Product Management :: Product Marketing

24 December, 2012

Great Questions to ask when being interviewed for a product manager position

I read this post post, 5 Questions Great Job Candidates Ask  and thought about the great questions a product manager candidate might ask their interviewer. (FWIW, this article was linked from another one, The Perfect Job Interview in 8 Simple Steps.)

1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?

A cracking question because this frames the deliverables in a reasonably tightframe. It also gets the interviewer to think about how practical it is to start the job:
  1. What processes are in place today (ie existing deliverables / answers, processes and coherence)?
  2. What is chronically missing (that you'd be expected to put in place) - and how easy is that to fix?
  3. What training exists?
  4. W|hat support can be anticipated from the rest of the organisation?
  5. And how important does the rest of the organisation consider your position?

You might want to compare the answers that you receive with this Cambridge Product Management Session - 'What a Product Manager does on the first day / week / month / quarter in their new role' which I lead in March 2011.

2. What are the common attributes of your top performers?

This answer indicates what gets respected as individuals: flashes of inspiration, technical genius, landing whale-sized deals, customer service and support, diligence and attention to detail or slogging one's guts out??

Great candidates want to know, because
  1. they want to know if they fit
  2. if they do fit, they want to be a top performer.

3. What are a few things that really drive results for the company?

This sniffs out what's important for the organisation as whole. In many ways, it's better question than 2, because it indicates the organisation's current strengths and weaknesses.

4. Can you give me an example of a new product that didn't live up to expectations? And what happened next?

So, the interviewee is uncovering how are failures / sub-optimal events handled

Lots of things can be inferred here:
  1. Fame or fire culture?
  2. Does the company collect and use (and reuse) data? Does it know what to collect? And from whom? How frequently is this done? Is data collection / analysis a one-off event or welded into the day-to-day business?
  3. Does the company learn from mistakes?

5. If the same thing (ie failed product launch) happened today, what would happen tomorrow?

I'd recommend that this question is asked after you've got the answer to the first one!
This indicates the maturity of the organisation and its recognition of the constant need for improvement.

It would be OK if the answer to question 4 and 5 are wildly different if the organisation is young or in a rapidly moving market.

Mainframes to client server to Web to mobile & apps

The Register carries a thought provoking article called Mobile devices bring back that old client-server feeling.

The article notes the parallel between today's mantra of "any time, any place, anywhere", referring to access on desktops and mobile devices to the trend in the late 80s / early 90s of client-server which shifted applications from mainframes and green screens to elegant Windows GUI rendering.

In both cases, the server (or the cloud, if you will) holds the data and the end device accommodates the rendering and the user experience.

The article mentions two problems of client-server era.
Problem 1: Over the years, of course, the realisation dawned that client-server brought with it as many problems as it solved. As client machines multiplied, developers ended up having to develop and test for a whole range of workstation specs and environments, and whenever something changed operations staff had to worry about getting new versions of software out to every desktop.
Problem 2: As support became more complicated and users discovered that an intelligent client with local storage meant they could create their own little offline empire, the overhead, costs and risks began to escalate. 
Neither of these have gone away. In fact Problem 1 is significantly worse today. With more Operating Systems (desktops and mobile devices) and much shorter release cycles (with the expectation of backward compatibility) and Bring Your Own Device. Oh and then throw in SaaS and complex interactivity between multiple data stores.

Problem 2 still exists - but I think it has generally been cracked as replication / synchronisation is so commonplace now. (BTW, I'm delighted to be corrected by those in the know - please comment below)

The rise of the Web

And do you remember the craze that lampooned client-server? Why, internet + web + HTML, of course, which in its early implementation, the client was dumb (or 'thin' in the parlance).

'So much easier / faster to develop and deploy' was the cry from the development trenches.

History is repeating itself again.

20 December, 2012

Instagram and Facebook mess up on digital ownership

Two days ago, I mentioned Facebook's desmise in my post about Digital Lockers and Personal Digital Identity, most probably due to its clumsy / haphazard approach to users' privacy.

And lo, barely had I hit submit, when Instagram (owned by Facebook) changed its T&Cs to grant Instagram licensing rights to sell all photographs taken by the application. (From the Register: Don't use Instagram, it'll sell YOUR photos)

The reactionary vitriol from its user base demanded that Instagram did an about turn within 24 hours:
Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.
Blog post by Kevin Systrom co-founder, Instagram

Sigh - what a horrible embarrassment. Will Facebook ever learn???

