Month: December 2012

Farewell Cranky PM

by Saeed Khan

Back in July on her website, the Cranky PM announced the following:

By year end, the Cranky Product Manager is planning to shut down this entire show: blog, twitter, facebook, pinterest everything.  *poof* gone, deleted.

And with the exception of some updates on a book (crowdfunded on KickStarter), there’s been little activity on her site.

Whether she follows through and shuts everything down by 11:59 PM on December 31 2012 or not, it’s clear that she’s moving on to other things.

Back in June 2007 when we first started this blog, there weren’t a lot of PM blogs out there. Forgive me if I’ve missed any old-time PM bloggers, but the blogs I recall from 2007 were written by Steve Johnson, Paul Young, Scott Sehlhorst, Marty Cagan, Jeff Lash, Rich Mironov, Ivan Chalif and the CrankyPM.

Of course there have been many other PM blogs started since then. Our blog roll list over 150 of them! But in those days, and for several years thereafter, the Cranky PM was different.

Aside from being an anonymous blogger and a good writer, she delivered many insights about the world of Product Management. Granted, it was about the “dark side” of the work, but with both humour and irreverence, she dished it out and said what needed to be said.

There were riffs about:

and many other topics.

There was even a post aimed at me, though she never mentions me by name. I responded in kind with this post. :-) That was almost 4 years ago!

It’s been great to read her blog, learn from it and laugh along the way.

I hope the book comes out soon, and as the year comes to an end, I wish the Cranky PM farewell.


Tweet this: New post: Farewell Cranky PM  #prodmgmt

More discussions, fewer documents

By Steve Johnson, Under 10 Consulting

“The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”—Princess Leia in Star Wars IV: A New Hope.

willMy wife and I realized that our wills were twenty years old and out of date. We now have a bigger house, more assets, more guitars, more jewelry. Our kids are now adults and no longer need a guardian. So we went to a lawyer who asked us our requirements.

Basically, my will is “the kids split it all”, but it took the lawyer 85 pages of legal jargon to say it. As I was proofreading the final document, I found a whole paragraph defining the number “30” and I burst out laughing. Clearly this paragraph was the result of a lawsuit. When I complained, the lawyer replied, “But remember, when the will is being disputed in court, the judge needs to understand your intentions—because you’re dead and can’t explain.

The reason it takes 85 pages to explain “the kids split it all” is because you’re not able to explain yourself when things go wrong.

Object Lesson 1

Has this ever happened to you? You have some seemingly simple sounding product requirement that you have specified completely and without ambiguity (at least from your perspective). Yet, when the Dev team interprets it, they have many questions and in fact don’t see it as completely and unambiguously as you do? Thankfully,  you’re still alive and can answer their questions.

Getting back to the will…

Over dinner, I explained the basics of the new wills to the family, that the kids would split it all, that my daughter would get Susan’s jewelry and my son would get my guitars. After all, my son Chip is a professional musician. It seemed logical that he should get my guitars.  Then my daughter said, “But daddy, I want one of your guitars.” She doesn’t play but she’s been listening to me play since she was a baby.

martin_d35_600Then the kids started arguing over which of the five guitars my daughter could have. They both wanted the one I play the most—which is also my best one. It’s a 1979 Martin HD-28. The disagreement started friendly enough—you know, kind of kidding around but not really—and then it got kind of mean. For a few days it created a wall between them until I solved the problem. I found and bought another Martin, a 1975 D-35 in pristine condition.

Object Lesson 2

You don’t know what you don’t know, until you try and find out. I couldn’t have foreseen the argument over my guitar. The desires of my children only became apparent AFTER going through the process. I then easily addressed the issue.  The same is true when creating new products. We learn through experimentation — trial and error. The key is to make the errors early enough so they can be addressed BEFORE they cause real harm.

And in my case, well before the will “went live”. Pun intended.

Tweet this: New post by @sjohnson717 More discussions, fewer documents #prodmgmt

About the author

Steve Johnson is a widely recognized speaker and story teller within the technology product management community. As founder of Under 10 Consulting, he helps product teams implement strategic product management in an agile world. Sign up for his newsletter and weekly inspirations.

3 Ms That Are Critical for Creating High-Impact B2B Solutions

By John Mansour

The three Ms for B2B solutions are analogous to the four Ps for consumer products with one key exception. The four Ps emphasize individual product success while the three Ms emphasize solutions  comprised of multiple complementary products and services that make it easier to differentiate, solve bigger problems and increase the average deal size.

Apply these three Ms to your portfolio and you’ll be rewarded with faster and healthier growth.

1. Markets

The good news is your products can be used by many organizations across many market segments. It’s also bad news because the thought of focusing on specific market segments feels like you’re consciously excluding others and limiting your growth potential.

The simple rule of thumb is you can “sell” to any organization in any market to maximize your revenue opportunities as long as your solutions are a good fit as is. But strategic product investments, marketing resources and sales initiatives should focus on market segments that will drive 80% of your revenue. The other 20% are smart enough to know you’re a good fit even if you don’t target them explicitly.

This level of market focus allows your solutions to be highly relevant with differentiating capabilities for your most important markets, and those elements of differentiation are the key to more effective sales and marketing. Continue adding market segments over time to ensure you’re always playing from a position of strength.

2. Metrics

It’s easy to let metrics that are critical to your organization consume your strategy and product direction. But if your goal is to deliver more powerful solutions, it’s easier to start with metrics or KPIs (key performance indicators) that are critical and strategic to your target customers. If your solutions are powerful enough to advance the KPIs of organizations in your target markets, it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t move the needle on your own KPIs.

