Category: Rivi

Product Management and the Consolidation Curve

by Rivi Aspler

When I saw the following image in in the latest Forrester Wave™: B2C Commerce Suites, I realized both the intensity as well as the inevitability of the consolidation phenomenon in the industry.

Consolidation

I also came across the article The Consolidation Curve,  by Graeme K. Deans, Fritz Kroeger and Stefan Zeisel, which describes the four stages of industry and market consolidation. Just like product maturity phases, markets have their own maturity cycle and phases, and it’s important for product managers to understand the dynamics of markets as they mature.

Stages of Market Maturity

Stage 1 – Opening

“The first stage generally begins with a single start-up or with a monopoly just emerging from a newly deregulated or privatized industry. But this 100% industry concentration quickly drops off. Soon, the combined market share of the three largest companies drops to between 30% and 10%, as competitors quickly arise to create the frontier of industry consolidation.”

If you are a product manager that is trying to introduce a new product to the market, you in for a tough fight. Innovation is indeed disruptive, and people don’t like disruptions. You are probably investing as much time into the definition of the new product as to the proving its advantages over the existing substitutes.

Stage 2 – Scale

“This stage is all about building scale. Major players begin to emerge, buying up competitors and forming empires. The top three players in a stage 2 industry will own 15% to 45% of their market, as the industry consolidates rapidly.”

If you are a product manager that is working in a scaling market, you face the harsh competition of the veterans and the new players that are starting to catch up.  It’s time to make sure that your competitive advantage is clear. This advantage will determine if your company will be bought or left behind as a follower after the big ones ….

Stage 3- Focus

“After the ferocious consolidation of stage 2, stage 3 companies focus on expanding their core business and continuing to aggressively outgrow the competition. The top three industry players will now control between 35% and 70%of the market. By this time, there are still generally five to 12 major players.”

If you are a product manager who is working in a market that is in the process of focusing, you are probably not working as hard as you did before :-) (compared to the opening and scaling stages). You are still required to make sure that your value proposition is well perceived by the market and that your competitive advantage is indeed stable (don’t rest!), but now, sales people are the ones that are front and center, trying to get as much as possible market share.

Stage 4 – Balance and Alliance stage

“Here the titans of industry reign, from tobacco to soft drinks to defense. The industry concentration rate plateaus and can even dip a bit as, at this stage, the top three companies claim as much as 70% to 90% of the market. Large companies may form alliances with their peers because growth is now more challenging. Companies don’t move through stage 4; they stay in it.”

If you are a product manager who is working in a stage 4 market, you are probably a bit bored… incremental additions to the product will do just fine…. Until that new start-up arrives, knocking at your door, that will open up the market once again.

Rivi

Tweet this: Product Management and the Consolidation Curve  http://wp.me/pXBON-4ne  #prodmgmt #productmanagement 

About the Author

Rivi-colorRivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.

Three Flavors of a Product Manager – Who should you hire?

by Rivi Aspler

3-flavoursHaving both interviewed many product managers, and also interviewed for management roles myself, I’ve learned about the different “flavors” of the product manager role.

In my experience, there are three flavors of a ‘product manager’ role, and they depend on the product that is being developed and sold. I describe them as follows:

  •  An off-the-shelf product requires a product manager that is able to gather information from multiple sources (competition, partners, prospects, users etc.), analyze it all and come up with the detailed definitions that will build the best possible product for the target market.
  • A customized solution requires product managers to set direction, to position a competitive advantage and to act as thought leaders. Yet, as soon a contract is signed, the account specific business analyst or solution expert will get into the picture and define a customer-specific solution.
  • A hardware product requires a business oriented marketing (product) manager, who is much closer to sales people than she is to the R&D teams. Defining pricing, sales targets and nurturing partnerships, the hardware (HW) product manager is much less of an engineer and much more a business specialist.

This may seem like a non-issue, but the differences between the three flavors are quite large and hence hiring one type of product manager, when you actually need another type, may cause both sides to be frustrated at the very least, and end up with a separation at the worst (though maybe that’s a good thing !).