18 December, 2012

Digital Lockers and Personal Digital Identity

Last week's Economist carried an excellent article last week, 'Know thyself - Data lockers promise to help people profit from their personal information'.

This reminds me sooo much of Midentity's business concepts (see previous blog posts on Midentity) from over 10 years ago.

The time is getting closer for Personal Digital Identity Management. When I first met Simon Grice (Twitter, LinkedIn, in February 2002, I guessed that these concepts that he was talking about back then were 10 years away from viability. I still think they are another 3, 4 or 5 years away from becoming a necessity.

If / When Facebook falls over (most probably due to its repeated inability to manage individual's personal data properly), Personal Digital Identity Management Services will be its replacement and the services that Simon and I sketched out will become reality.

17 December, 2012

Difference between American and British Product Management

Having worked as a Product Manager both in California (see Webmetrics case study) and here in the UK - and this point in time, I'm in search of a new Product Management position in Cambridge - it is become more and more apparent to me that there is a difference between the expectations of Product Manager in UK and the US.

I'm sharing my thoughts with other British PMs, there has been some nodding heads of agreement, although no-one quite knows what those differences are.

So here's my attempt to define the differences. And this commentary is full of huge sweeping and biased generalisations....

US Product Management
From my experience in the US, a role of Product Manager is very commercial. He / she closely tracks the Sales Teams and particularly Sales Engineering / Pre-sales. The conversation with the market is bidirectional: consuming market requirements and positioning the product and the executing the full product marketing gamut.

In product based companies, the marketing function focuses more on corporate marketing and partners with product marketing to do the product leadership / positioning.

UK Product Management
In UK, a product manager is more of a technocrat and a project manager. He / she conducts market research in order to determine product requirements - a rather one-sided market survey approach. He closely shepherds / nurtures / protects the product through development and testing phase. He is the guru of the project plan and task interdependencies.

However product marketing and general communication with the market is generally a secondary function. The Product Marketing function is likely to be pinned to a junior marketing assistant, but the task really being intermittently executed by a more senior marketing representative. This is really the turf of marketing function and the product manager treads lightly over this area for fear of treading on any marketing toes.

Using Pragmatic Marketing's Triad 
To borrow the concept of the Triad of Product Management (credit due to Pragmatic Marketing and its famous  Pragmatic Marketing  framework):
Function UK Product Management US Product Management
Technical PM Strong Moderate
Marketing PM Weak Strong
Strategic PM (*) Unknown, but strong domain knowledge Unknown or Moderate
(*) As noted in my critique of the  Triad of Product Management,  quite where strategic product management fits into fabric of an organisation's decision making is very variable.

Example - Booth Duty
One example is conferences. In the US, booth duty for a product manager (and certainly for the product marketer) is considered mandatory / bread and butter. In the UK, conference attendance is a glorious honour for executives which a (technical) product manager might only be invited to attend if an exec had to drop out.

What do you think??

12 December, 2012

LinkedIn's Skill Endorsements

LinkedIn added the ability to add Skills to one's profile a while ago - I can't recall when. Recently, they have added the ability for members of one's network to endorse your skills.

Previously, one endorsed a colleague who shared a common workplace and one wrote 30-50 words about why your colleague was a good bloke / gal. I used my recommendations with care and only added them to people that really valued.

Too many times, other people's recommendations are cut 'n' paste':
I had the pleasure of working with XXXX at YYYYY. He / She was excellent. I would recommend him / her to anyone.
Hmm, very considered.....

Endorsing skills
Endorsing Skills has added a level of irritation to LinkedIn and may devalue its core offering, as the process has become very slutty. 

Here's the process:
  1. You receive an email from LinkedIn, saying that a colleague has endorsed you for a particular skills
  2. You click to view it and to add it to your profile.
  3. You are then presented with four colleagues with a skill next to each of their names underneath a banner above it that says 'Now, it's your turn...' and a big button that says 'Endorse'.

Conclusion: it is hardly difficult to do.... which therefore devalues its act.

Peter Cochrane espresses my sentiments well: LinkedIn endorsements: I’m not sure I approve.

05 December, 2012

Netbook + Tablets Hybrids

Tablets are the sexy must-have device. Apple' iPad is creaming off profits in this sector - every other vendors is struggling to catch up .... unsuccessfully at the moment.

However, alternative sizes are starting to proliferate: iPad Mini, Google Nexus 7, for example. This will be an exciting sector for the next 18 months or so.

