Category: Saeed

If you could take training classes on any topic, what would they be?

by Saeed Khan

As Product Leaders, there’s so much that we need to know in order to do our jobs well. These topics run the gamut from business, strategy, finance, technology, design, research, communication, marketing and more. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of topics.

So here’s how you can help me help you. :-)

Fill in the form below and let me know the top 3 topics you’d like to learn more about. I’ve left the answers open-ended, but please be specific if you can.  I’ll stop talking now. :-)

I’m looking forward to your responses.

Saeed

Tweet this: If you could take training classes on any topic, what would they be?  http://wp.me/pXBON-4qh #prodmktg #prodmgmt

How much does self-interest play in your decision making process?

By Saeed Khan

Back in 2008, I wrote a post entitled “Self interest always wins out…”.

wiifmI was reminded of it again recently during a conversation with a PM friend of mine.  Believe it or not, we were talking about how releases were planned at our companies. She said that she keeps a spreadsheet with each planned feature that also has several columns with weighted values for categories such as Strategic Fit, Customer Satisfaction, Competitive etc.

i.e. this gives a semblance of an analytic approach to her decision making and she can always open the spreadsheet in a meeting if anyone wants to debate prioritizing one thing over another.

I’ve seen this kind of spreadsheet many times in my years, but what reminded me of my old post was that she said she always wanted to add a hidden column in the spreadsheet that factored in a “pain in my butt” value for a given feature.

e.g. how much personal pain she had to endure with customers, salespeople etc. because of he missing capability.

I’m sure we can all empathize with her. I thought I’d written a post on the topic years ago, but had to search to find it. So here is an updated version of that article for your reading pleasure.

But don’t just read the article, please comment on whether self-interest (at any level) plays a role in the product decisions you’ve been involved in. Be honest. :-)

——-

Deep down, every single one of us is driven by self-interest.  From acquiring the most basic necessities of life, to how we deal with others, to the multitude of decisions we make each and everyday, self-interest plays a strong role.  Self-interest is not a bad thing and I’m not demonizing it at all. I’m simply stating an obvious fact. We do what will help us achieve OUR personal goals first and foremost.

And as much as we would like to think that’s not true; that we can look beyond ourselves and do what is in the common good, the fact is, more times than not, we will do what will benefit ourselves. Or at minimum, leverage the decisions we make to benefit our self interest.

keep calm honestWhen deciding what should and shouldn’t go into a product release, we try to look at the market needs, at the competition, at the strategic direction of the company etc. etc. But when push comes to shove, and we have to make a hard call on including something or not, our subconscious will have a significant impact.

In a conversation about prioritizing some requirements, I had to make a choice between two important items of roughly equal effort. When another PM asked me why I chose one instead of the other, I said that if we implemented the one I selected, it would get a lot of people off my butt. And that I was tired of hearing people complain about the issue. The other one wasn’t causing the same stink to be raised, but was clearly needed and valuable.

As I said it, it surprised me somewhat. I told the other PM, “I’m being honest here.”

I like to think that I focus on what will help drive revenue, better position us against competitors, help strengthen relationships with key strategic partners and all that good stuff. But seriously, when a hard decision needed to be made, my reasons were none of those.

It’s not as if that functionality wasn’t needed or that it wasn’t something we should add to the product. Don’t get me wrong. People were complaining about it because it was a gap in the product and customers needed it. But, the primary reason for my choice was driven by immediate self-interest.

So let me ask you a question. Have you ever been in that situation and made a decision for similar reasons? In retrospect, any thoughts on whether that was the right decision?

Saeed

Tweet this: How much does self-interest play in your decision making process? http://wp.me/pXBON-4qk #prodmgmt #productmanagement

About the Author

saeed-headshot-colourSaeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.

Are Your Users Seeing What You Think They Are Seeing?

by Saeed Khan

colour-dress-meme-smallA couple of days ago, my daughters, who are also my reference point for Internet memes, showed me the picture in this link – a shrunken version is to the right — and asked me to describe the colours of the stripes in the dress.

I looked at the picture and then gave my answer.

My younger daughter, nodding in agreement,  look at her older sister somewhat gleefully and said “See, I told you so.”

My older daughter, appearing both disappointed and flustered, looked at me and said “No. You’re wrong.”

At this point, I was rather confused. “What do you mean I’m wrong?” I asked.

They explained the issue to me. My older daughter said, “You should blog about this.”

So what is the issue?

You may  have already read about this dress and it’s colours. It started with this post and it has spread across the web at lightning speed.  Regardless, look at the dress carefully, and answer the question below.

Without giving away the surprise, there are at least 2, and possibly 3 correct answers to the question.

NOTE:  If you want to know more about the answers, it’s easy to find more on the web, but finish reading this post first. :-)

But trust me when I say that 2 people can look at this dress and see COMPLETELY different colours. In fact, ever since my daughters showed me the dress, asked the question and revealed the answer, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the issue.

So…I ran an experiment (spoilers ahead)

On Friday, I opened up this page in my browser and left the browser tab open during the day. Periodically, I would look at the image to see what colour the stripes were.

For most of the day, the stripes were white and gold. But towards the end of the day, I looked at it, and they were now black and blue.

Yes, they had changed colour. And not a subtle change I might say.

I double checked to make sure I hadn’t opened a different window by accident. I hadn’t. The dress HAD changed colour.