One could also see the half-full glass of it all, saying that hiring such diverse capabilities can enrich the organization and the hired person with new points of view and new skill sets, but that should be a conscious choice, rather than a trap, you simply fall into.

Before looking into the table below, I would like to define this blog post as a baseline for a joint discussion, as I’m not sure that my experience can be translated into a global, ‘best practice’ kind of recommendation.

Maybe my sample of ‘data’ (i.e. number of interviewees)  isn’t representative of what you have come across. Maybe my conclusions are not the ones that you would have reached.  Let’s discuss it together.

So, creating a matrix of tasks per product type and aligning these with the list of skills that interviewees have claimed to master, one could draw the following tables of inbound and outbound activities and the differences between these 3 flavors of product manager.

product_manager

What do you think of this categorization?  Is your experience validating or contradicting the above notes?

Rivi

Tweet this: Three flavors of Product Manager – Who should you hire? http://wp.me/pXBON-4gl #prodmgmt

About the Author

Rivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.

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The Maturity of your Market Dictates the Type of Product that You Need

By Rivi Aspler

A few months ago, I linked the type of product manager that you want to hire, to the product life cycle stage that your product is at, saying that an engineering oriented product manager would be a better fit for a product that is at its first life cycle stages and that a marketing oriented product manager would be a better fit for the more mature product.

plm

Taking it one step further, it is important to define the type of product that would be a better fit, for each market-stage.

This may seem like a non-issue, but trying to break into a mature market with a new product, you will be faced with companies and products that have been there for years. Trying to take market share from these veterans, you will have to bring something new., i.e. key differentiators.

The old saying that no one gets fired for choosing IBM, is maybe a cliché, but clichés are such, usually because they are true….

marketmaturityvsmarginsvsprofit

Immature markets, on the other hand, or early adopters, for that matter, are either still fragmented, or are  disappointed to one degree or another with their current products. They would be willing to consider a young product or an unknown vendor, if you had managed to prove that your product holds enough key differentiators.

Product management wise (and this is where it gets interesting), if you are building a product for a mature market and if your budget is limited, you have to make difficult choices. You will not have the money to build that mature product that the veterans already have as well as add those key differentiators that are an absolute necessity.

As a Product Manager, you will have to compromise on the completeness of the product in order to invest in differentiation. This means that you must consciously neglect all the bits and bytes that make your product feature-perfect. If you are a perfectionist, this may be painful for you.

Once you have your foot in the door, meaning you have earned enough industry attention and enough early-stage customers (i.e. perceived equity) – only then can you go back and fill the product-holes that you consciously left un-attended.

Good luck in building the product that your company really needs,

Rivi

Tweet this: The Maturity of your Market Dictates the Type of Product that You Need  http://wp.me/pXBON-4f8 #prodmgmt #innovation

Rivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.

Roadmap Planning as a Zero Sum Game

By Rivi Aspler

gameIn game theory and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant’s gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant.

When planning a roadmap, one can easily resemble the different stakeholders to participants of such a zero sum game, where the roadmap days are the gains that everyone wants and the discussion-room is some kind of a poker table, on which development-days are exchanging hands just like poker chips.

The fact that everyone is working for the same company and want the same best for it doesn’t contradict the fact that each of the stakeholders has a different way to reach that same objective…

  • R&D – want to invest in infrastructure or re-write products that are written in outdated technologies.
  • Professional Services teams – want more parameters in the software that will help them setup new customers in less time and help them better accommodate the product for different customers’ needs.
  • Sales people – want exactly the set of features that will help them, close the next deals.
  • Marketing teams – want that new set of features that everyone is talking about (but that very few customers are willing to pay for, just yet).
  • And certainly you as a product person (be honest with yourself) – want to invest more than a few roadmap days in what you think would bring more value to the customers.