Netbooks, had a massive growth, but tablets have now cannibalised this growth, with shipments plummeting.

Source: GigaOm Nov 2010.

So the concept of slapping together yesterday's burnt out product with today's hottest consumer gadget might sound like a bizarre one.

However, I'm convinced of the merits.

I was very disappointed (after months of rumours) at the time of the iPad launch. It wasn't a form factor for me:
  1. Yes, it's great for consuming content.
  2. Yes, I value portability
  3. But in general, when I'm on the move, I'm also producing content. I find the keyboard on the iPad to be irritating: (a) you have to lean over it to type and to see the output (b) I haven't learnt to touch type on a virtual keypad.

The problem (a) might be solved by devices like Toshiba Libretto W105 (above), with its dual touchscreens (one of which could be used as a keyboard), but it doesn't solve (b) and I don't value the additional screen extension.

My want
So what I want is fundamentally a notebook. However, there are occasions (not that many I admit,) when I would value a tablet purely for consumption:
  • one handed operation eg when commuting
  • or watching BBC iPlayer in bed. (Actually a laptop is great for this, because I can put the laptop on my knees and the screen is at the correct angle. Dunno how to manage a iPad in these circumstances.)

So a netbook with a detachable tablet part would appear to be perfect. Another advantage is that a netbook with a touch sensitive screen is amazing - feature that I adored when I had an NEC MobilePro 780 twelve years ago. The MobilePro really was a device ahead of its time.....

Hybrids (Netbook + Tablets) Shopping List

Here's a list of the devices that have caught my eye:
1. eee Transformer TF101

  • This was the Stuff Magazine's Gadget of Year in November 2011.
  • Look at the video at the bottom of Asus's product page. Is the snap and disconnect really that instantaneous??
  • eee Transformer is Android based. This would most probably work as a second device - the primary device being a Windows laptop.
  • Retails around £400 new, but used seems to go down to £250.

2. HP Envy x2

  • This is Windows 8 device, just released for Christmas with price tag of £800 (ouch!)
  • All the reviews of Windows 8 indicate that Win8 is really designed for the tablet experience and is less good for the desktop experience. (I presume that this hybrid would have to flick between the two modes, based on whether it had a keyboard attached or not.) This sounds confusing, but I haven't had the experience.
  • HP Product Page

3. Dell Duo
  • The Duo has been around for a while, so it's Windows 7 based. 
  • It is a netbook whose screen can flip so that it is on the outside - ie you don't actually disconnect the keyboard. 
  • Having had a try of it, it feels much more like a netbook with a tablet screen, when you want it.
  • Retails about £400.
  • Dell's Product Page

  • I suppose that the Dell Duo looks like the best fit for my requirements, but the eee Transformer looks soo appealing.

29 November, 2012

Steve Jobs - the world's greatest ever product manager

Last month's excellent Cambridge Product Management Network's excellent session debated Steve Jobs - the world's best product manager.

Clearly, I was biased as I wrote this article a year ago:
Steve Jobs - the world's greatest Product Manager and Product Marketer, shortly after SJ died.

Rob Davies proposed the motion and did an excellent job of rating Steve Jobs performance on the essential skills that a Product Manager should display.  Apple financial returns were massive - which ultimately is the only empirical measure that matters if you're developing products - see my blog post 'Apple - the most valuable company in the world'.

Elizabeth Ayer puts forward a very persuasive counter argument. She agreed that Apple's products were superb. Her key persuasive argument was that Steve Job was notorious dictator / autocrat and perfectionist. For those that have read his biography (I haven't), it is apparent that he was very difficult to work with - you definitely worked FOR him.

For this reason, I eventually disagreed with the proposition, when it came to the vote. 

SJ  created great products, but that doesn't mean he is a product manager - he didn't work in the classical definition of a product manager. Therefore he is an exception on many axes, but a classical product manager fundamentally works through others - something that Steve just didn't do.

Great debate - and definitely made me think. Thank you!

13 November, 2012

GSM Phones - 20 years old

El Reg has written a great article charting the history of GSM digital mobile phones.

On 9 November 1992, Nokia launched the world's first commercially available GSM digital mobile phone (with text messaging on a two line display!).

This awesome event was preceded by GSM technology being harmonised European mobile networks in 1991.

