Defining Millennial-Friendly Products

By Rivi Aspler

I’ll admit that for the past few years, I disregarded trends such as the social enterprise, consumerism or gamification. The ‘Big-Data’ notion was the only trend that I had considered as important enough to invest roadmap-days in. And yet, example-acquisitions from lately only prove that I’ve awaken up quite late….

The latest is the acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft, but beforehand, there were the acquisitions of Buddy Media, Stypi and Radian6 by Salesforce, or the acquisition of Collective Intellect by Oracle. All acquirers have already started integrating communal features into their platforms, offering the end-user with embedded and seamlessly integrated socially oriented features.

These acquisitions follow up on what we all see and experience… the growing dominance of Millennials in the working environment.  The chart below demonstrates that very well. Looking at the chart, one can see that already in 2015, the Facebook generation will dominate the work environment.

One could simply disregard the above statistics saying that it has nothing to do with enterprise software (as I did up until recently), but that would simply mean having your head buried in the sand.

Millennials expect enterprise applications to “give” them much more than Gen-Y expected:

  • Millennials require products that work from anywhere, anytime and on any type of device.
  • Millennials expect the applications to offer MANY communal features, so that they can easily communicate with everyone (peers, customers, suppliers and partners).
  • Millennials expect the applications to analyze ALL the information that is out there, no matter if it has been created on a social platform (Facebook / Twitter / etc.) or stored in a structured DB.
  • Millennials expect the analyzed information to be pushed to them, in real-time, without the need to actively search for something. Embedded Analytics, Embedded Workflows and In-Context Navigation will become a must.

The cool thing is that some companies are actually walking the talk by incorporating Millenial friendly features into their software products.

Kronos, for example, is one of the leading WFM (workforce management) companies in the world. Supplying a suite of products that assists large organizations in managing their workforce, Kronos has an easy reach to dollar worth data. The screenshot below, shows how Kronos translates that available data into periodically based Numeric Targets and compares these targets with the actual day-to-day performance.

The average manager doesn’t have to look for this data. It is embedded into the application and is pushed to the user, in real-time. Alongside with the option to drill down into data and define thresholds, this is one of the best examples of Embedded Analytics.

SABA live, is a great example of a product, a learning platform in this case, that took the ‘Social Enterprise’ notion and truly gave it enough substance, almost to level that an X generation person would feel overwhelmed with information. But when showing such an application to a Millennial person, she would feel ‘at home’…. able to reach information and communicate with relevant opinion leaders, at just a click away.

Another great example is ‘WorkDay’. This successful company is vigorously building a SaaS based ERP system and religiously insists on ease-of-use. Offering Embedded Workflows alongside with In Context Navigation action buttons and zero ribbon-based-menus, Workday truly offers an application that doesn’t need any training. As a user you get exposed only to the actions that you can perform, exactly on time. Embedded guidance at its best!

The last example is of Salesforce, that offers now, after the acquisitions of radian6, BuddyMedia and Rypple, a strong engine that seamlessly analyzes data, regardless of its origin, structured or unstructured, all in one application. Its latest product launch is probably just an early bird of the future , millennial friendly, social and mobile customer service platform.

So, what do you think of this trend? Do you think about Millennials when building your products?


Tweet this: Building Millennial-Friendly Products  #prodmgmt #ux

The Role of Product Marketing in Your Startup

By Saeed Khan

A real short post today. The kind folks at Openview Partners have published an article I wrote on establishing Product Marketing in a starup. It’s a 2 parter — Part 1 was posted last week and Part 2 was posted today.

Please check out both parts and lots of other great content they have on their site — some of it written by me. 🙂

And leave some comments there if you agree, disagree or have something to add.


Tweet this: The Role of Product Marketing in Your Startup #prodmgmt @openview_labs


Zero Based Budgeting as a Tool to Set Your Products Strategy

By Rivi Aspler

Have you ever thought of taking the financial method of Zero Based Budgeting and applying it to products portfolio budgeting decisions?

Privileged with the opportunity to rethink my company’s products portfolio, I recently took part in such a process and would like to share with you the method.

Wikipedia defines Zero-Based Budgeting as:

A financial method of budgeting in which all expenses (of a company, a project, etc.) must be justified for each new period. Zero-based budgeting starts from a “zero base”; while every function within an organization is analyzed for its needs and costs. Budgets are then built around what is needed for the upcoming period, regardless of whether the budget is higher or lower than the previous one.

When you come to think of it, budgeting different functions of an organization, can be easily applied to products-budgeting. Decisions are logically the same. Products are very much like a live creature in a dynamic ecological environment. If you feed products with food (R&D power), they will grow and prosper (assuming that you are defining a good product ;-)). If you starve products; they will sadly become irrelevant in time.

So, how do you apply zero based budgeting to products-budgeting?

Firstly, you start by listing the ‘functions’ that require investment, i.e. the products or modules per product that you may want to invest in. It’s easy to list those on the y axis of an excel spreadsheet (bear with me; we will use the X axis momentarily).

Now, list the parameters (on the X axis) by which you are going to analyze the products. I would recommend the following:

Industry: (1) Market size, (2) Market Maturity, (3) Allocated budget by customers and (4) Competition
Product: (1) R&D Spending till a mature product, (2) Potential Revenues, (3) Key Differentiators and (4) Strategic Fit

Now that we have got the template set. We can go through the analysis:

  1. Insert a value between 1 and 3 into each of the grid-cells.
  2. Multiply the values of each cell by their row-neighbors cell-values. Do that separately for each category.
  3. Sum-up the categories results. You will get a clear order of the products by their financial potential.