Understanding that roadmap planning is a zero sum game requires you to:

  • Try and get as much mathematics into the analysis of where roadmap days should be invested. Getting people to agree on numbers is always better than getting people to agree on some cool PowerPoint slides.
  • Accept the fact that each stakeholder will do their best to prove that more roadmap days should be dedicated to their goal. For example, sales people will ask for lower quotas if their requests don’t get enough roadmap days or R&D teams that will threaten you that products will crash if you keep on using that outdated technology.
  • Accept the fact that a choice must be made and hence, some stakeholders will like the decisions and some will be disappointed.
  • And last but not least, try and enjoy the process as much as you can.

At the end of the day roadmap planning is not that different from chess. Try to do your best to win the game but be ready you lose respectfully.

Rivi

Tweet this:  Roadmap planning as a zero sum game http://wp.me/pXBON-43W #prodmgmt #roadmaps

Rivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.

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5 Tips for Building Tablet-First Business Applications

tabletBy Rivi Aspler

Congratulations, you have just gotten approval to build a tablet-first business application.

This scenario is nothing new when your product has been designed initially for the mobile consumer, but is a professional dream-come-true for the traditional B2B Product Manager.

As always, talking the talk is easy. Walking the walk is a challenge. Not only are there very few best practices for building mobile-first B2B applications, but there are still very few business users who work on tablets for the majority of their day.

This post is an attempt to capture some of the growing knowledge of business mobile applications so that your product investments are utilized in the best possible manner.

1 – Expect Two Modes of Usage: ‘On-The-Go’ and ‘In-The-Office’

If your product handles heavy-duty tasks (good SW examples are Photoshop, SolidWorks and AutoCAD), then unlike traditional desktop products, the importance of a focused MVP (Minimal Viable Product) per resolution size becomes a critical decision.

You must define what tasks the target user will want to complete ‘On-The-Go’. For example, urgently addressing alerts or the handling simple but very common tasks that one can do without much attention to little details)?  Such features will go into the MVP-tablet application with a mobile UI (touch gestures, layered content etc.)

In parallel, you must assume that your users will connect their tablets to a large resolution screen for at least a few hours a day and certainly for the heavy-duty tasks. You must therefore define those heavy-duty tasks and make sure that they can be performed using a mouse and a keyboard as well.

2 – Carefully define your Mobile-First MVP (Minimal Viable Product)

If your B2B product is mature, module-rich, crossing verticals and internationalized, your tablet-first version will not be able to meet the needs of all geographies, all verticals, all types of users and all types of tasks. Making sure you are leveraging your limited resources effectively, you should decide which geographies, which verticals, which users and which types of tasks you focusing on first.

3 – Re-Design the Application to Fit Mobile UX Guidelines

Leverage the mobile-UX knowledge that has already been gathered and documented.  Good sources of information are: Android Design, your place for learning how to design Android apps or Designing for iOS 7  websites.

4 – Test your Product UX with Millennials

You obviously want to know if you are doing a good job with the UX design of the tablet-first application. Unfortunately a usability test with mouse and keyboard savvy people will not give you the results that you are looking for. They will not be happy with the UX unless it imitates the product that they already know.

Millenials are those born (roughly) between 1977 and 1992 – or those currently between 22-37. They are mobile and technology savvy,  they represent the upcoming target mobile users, and will do a great job testing your new UX.

5 – Sales Strategy – Throw in a bunch of cost-effective tablets

Tablets as an in-office tool are not very common yet. Don’t let it be a show stopper for your mobile first product. Since there are many types of cost-effective tablets out there, you should test multiple different tables. as well as the the software itself on those tablets.

Oh… and don’t forget, if you are building a mobile-first heavy-duty business application, you are amongst the first ones to do so. You are therefore bound to make some mistakes. Embracing the challenge as well as the frustration is a necessity.

Rivi

Tweet this:5 Tips for Building Tablet-First Business Applications http://wp.me/pXBON-3Zw #prodmgmt #mobile

About the author

Rivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.