The Register's article takes us on a tour of European mobile phone technology. (Photo credits to The Register.) Below are some iconic phone of this period:
Motorola StarTAC from 1996

Motorola Timeport (1999), Nokia 3310 (2000), Ericsson T36 (2000) and Nokia 6310i (2002)

NEC e606 (2003), Motorola Razr (2004) and Nokia N95 (2006)

From the same article:
Nevertheless, according to recent research from YouGov carried out for Carphone Warehouse, a third of those over the age of 45 still use their first mobile phone, which highlights just how quickly the market has developed. And perhaps how well-built the handsets of yesteryear, like the Nokia 1011, were.
I concur: my parents still use a pair of Nokia 3310 - and although I have had to replace them (replacing them is cheaper than flashing the ROM which was in the problem on two occasions), I admire the usability of the interface and the user experience.

03 October, 2012

Windows 8 - what's the driver for adoption

Last week, I read two articles about Windows 8, one article from Cambridge Network said:
Unless you are looking to take advantage of Windows 8 for some specific feature, we suggest that you wait until Windows 8 SP1 before looking at Windows 8 seriously. If you are switching from Windows XP and Office 2007, then your learning curve will be very steep. Windows 7 and Office 2010 users will have less of a learning curve.

The other, from the Register, takes a different perspective:
the software giant has apparently elected to take a much riskier, and gutsier, approach: turn Windows 8 into a serious gaming platform.
Not exactly compelling to the business user (and to a lesser extent the consumer), is it?

30 September, 2012

The inefficiency of today's data centres

The Week (an excellent (weekly printed) aggregation of the best journalism across the globe) provides this excellent summary of a New York Times article about inefficiencies in data centres - The Cloud Factories - Power, Pollution and the Internet.

Some stats pulled from The Week:
  • 30 billion Watts of electricity used by digital warehouses worldwide, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants
  • 76 billion Kilowatt-hours used by data centers nationwide (ie in US) in 2010, or roughly 2 percent of all electricity used in the United States
  • 6 to 12 Percentage of electricity powering servers that perform actual tasks, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company. "The rest were essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surf in activity that could slow or crash their operations," says the Times.
  • EMC and the International Data Corporation together estimated that more than 1.8 trillion gigabytes of digital information were created globally last year.

These figures are horrifying - but why do they exist?

Simply, because there is a whole culture in the IT sector of having massive redundancy:
“You look at it [this report] and say, ‘How in the world can you run a business like that,’ Mr. Symanski (of the Electric Power Research Institute) said. The answer is often the same, he said: “They don’t get a bonus for saving on the electric bill. They get a bonus for having the data center available 99.999 percent of the time.”

24 September, 2012

Apple - the most valuable company in the world

Apple's market capitalisation is today worth $654bn - making it the most valuable company on the stock exchange - for all time. (Technically, Microsoft had a valuation of $615 billion in December 1999 - which would, in today's money, equate to $850bn.)

Some facts (courtesy of the Economist) about Apple's dominance:
  • 4.8% of the S&P 500 
  • 3.7% of America’s stockmarket
  • 1.3% of the global equity market.

Check this chart for its meteoric rise:

Bulls reckon that the price could go even higher—and that Apple could become the world’s first public company with a trillion-dollar market capitalisation.

No reason to doubt the optimists.

The key point is that Microsoft and Apple both generated a new and better user experience for their customers. That's how valuable UX is!

November's Cambridge Product Management Network meeting debates whether Steve Jobs was the world's greatest ever Product Manager.

Come along and join us: details here.

18 September, 2012

Wi-fi predominant connection over mobile network for smartphone users

Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2012 shows that 58% of smartphone users and 93% of tablet users connect to the internet over wi-fi rather than over the mobile network. It's faster more reliable and more responsive.

Interesting, smartphone users in other countries (US, Germany, France and Japan) prefer to connect via the mobile network.

  • Other stats: 30% would prefer to pay for a fixed amount of data and then pay addition usage charges once they have reached the limit.  
  • Half the smartphone owners subscribe to less than 1Gb of data and only a fifth of respondents subscribe to unlimited data package.
Mobile Operators are missing a simple trick - but one that massively demonstrates their value: a simple counter that is constantly displayed on their home page which shows their usage since last billing date / top-up date vs their contract ceiling. It should display call minutes, text minutes and data limits.

What I find irritating about mobile operators is that they wish to charge users a different additional tariff for tethering another device (for me, a laptop or a netbook) to their mobile phone. I tether these device infrequently to my phone, but when I do, it is very useful, but my usage isn't predictable enough to justify the expense - particularly when swinging off someone's wi-fi usually works.