We now know that product 1 should get, by far, more resources than product 3. Whether these resources are R&D people or M&A dollars, that’s another question (Buy/Build/Partner).

Now that the main flow is described, I would like to note some things that one should consider when going through such a process:

  • Considering the importance of such a discussion, the tool should be shared with several opinion leaders of the organization and the results should be an average of all stakeholders-grades.
  • Do these stake holders represent different opinions or is there a known consensus? The tool will be most valuable when you are questioning your roadmap decisions or when people have heterogeneous opinions.
  • Make sure that everyone speaks the same language when filling in values into the table. Clearly specify which verbal value each numeric value stands for. Just as an example, it should be clear to people that ‘3’ in the case of “Allocated budget by customers” means ‘4 M/Year’ as opposed to ‘Less than 0.5 M/Year’ in the case of ‘1’.
  • If you have more parameters in either of the categories (industry vs. product), it means that you consider one of these categories to be more important than the other


Tweet this: Using Zero Based Budgeting as a tool for Product Strategy #prodmgmt #strategy

Disagreement is good – learn how to deal with it

By Fred Engel

Far too many organizations have not established effective mechanisms to resolve the conflict that inevitably occurs when multiple people have different ideas about what to do next. As a consultant, I often get hired to assess engineering organizations and to itemize their strengths and weaknesses.

What I see over and over is the inability of people to get their issues resolved without having to resort to the variety of guerrilla tactics that undermine the entire fabric of the organization. Given that these are solvable problems, it is hard to understand why so many organizations do not address this issue and solve the problem.  The cost of inefficiency in these organizations must be very high, as there is a great deal of dysfunction.

Who to blame
The blame lies squarely with the top management of the organization. Management often seems to assume that the organization knows how to make decisions when in fact it does not. The organizational structures are usually not in place to make decision-making happen quickly. In addition, the individuals in the organization often do not have the skills necessary to engage in conflict resolution constructively.

This lack of smooth decision-making leads to great frustration among the employees. The academic literature has shown that stress levels increase with reduced control. Not being able to get decisions made means reduced control. If you want your employees to be energized and engaged, help them get learn how to get decisions made rapidly.

Let’s both agree that you’re wrong
People just do not know how to disagree in a constructive manner that leads to a win-win solution. Once trained in the methodologies of win-win negotiations and supported by effective decision-making processes, the organization is able to move more rapidly and efficiently. It is hard to imagine a greater productivity gain than to cause the people in the organization to make decisions effectively and efficiently.

There are two parts to making good decisions:

Decision-Making Governance
Building products requires the involvement of a lot of people in the decisions that need to be made along the way. It is usually very hard for a single individual to know enough to make all the decisions alone. Decision-Making Governance are the processes and rules for getting decisions made that are bought into and have staying power.

There are different types of decisions that are made in any product environment. Defining the hierarchy of decisions that need to be made and the relationship of the decision sets to each other is a good basis for creating boards. Some typical decision categories are:

  1. Strategic Product Direction Decisions
  2. Product investment decisions to fulfill the strategic objectives
  3. Product definition and capability decisions relating to specific releases of product
  4. Release decisions of when the product is ready to go to market
  5. Detailed product feature decisions (e.g. Look and Feel)

When defining the boards and hierarchies for each of these decisions, it is important to clearly define the autonomy that people have within the board and the appeal process to the next higher level board. In this way, people will understand which decisions they are allowed to make.  Defining how deadlocks are broken is a very important point to define.

There seems to be a reluctance to define a strong leader capable of breaking deadlocks. The reluctance to empower such an individual comes from the political side effects of the rest of the team members who want to have that power for themselves. It takes strong management to be able to put in place a leader that is good at building consensus, but could also make decisions. The board must have teeth to force compliance.

Lastly, upper management needs to take steps that assure people in the organization to treat the governance boards seriously and work within the board structure. Far too often, people avoid the boards, do what they want, and undermines the entire structure. It takes vigilance to make this work.

Conflict Resolution
Conflict in any organization is unavoidable. Working in and organization means interacting with other people in resolving the inevitable differences. Since most people do not have strong skills in conflict resolution, it is incumbent on the organization to train people in how to effectively resolve interpersonal conflict. Many organizations do not develop norms of behavior or train people in those norms to allow conflict resolution to occur in a relatively uniform manner across the organization. The result is a mix of behaviors that create confusion, unhappiness, frustration, and most of all inefficiency.

It is up to the leaders of the organization to show people the way to behave in situations requiring conflict resolution. Leaders need to:

  1. Establish the rules of conflict resolution
  2. Train employees in the approved processes of the organization
  3. Behave, themselves, in the style that they’ve established
  4. Cause the organization to behave in the style established

Many examples exist of companies that have found a way to embed conflict resolution and problem solving into their cultural DNA. The styles that I think work best are styles that cause people to be able to put the facts on the table and resolve the conflict one-on-one in an adult like manner, minimizing game playing. Two such cultures are Intel’s ( and Bridgewater’s (–principles.aspx).

Both put very strong emphasis on being truthful and engaging in egoless discussion to get to the resolution. There are other styles to choose from, one only needs to search on the web to find books, blogs, articles, consultants, and training materials for alternative points of view. The important thing is to find the right culture for you, define it, train people in it, and cause real behavioral change.

If I haven’t convinced you I hope to at least convince you to read the old classic “Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Fisher and Ury. There are just too many people who do not understand the concept of win-win. Reading that book may convince you to do more for your organization.


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