically starts by writing an internal press release announcing the finished product. The target audience for the press release is the new/updated product’s customers, which can be retail customers or internal users of a tool or technology. Internal press releases are centered around the customer problem, how current solutions (internal or external) fail, and how the new product will blow away existing solutions.

If the benefits listed don’t sound very interesting or exciting to customers, then perhaps they’re not (and shouldn’t be built). Instead, the product manager should keep iterating on the press release until they’ve come up with benefits that actually sound like benefits. Iterating on a press release is a lot less expensive than iterating on the product itself (and quicker!).

Here’s an example outline for the press release:

  • Heading - Name the product in a way the reader (i.e. your target customers) will understand.
  • Sub-Heading - Describe who the market for the product is and what benefit they get. One sentence only underneath the title.
  • Summary - Give a summary of the product and the benefit. Assume the reader will not read anything else so make this paragraph good.
  • Problem - Describe the problem your product solves.
  • Solution - Describe how your product elegantly solves the problem.
  • Quote from You - A quote from a spokesperson in your company.
  • How to Get Started - Describe how easy it is to get started.
  • Customer Quote - Provide a quote from a hypothetical customer that describes how they experienced the benefit.
  • Closing and Call to Action - Wrap it up and give pointers where the reader should go next.

If the press release is more than a page and a half, it is probably too long. Keep it simple. 3-4 sentences for most paragraphs. Cut out the fat. Don’t make it into a spec. You can accompany the press release with a FAQ that answers all of the other business or execution questions so the press release can stay focused on what the customer gets. My rule of thumb is that if the press release is hard to write, then the product is probably going to suck. Keep working at it until the outline for each paragraph flows.

Oh, and I also like to write press-releases in what I call “Oprah-speak” for mainstream consumer products. Imagine you’re sitting on Oprah’s couch and have just explained the product to her, and then you listen as she explains it to her audience. That’s “Oprah-speak”, not “Geek-speak”.

Once the project moves into development, the press release can be used as a touchstone; a guiding light. The product team can ask themselves, “Are we building what is in the press release?” If they find they’re spending time building things that aren’t in the press release (overbuilding), they need to ask themselves why. This keeps product development focused on achieving the customer benefits and not building extraneous stuff that takes longer to build, takes resources to maintain, and doesn’t provide real customer benefit (at least not enough to warrant inclusion in the press release).

More details:

http://www.shmula.com/start-with-the-customer-and-work-backwards/324/
http://www.allthingsdistributed.com/2006/11/working_backwards.html

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November 13th, 2013 at 3:10 am

Posted in Business,USA,Work

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Product Manager

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I’ve been lately putting on my project management hat and want to note some important must have skills in this domain. This domain doesn’t have any must have hard skills but more like a complex combination of business, technical, interface and communication.

Here are few:
Business – commercially astute - you should be able to smell the next moneymaking opportunity
Technical – be able to talk, reason with developers and not be the jerk who is asking for the impossible given current skills and resources
UI Design – be able to wireframe and be able to provide guidance to the Ux and designers
Customer insight – able to empathize with customers and extract needs and wants from them
Communication – ability to able to distill and communicate in the most succinct , focussed way.

Written by admin

April 28th, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Techie,Work

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Fit for Purpose

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This came across the project management conference I attended last week in Dallas TX (btw, awesome steak in TX, no doubt the home of longhorns).

So an elderly man went to his doctor for his annual check up. Before the check up, he had to fill up a form that has 2 simple questions.
1. How often you go to gym?
2. How long you stay at gym during each visit?

The man replied to the questions:
1. Daily
2. 2 hours

The doctor looked at the form, said “awesome” and proceeded with all the tests. He then asked the man to come next week for the results of his health check up.

Next week when the man showed up at the doctor’s office the doctor had a rather confused look. The doctor asked, “you devoted so much time in gym. However your test results showed almost no sign of that effort. What actually you do in the gym?”

The elderly man smiled and said – I take my 16 years old daughter to gym every day. While she exercises and trains for a couple of hours, I go to the gym bar and enjoy the live sports with couple of beers. Ha!

So aligning this lesson to project manager’s job, we should never take anything at its face value. Every PM should delve within the process and objectives and find out the root cause before making any decision.

Written by admin

June 26th, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Posted in Insight,Techie,Work

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Internalize

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One of my favorite management words in business world is “internalize”. Word web defines it as “incorporate within oneself; make subjective or personal”. This becomes even more significant when you are talking about change management. Forget about the expertise and highly sophisticated tools. Until you have employees internalize the organizational vision/mission/strategy, you are getting nowhere.

Here’s a story from one of HP’s battle cards.

There goes a story that once upon a time, a man visited NASA. In the afternoon, when he was about to leave the man saw a cleaner in one of the corridors cleaning the floor. When the man came closer the cleaner smiled at him and asked: “what are you doing here?” The man answered that he had experienced a tour of the complex. To be polite the man asked the cleaner in return: “And what are you doing here the whole day?” The cleaner answered: “I put man on the moon”…

You see, that is internalisation. The man had the mission, vision and objectives of NASA internalised in his own job; no matter what we are doing in the organisation, no matter who we are, we all need to internalise the way we need to work. That job may well be different for each of the stakeholders. When all stakeholders adopt the new way of working as “the way we do things here” than you have reached your goal. You have internalised!

Written by admin

April 8th, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Posted in USA,Work

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