Naturally, mobile operators don't want to offer unlimited data - this resources isn't infinite. Such a policy is madness, as I have blogged a long time ago:

However, I would like to use what has been contracted without any gotcha clauses! David Halstead, technology, media and telecommunications partner at Deloitte in Cambridge recommends:
Mobile operatios should offer their customers a seamless connectivity experience including Wi-fi hotspots that their customers can use when they are out and about.

Hmm, this concept is known as fixed mobile convergence and has been around for ages!

Article first seen on Cambridge Network.

17 September, 2012

How to build a Product Release Checklist - expanded

On Tuesday evening, I was one of the panelists at a joint Chartered Institute of Marketing  and Cambridge Product Management Network event on Product launch disasters – and how to avoid them!

Prior to the event, I reviewed other examples of Product Release Checklists (eg New Product Launch Checklist and one of my own Checklists), then I thought that they were too specific for the product / release in mind.

So, as a Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager going through a release, you have to build you own. (Do use the examples above as reference - they aren't bad, just that you don't know their purpose!)

More useful, I thought, would be my technique for Building your own Product Release Checklist - technique that I used when I was brought in as a consultant to help deliver a release for ADP Dealer Serivces from June 2011 to March 2012

1. Determine the impact on all stakeholders

Consider how the release will impact all the stakeholders - both external (eg customers!) and internal . Some are obvious, some are more obscure and requires you, as the Product Manager to know how your company operates. See side panel for the list of (potentially) affected business functions for a B2B product release.
External Stakeholders Customers
  • Front-line Users
  • Customer Purchasing Decision Making Unit (technical, business, financial)
Channel Programme
  • Distributors: Marketing, sales, operational teams, customer support
  • Value Added Resellers: Marketing, sales, operational teams, customer support
Internal Stakeholders
  • Sales
  • Pre-sales
  • Marketing
  • Sales Operations
  • Account Management
  • Customer Service
  • Contract / Legal team
  • Installation Teams
  • Finance

 2. What documents will inform stakeholders of the impact?

Imagine yourself as someone in one of these business functions listed in the side panel. What information (and at what density) will this person need in order to understand the product release and its impact on their business function.

For example:
  • What product summary does an existing customer require vs a new customer
  • Does the product demo need to be modified for either audience?
  • Are there sub-sections of the existing customer base that will need a customised 'flavour' of the product release announcement, based their requirements? (Example: This may be necessary when not all existing customers are able to upgrade to this release.)
  • What information would the Legal team require to understand the release? If there are no contract modifications required, then the Legal team would appreciate a note telling them so.

3. Build a Library of Reference Materials

As you go about your journey of discovery about a product and its release, you will amass a treasure trove of documents from internal commercial requirements to technical architecture diagrams. I recommend that you use a some sort of repository for these documents (with an index - see my example). Ideally, this should be online, so that it acts as a single repository for others to use.

Do not wait for perfection before you add any document to the repository. If the answer is 'Oh, it's the same as last time', then ask for the old version. You'll be surprised at the number of times the document from last time doesn't exist OR requires substantial revision even if it is merely freshing up the corporate branding and updating the copyright notice.

4. Build an Issues List

In collecting these documents, you will inevitably discover road blocks. Examples:
  • 'Well, the product will do X or Y, based on customer Z's stated requirements, which we are waiting clarification on'. 
  • 'I can't tell you the final pricing structure until person X has reviewed the operational costing for this year and next'
Note these down in the Issues List with responsibility, blocking issue and next decision date. Ideally I would recommend that you use the same tool as the document management repository because the Issues List and Document Repository are closely interrelated! Other tools that I have used are Excel and sometimes a bug management list works well too although assess to this list maybe limited),

5. Iterate!

Once you have started the document chase, you will quickly find that the Issues List far exceeds the Document Repository. The next step is to work through the Issues List allocating tasks to people and making sure that they understand that what deliverable is required of them and by when. And that you'll be nagging them (and subsequently their boss) for the deliverable.

As you may have guessed, this schedule then becomes a loose project plan for the release. In my experiences, the conflicting interdependencies within project plan (eg if we add feature X then the release will take more time and the training of the sales team will require more time). It's best not to start this project plan too early as you will be creating a rod for your back!