My daughter was home from school by that time, and I told her what had happened. She laughed and said she was surprised I had seen both sets of colours.

I then left the house, to pick up my son from school. When I came home, about 20-25 minutes later, I went back into my office and looked at the browser.

The dress was white and gold again. I started laughing out of amazement. I didn’t know what to think.

How could  I look at the SAME image within such a short time span and see such different things?

It’s not an optical illusion; not in any traditional sense.

And then I remembered my daughter’s suggestion to blog about this. So I did some research to understand what was happening.

The answer is context

I’ll let you delve into the mysteries of the colour-changing dress, but it has to do with how your eyes and brain perceive dominant colours. i.e. what your eyes and brain focus on and what is deemed is important.  The same principle  is at play in any application interface that you create.

The context is the job at hand. When a user looks at an interface, they are interpreting it with the context of the actions they need to perform, the goals of those actions and what they know or understand about the interface. i.e. assumed user interface conventions, actions etc.

The interpretations by different user may not be as stark as seeing the same dress in completely different colours, but nonetheless, don’t underestimate the ways people interpret what they see.  What are they focusing on? What are they thinking about? How do they approach the task at hand? These are all questions you need to understand, interpret and embed in the user interface.

And, unlike the women with the dress, your users won’t post on Tumblr or Pinterest or Instagram or elsewhere if they don’t understand how to use your product. In most cases, after a few frustrating minutes — particularly if they’re using a free trial — they’ll move on to one of your competitors, and you’ve lost them for good.

Saeed

Tweet this: Are Your Users Seeing What You Think They Are Seeing http://wp.me/pXBON-4pI  #UX, #prodmgmt #productmanagement

About the Author

saeed-headshot-colourSaeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.

4 lessons Product Managers can learn from Target’s failure in Canada

by Saeed Khan

target-no-heart-canadaTarget is a retail giant in the United States, with about $75 Billion in revenue and over 1,800 stores nationwide. In 2012, Target announced it would open stores in Canada; it’s first international expansion beyond the United States.

In March 2013 Target opened it’s first stores in Canada, quickly expanding to over 130 stores across the country within the first year.

And then, less than 2 years after opening it’s first stores in Canada, Target announced that they were closing ALL Canadians stores, and laying off all 17,000+ employees including some at their Minneapolis headquarters who were hired to oversee the Canadian operations.

The state of the failure is significant, with almost $5 billion to be written off by Target.

How did Target fail so miserably and what can we learn from this fiasco?

1. Understand and meet market expectations

 

disappointment valley  right-arrow-small

First, it’s important to understand Canadian consumers. We loved shopping in Target stores in the US. They have good prices, good merchandise selection (many items not available in Canada) and very helpful staff. When shopping at a large retail store, what else could one want?

When Target announced they were going to open stores in Canada, many Canadians expected those same attributes — price, selection, service — to be part of the Target experience in Canada. Sadly, that was not the case. Prices were mediocre, selection was poor and the service was nowhere near what it was in the US.

Great Customer Service (in the US)

For example, I was once in a Target store in Sunnyvale California. I asked one of the  staff where I could find a clothing item, and the person literally walked me across the store and pointed out exactly where that item was and made sure it was what I was looking for. He then walked back across the store, I’m assuming to resume what he was doing.

This level of service  was nowhere to be found in the Target stores in Canada. The staff were competent, but competent is not memorable, and certainly didn’t meet expectations set by their American coworkers.

Tweet this: 4 lessons Product Managers can learn from Target’s failure in Canada http://wp.me/pXBON-4jl #prodmgmt #target

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Why do Startups Fail?

by Saeed Khan

success-failThere’s no shortage of reasons why startups fail.  You can find lots of articles on the web with lists of reasons. But I hadn’t seen anything analytic until now.

I saw the following graphic mentioned in a Tweet recently.

It is from a company called CB Insights and is based 101 startup postmortems.

Now the data set is small, and may not be statistically valid everywhere — e.g. are startups in India failing for the same reasons as startups in the US? — but it’s a good data set none the less. Note that the sum of the percentages is greater than 100%, so I can only assume that companies had multiple issues

The most common reason for failure, by far(!), is “No Market Need”.  And if you look further down, you see “Ignore Customers” and “Product Mis-Timed”, which in my opinion, are almost the same as “No Market Need”.

Top 20 reasons startups fail

While not completely surprised by these findings, the fact that the number one reason is so far ahead of ALL other reasons DOES surprise me. It indicates one of two things. Either that there is still a LOT of work to do to teach startups how to identify markets, or people will pursue business ideas rather blindly regardless of what the market opportunity really is.

Here are a couple of the examples cited in the article, but I encourage you to read or view some of the postmortems. They are very interesting case studies.

Product: Patient Communicator

I realized that many of the true money-making businesses in healthcare really aren’t about optimizing delivery of primary care. This is a longer discussion but I realized, essentially, that we had no customers because no one was really interested in the model we were pitching.  Doctors want more patients, not an efficient office.

See full postmortem here.

Product: VoterTide

We didn’t spend enough time talking with customers and were rolling out features that I thought were great, but we didn’t gather enough input from clients. We didn’t realize it until it was too late. It’s easy to get tricked into thinking your thing is cool. You have to pay attention to your customers and adapt to their needs.

See full postmortem here.

Saeed

Tweet this: Why do startups fail? http://wp.me/pXBON-4ma #prodmgmt #startups

About the Author

saeed-headshot-colourSaeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.