3. Mindshare

Mindshare may be the most difficult of the Ms because internally, there are so many product initiatives competing for the same resources and externally, marketing communications quickly become white noise.

The key is to communicate a message that’s simple, clear and compelling enough to be heard above everything else competing for the same minds, both internally and externally. The secret: leave all things product and technology out of the initial dialogue. They’re not important until the focus shifts to “how” the solution will be delivered.

The core message should focus on who (target markets), what (target customer KPIs and key challenges to meeting those KPIs) and why (root causes behind those challenges). Messages built with these components are simple for everyone to understand, internalize and repeat. And the more people repeating your message, the greater the mindshare you’ll achieve.

The emphasis on products versus solutions isn’t an either/or scenario. B2B organizations require both to succeed. Incremental product improvements are important to retain customers and protect recurring revenue streams while multi-product solutions are critical for exponential growth.

So what makes the 3 Ms for B2B solutions so critical? They provide incredible clarity and focus when making decisions on growth and investment priorities that are most valuable to the organization. They also provide common parameters that product teams, marketing and sales can rally around to drive growth. When product teams, marketing and sales are focused on the same three Ms, your organization is rewarded with a fourth M – (market) momentum.


John Mansour is president and founder of Proficientz, a company focused on B2B product portfolio management.

Tweet this: 3 Ms that are critical for creating high-impact #B2B solutions – #prodmgmt #management

PM Songs — Next year’s goals — Sung to “Deck the halls”

By Saeed Khan

Here’s a little Christmas carol parody for all you product people to enjoy and share. Who  knows, maybe some of you can relate to this. :-)

And if you have one of your own, please feel free to let us know in the comments — paste a link or the entire parody if you want!

Sung to the tune of “Deck the Halls”.

Next year’s goals will be much higher
Fa la la la la, la la la la
The new GM needs a high flyer.
Fa la la la la, la la la la

The product needs a brand new vision
Fa la la la la, la la la la
There were no problems ‘til the acquisition
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Too many code changes late in the cycle
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Sending quality in a downward spiral
Fa la la la la, la la la la

They start the new build compilation
Fa la la la la, la la la la
And then begin the next iteration
Fa la la la la, la la la la

We must create new product positioning
Fa la la la la, la la la la
It needs to align with corporate messaging
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Leads and opps we will measure
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Creating dashboards is not my pleasure
Fa la la la la, la la la la

We’ll hold Ops reviews with our bosses
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Explaining important wins and losses
Fa la la la la, la la la la

So let’s go forth all together
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Countless re-orgs we all will weather
Fa la la la la, la la la la


Tweet or share this: #prodmgmt songs — Next year’s goals – Sung to “Deck the halls” #parody

See also:

  1. Time to go, Time to go, Time to go (Sung to “Let it snow”)
  2. 12 Days after GA (Sung to “12 days of Christmas”)

And here’s the original rendition of Deck the Halls!

When the product is YOU: Instagram, Facebook TOS

by Steve Johnson, Under 10 Consulting

In my consulting and coaching work, I’m often asked to clarify what I mean when I use the word “product.” Do I mean software, services, solutions, something else?

There are really two definitions of ‘product’: 1) a product solves a problem for a set of paying customers; and 2) if sales people are selling it, it’s a product and someone else had better define it first.

So, by either of these definitions, software, services, and solutions are all products, and should be managed like products. That means specifying exactly what the product delivers, who it serves, how much they’ll pay for it, and what requirements are necessary to achieve success in your customer base. That’s why product management should be involved in each product—whether software, professional services, customer support, or anything else that is purchased.

And some of the products we use—like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—are not really products. Yes, they solve problems for a set of customers, but not for a paying set of customers.

Instagram released its controversial new terms of service on December 18, 2012:

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, released its new conditions overnight which states it has the right to use people’s photos in advertisements without the photographer’s consent and without payment.

But despite the roar from angry users, this isn’t really a new idea. Back in 2009, The Guardian reported:

When the Smiths of Missouri—an all-American family with the regulation two blond children—posed for their Christmas photo, little did they know they would end up on a billboard thousands of miles away in the Czech Republic.

People are finally starting to realize this: if you’re not paying for it, you are the product.

From USA Today:

The best way I’ve ever heard Facebook’s business model described is simple: “If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” What makes Facebook so valuable is that you, your friends, and everyone else who uses the site are sitting ducks for marketers out to exploit your information to sell you things.

A similar discussion took place on LifeHacker and in the comments thread yagameister quoted the great Robert A. Heinlein:


(You’d think this term would be familiar to the readers of a blog called “LifeHacker” but apparently not. And then, in typical internet fashion, the thread goes off the topic into crazy-ville with a big argument about use of the word “ain’t.”)

My Econ 101 professor shared this term with us… and put it on the final exam. TANSTAAFL stands for “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” It’s a central theme in Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”

Vendors have to get paid for their work, just like you do. When you’re using a “free” product, how is the vendor going to get paid? By selling your information to others in some form.

Tweet this: When the product is YOU: Instagram, Facebook TOS #prodmgmt #socmed

About the author

Steve Johnson is a widely recognized speaker and story teller within the technology product management community. As founder of Under 10 Consulting, he helps product teams implement strategic product management in an agile world. Sign up for his newsletter and weekly inspirations.