6. Communicate regularly

Communicate your progress on a regular basis.
With everyone
    • I recommend that you have an All Hands meeting about the release. This is a great way of flushing out rumours and building enthusiasm about the product release. 
    • Frequency: 2-3 months before release and the week before release date.
  • With mid-management:
    • This is the enabling body in any organisation - this crowd needs to be (a) onboard (b) have the ability to input their concerns and issues and (c) to be seen to be contributing in front of their peers.
    • Frequency: every month or six weeks prior to release
  • With execs:
    • This is the decision making body. You need to schedule time with these guys to drive decision-making between their business functions and to prioritise work effort within their divisions
    • Frequency: Every week or every two weeks. Book the time out now, even if you don't know how or what you are going to present!

7. Don't forget to celebrate!

Lots of effort has gone into the release - give thanks and appreciate to where it is due.

8. Conduct a Release Post Mortem

After a suitable period of time after the release, gather the stakeholders together and have an honest review of the release. What worked for each business function and what didn't?

11 September, 2012

How to build a Product Release Checklist

In review other examples of Product Release Checklists, then I thought that they were too specific for the product / release in mind.

So, as a Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager, you have to build you own.

Here's my technique for building your own Product Release Checklist:
  1. Determine impact on all stakeholders
  2. What documents will inform stakeholders of the impact?
  3. Build a Library of Reference Materials
  4. Build an Issues List
  5. Iterate!
  6. Communicate regularly
  7. Don't forget to celebrate!

29 August, 2012

Inbound Product Manager and Outbound Product Marketing

Conventional thinking about Product Management divides in the following way:

Inbound Product Management
  • Understanding the market needs
  • Planning the creation of the product (ie product roadmapping)
  • Working with Development to craft the product fit for consumption 
Outbound Product Marketing
  • Defining a go-to-market strategy
  • Communicating with the sales teams / channels to assist in the sales process

A nice sound bite (from Tyner Blain):
Inbound product management is more about listening, and outbound product management is more about talking.

A richer story...
However on further reflection, I think there is more nuance between Product Management and Product Marketing.

The text in red indicates convention listening inbound and communicating outbound Product Marketing. Few would disagree this.

Inbound Product Marketing
Product Marketing does have an inbound function:
  • Product Management asks its 'brothers' in Product Marketing for information about the competitors' features and business benefits.
  • Product Marketing should also know how competitors are positioning themselves: what sectors and how.
  • Product Marketing should have an understanding about how much these sectors are worth and whether the company has the assets to tackle these sectors effectively.
Similarly, Product Management may be required to technically 'unpick' a competitors product to understand how their product works.

Various techniques exist to 'unlock' this information - perhaps a subject of another blog post.

Outbound Product Management
At the end of the release cycle, Product Management should effectively demonstrate precisely how to the business benefits (as stated by Product Marketing) are realised using the product.

Strangely, this task is frequently not well executed (and, in looking back in product releases, I'm guilty as anyone else in not doing this!). There are several reasons for this:
  • Product Managers don't actually know the product well enough to demo.
    • The Technical Lead who does know the product isn't business savvy enough to demo it
    • OR (more likely) Technical Lead is critically involved in the release process that he / she can't be pulled out to provide the demo, at the time when it is needed.
  • Product Managers assume that product marketing / sales engineers / sales guys know the product to figure it out to demo the new feature.
    • WRONG - it is best to assume that the sales guys aren't product geniuses who every spare minute is spent in investigating product nuances.
    • Besides it is MUCH better to provide a standard demo script to everyone, so that everyone starts from the same understanding and not build their own demo (some of which are amazing brilliant)
  • No time
    • Weak excuse!
    • Many times, sales engineering / sales team are the first time that the product is wheeled out to face a skeptic audience. Getting feedback from those that really understand customer problems (and are responsible for overcoming them) is very, very important. Don't waste this opportuntity.

Additional references
In researching what others thought about this issue, I discovered some great articles:
(A) Five considerations in creating a product management function for hi-tech and online businesses
  • When inbound prodUct management should be a priority and when should outbound product marketing be a priority
  • Project Management: a specialist function or one carried out by Product Management: the pros and cons
  • Product managers with lots of technical competencies and PM with less technical competencies: when is the former really needed

(B) More on what we look for: Inbound Product Management
  • What Microsoft looks for wrt Inbound Product Management
  • Plus some great examples of career paths of people that become  Inbound Product Managers 

(C) Foundation Series: Inbound and Outbound Product Management
  • Previously mentioned
  • Nice, easy to understand summary of Inbound Product Management and Outbound Product Marketing

17 August, 2012

Mobile Network aggregator in Brasil

I read (with mild interest) this Economist article on the woes of Brazilian mobile operators: Telecommunications in Brazil - The next big blackout?

