Month: February 2008
After reading my article, “You can never have too many Product Managers“, the person asked me whether I knew of any published numbers that provide guidelines for the number of product managers a company should have relative to it’s revenue.
The answer is, unfortunately: it depends.
It depends of the stage in the lifecycle of the product, the market, the kind of customers etc.
To get data, I need your help. In return for 30 seconds of your time — that’s all it will take I promise — I’ll collect the data and share it back with all of you in a future post.
Survey is closed. Click here for the results.
Seth Godin gives some advice to real estate agents. Allow me to paraphrase his advice for Product Managers:
Here’s my best advice (everyone knows a product manager or two, so feel free to forward this along).
Plan A: You should quit being a Product Manager. I’m serious.
Quit being a PM. Get a job doing something else.
Some of you have been waiting to hear that. My pleasure.
The ones that are left, that’s you, can consider Plan B:
If you’re not going to be able to make a living by helping sales, by checking to see which bugs have been fixed, by using the never-ending ream of support calls to answer, then what are you going to do? Whining is not an option.
In fact, I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for you.
As [Seth] wrote in The Dip, you’re either the best in the world (where ‘world’ can be a tiny slice of the environment) or you’re invisible.
So become the best in the world at understanding your customers. This means being Draconian in your choices. No, you can’t also do a little of this or a little of that. Best in your world means burning your other bridges and obsessing.
You become the source of information, the watercooler, the person to turn to.
“I have no time!”
Of course you have that time available. Remember nine months ago when you were three times as busy with sales calls as you are now? Invest that time in building up your expertise and becoming the person people who don’t even like you turn to for insight.
The opportunity is to reinvent the way you interact with current users, with prospects, with the mildly interested and with your past clients. The opportunity, in other words, is to stop waiting around for the phone to ring and instead figure out how to do what you do best… connect users and developers in a way that makes them both confident.
Some of you will stick with the standard business card with the standard photo, the standard office and the standard feature request strategy and the standard approach to making the phone ring. It’s going to be a long haul if that’s your route.
I’m betting, though, that the best of you will end up with a product that will survive, thrive and prosper. Best time to start is right now.
Today, while working on a different blog posting (to be posted soon), my browser, Firefox, froze. I use FireFox almost exclusively these days, mostly because it works well, and I really like the tabbed browser-window interface. I do a lot of multi-tasking via the web browser, and the tabbed interface makes it very easy to jump back and forth between contexts as I multi-task. Try that with the other dominant browser.
Yes, I know there is some toolbar or something for IE 6 that will do this and that IE 7 has it built-in, but FireFox has had tabs for a lonnnnng time, so I prefer it. And while the tabbing feature is great, that’s not the only little feature I want to discuss.
Firefox has another new feature, not sure when they added it, that will restore the full prior state of Firefox on the next launch, if it had shutdown unexpectedly.
(click to see the whole dialog)
How awesome is that? Well, let me tell you…earlier this evening I was working on a blog posting, typing right inside the WordPress editor, when, as I often do, I switched to another tab to look for some info. I clicked a link on that other page, and then the browser froze. And I mean froze. After waiting a minute and still not having a responsive browser, I had to kill the process in the Task Manager.
Somewhat annoyed at not having saved my brilliant blog posting, I reminded myself that I needed to regularly save my work.
But, when I relaunched Firefox and clicked the Restore Session button, to my amazement, there was the entire post in the WordPress editor, exactly as I had left it. It was not saved in WordPress, but Firefox had brought it back. Awesome. Saved me a bunch of time and yet another reason to continue using Firefox.
So, what’s the lesson for Product Managers?
Keep the user’s experience front and center!
I’m sure the tabbed interface and the Restore Session features were fairly easy to implement relative to other tasks such as accurate rendering of markup, script execution, addressing security issues, dealing with plug-ins etc. And while those are important things to work on, they are expected “buying features” for users. But the unexpected, particularly the ruthless efficiency of something like Restore Session, is what will clinch the deal with many users.
Yet, these kinds of features are often traded off when negotiating with development.
Do you want the security problems fixed or do you want the restore? We can’t do both.
Granted, an open source product like Firefox doesn’t necessarily have to make those trade offs, but for business software, that is not the case. Get your engineers to understand the value of having the product outperform expectations, and task them to help identify little gems of functionality that can be implemented to make users rave about your products.
Saeed — Raving Firefox fan, starting today.
Marginal utility is a basic staple of undergrad economics courses. Typically the value of a good goes down as you consume more of it. As I discovered this afternoon, I get less enjoyment from my third cinnamon roll than I did from my first (note to self: try some self-control). But sometimes when goods get infinitely cheap the consumption curve goes completely awry. In his blog deal architect, Vinnie Mirchandani writes about what happens when people start getting unlimited cell phone minutes for a fixed price:
In the UK when they had a similar unlimited mobile minutes promotion a few years ago, a man told me he used his and his wife’s cell phones as a baby monitor – all night and every time the baby had a nap.
Awesome. A million dollar solution to a $50 dollar problem.
The inspiration for the post was that most of the major US mobile phone carriers have just introduced plans that give you unlimited calling for $99 monthly. Have you thought about uncapping usage of your product?
Some good comments on product management from former colleague Cadman Chui over at Red Canary. From some followup comments by Cadman:
I believe Product Management should reside neither in Marketing, or Development. If a product manager falls under marketing, they end up being biased into doing a lot of communications style work. If a product manager falls under development, many times they end up project managing release schedules at too much of a tactical level.
I think most readers of this blog would agree.