I picked up this statistic:  A 2009 World Bank study found that raising mobile-phone penetration in a developing country by ten percentage points increased GDP growth by 0.8% a year.

But what really got my attention was this statement:
Venko, a local phone maker, now offers a handset that holds four SIM cards, automatically choosing the cheapest for each call.
That's arbitrage!

31 July, 2012

Ofcom Report - July 2012

Ofcom's Communications Market Report is always full of stats. Here are a couple that I thought were interesting.

Fixed vs Mobile revenue
  • Voice revenues declined, in contrast to data revenues. Fixed voice revenues declined by 4.9% in 2011 to £8.9bn, while mobile voice revenues fell by 0.9% to £10.5bn.
  • Mobile messaging and handset data revenues increased 5.5% to £4.6bn.
  • Fixed data revenues (broadband and narrowband) increased by 6.8% in 2011 to £3.4bn, with broadband contributing the vast majority. (All figures are retail.)

  • The volume of voice calls shrank for both fixed and mobile telephony.
  • The number of minutes of calls made from fixed telephones was down 10.0% in 2011, while the number of minutes of calls made from mobile phones fell for the first time: down 1.1% on 2010.
  • For the first time, over half (52%) of all call volumes were made from a mobile.

  • People in the UK sent an average of 200 SMS and MMS messages per month in 2011.
  • The average number of text and picture messages sent per UK inhabitant continued to increase in 2011, growing by 17% to 200 messages per month.

  • The total number of UK fixed broadband connections passed 20 million for the first time in 2011. 
  • The number of mobile broadband connections passed 5 million during the year, and by the first quarter of 2012 76% of UK homes had a broadband connection of some description.

Mail (yes, indeed, this is included in the report!)
  • Mail volumes have been falling consistently for the past five years, and declined by 25% between 2006 and 2011.
  • Direct mail usage remains constant, in a failing market, meaning the its share of post is increasing.
  • It is estimated that residential consumers send less than 10% of mail in the UK.

24 July, 2012

Ethics of Digital Privacy brings down the News of the World

News of the World is a British tabloid newspaper with a pedigree of 168 years. Latterly, it has become known for scoops on gossips and scandals - the private indiscretions of show biz star would be the perfect headline story.

The month of July last year saw the paper commit corporate suicide, as the practice of 'phone hacking' has uncovered to be common place practice.

What is phone hacking exactly?
It sounds very technical. It's not. When you get a mobile phone with voicemail included, you, on your mobile phone, dial the voicemail number (on many phones, the voicemail is dialed by holding down the '1' key), connect to your voicemail service and hear / save / delete messages.

The voicemail service knows that it is you calling, because it recognises the incoming caller ID and bypasses any security.

HOWEVER if you call your own mobile number from another phone and wait for the voicemail to kick in, then you press '#' (usually), you are challenged for your voicemail PIN.

Here's the key: all voicemail operators set their default password to something simple - like '0000' or '1234'. Frequently (and now mandatorily, I suspect), the first time you dial into your voicemail from whatever source, you are required to set a password.

So to hack someone else's mobile number (eg a celebrity's), you would phone their number - at an inconvenient time - eg when they are publicly engaged. If you do get an answer, then you could claim a wrong number. If there was no response or if the celeb was talking on the phone already, then you'd be sent to voicemail. So then you'd try the default passcodes. If the celeb hasn't changed the default password, then you're in! They can still check their voicemail from their mobile and don't know any different.

The first thing that phone hacker do would be to reset the password - so that no other person could get in: other journalists mainly.

The British public became outraged when it was discovered that journalists had hacked Milly Downing's phone. Milly was abducted and subsequently murdered, after a high profile missing persons plea. Milly's voicemail messages were found to have been deleted after she had been reported missing. Her parents thought that it might have been Milly deleting her message, thereby giving her family the false hope that Milly was still alive.

The owner of the News of the World, News Corporation, closed down the publication with its final print run on 10th July 2011.

RESULT: The heritage of 168 year newspaper was destroyed by the abuse of weak identity / password mechanism.

12 June, 2012

Featurespace raises £1.5m in latest funding round

I joined Featurespace in March this year and last week we completed a funding raising round of £1.5m. (See article in the Daily Telegraph)

Previous investors have participated in the round - most notably Mike Lynch, founder and (now ejected) CEO of Autonomy which sold to HP in October last year for £7bn . We welcome Imperial Innovations into this round as well.

27 April, 2012

An end of an era - Samsung beats Nokia for handsets sales

Samsung beats Nokia to become the number 1 handset manufacturer with over 92.5million shipped in Q1 this year. Nokia will not only be saddened by coming second, as they have held the No 1 crown for 14 years since, 1998, but additionally they will be crying into their breakfast cereal as shipments declined a crushing 24% annually.

Nokia, who came to dominate the 2G era with its Symbian operating system are being squeezed at both ends of the market, as low-end feature phone shipments in emerging markets stalled and high-end Microsoft Lumia smartphones were unable to offset the rapid decline of Nokia’s legacy Symbian business. (Quote from Strategy Analytics: Samsung Overtakes Nokia to Become World's Largest Handset Vendor in Q1 2012)

I still hold out some hope for Nokia, as the third world markets grow and they should be well positioned to leverage their brand - and the operating system costs have surely been amortized by now.

Global Handset Shipments slowed with Year-over-Year Growth % declined from 19.4% (Q1 '11) and 3.3% (Q1 '12).

Apple comes third with 9.5% of the market - with sales of iPhones holding up well in the US and Japan (the latter being surprising given the number of sophisticated phones in Japan).

However, Samsung will unveil the latest version of its Galaxy range of phones on 3 May in London. This BBC report mentions that the phone is being accompanied to its launch in London by 10 security guards.

15 February, 2012

India's impressive Unique Identity Scheme

India's UID scheme forges ahead - see this BBC video report.
India is undertaking a massive citizen identity scheme. To provide a scale of the project - and the scale of its success, here are some numbers:
  • 12 months ago, 1 million year ago had been registered
  • This month, 110 million unique identities (UIDs) have been issued. In total, 200m people have enrolled in the scheme.
  • By the end of January, 400 million are estimated will have their UIDs - this is one third of India's population
These figures are mind boggling - particularly when you consider India notorious bureaucracy.

Below is an interview with the Economist's South Asia's Bureau Chief explaining the system.

Problems? See

What are its success factors? 
A combination of interrelated factors

1) Limited and defined scope 
This scheme has been set-up to address the gross inefficiencies in the distribution of welfare subsidies to the poor (distribution of fuel and grain to the poor is cited). These subsidies amass to 2% of India's GDP, so the scale of the problem is huge, meaning there's massive cash savings to made if a marginally more efficient system is implemented. The scheme is aiming to limiting the huge scale of theft by middlemen and waste within the system.

2) Defined and limited aim
Secondly, the aim, at this stage at least, is simply for government purposes. Further research reveals that this isn't quite true. Identity allows the poor to verify who they are and the eligibility for welfare grants. As a result, bank accounts can be opened to allow the receipt of money. I assume that banking facilities will open a flood of consumerism?

This Economist article, Reform by numbers reports an easy win: 
Last week Karnataka state claimed that by paying welfare direct to bank accounts it had cut some 2m ghost labourers from a rural public-works project.

3) Scheme is voluntary

4) Addresses the needs of those 'at the bottom of the pyramid' 

As a result of these two factors, it is pretty compelling.

Negative Factor - Privacy Regulation
One negative factor is that privacy laws in India are weak and haven't kept in sync with the scale of this project.

However, if you are a member of the disenfranchised poor, living 10 to a room with little possessions, concern about privacy pales into insignificance when faced with feeding a family until the end of the week. 

The Future
The expectation is that 400m people will have signed up by the end of 2012: 1 third of india's population - what an amazing achievement

09 February, 2012

Online ad Spending overtakes print spending in 2012

For the first time in U.S. history, marketers are projected to spend more on online advertising than on advertising in print magazines and newspapers.
according to this article on Mashable, Online Ad Spending to Surpass Print for First Time in 2012.

Last year's growth of online spending was a whacking 23%. This year is projected to be the same. By 2016, eMarketer expects advertisers to spend $62 billion online.

The details of the raw story (from eMarketing) are even more interesting:
.... with [Total Media] spending reaching nearly $200 billion by 2016. Online will be a major driver of that growth and will represent nearly a third of total media ad spending that year. Traditional media ad spending, aside from a few bright spots like TV, will stagnate during the forecast period.