Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Principles of Highly Persuasive Messaging

At the November 2010 meeting of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association, Michael Cannon, CEO of Silver Bullet Group presented the Top Ten Principles of Highly Persuasive Messaging.  Michael Cannon is an internationally renowned sales and marketing effectiveness expert, dynamic speaker and best-selling author of several business marketing books. An expert in enabling B2B companies to increase competitive differentiation, win rates, and market share, Michael has assisted hundreds of companies, such as Agilent Technologies and Oracle, to increase revenues. He has over 20 years of sales and marketing, management and founder’s experience in the enterprise software, telecommunications, wireless, training, and professional services industries holding positions ranging from Account Executive to VP of Sales to CEO.

Michael is Founder of the Silver Bullet Group and creator of the hugely successful Silver Bullet Sales Messaging® System, a proven, proprietary methodology for dramatically improving the quality of B2B messaging. His presentation was subtitled, Objective Criteria Equips Marketing to Accelerate Revenue Growth (by doubling the effectiveness of the messaging and the tools that persuade people to buy).

Michael immediately engaged the audience of product focused professionals by questioning what roles and business objectives were represented in the audience.  Although his examples involved primarily the sales organization’s perspective within B2B enterprises, the approach he suggested applies to every product messaging situation charged with accelerating revenue growth by creating greater competitive differentiation and advantage, increasing Marketing ROI, and providing better channel (Direct, Indirect) engagement and support. 

Cannon defined messaging as “the words you use, both written and verbal, along with the supporting visuals, to persuade a person to do business with your company.” Naming the root cause of ineffective customer messaging as the “Customer Messaging Gap”, the bottom line is that companies do not provide persuasive answers to key customer questions, such as
  •  “Why should I change out my current solution for a new solution?” and
  •  “Why should I buy this solution from your company rather than from the competition?”

Cannon picked apart a typical Customer Messaging Map (that could have been pulled straight from a Marketing Requirements Document), identifying targeted messaging to key stakeholders with distinct message categories, distance to customer, message types, questions to answer and message goals.  The further distance from the sales conversation, i.e. corporate messaging, market messaging, and product messaging, the less influential the messaging is to the customer buying decision.  The gap is at the critical sales messaging area just prior to the sales conversation where opportunity creation, the question of competitive offerings and request for a meeting occurs.

Statistics reinforce the problem with sales messaging:
  • “58% of a vendor’s marketing content is not relevant to potential buyers”
  • “80 to 90% of marketing collateral is considered useless by sales.”
Further aggravating the problem, in an attempt to resolve the gap, Sales representatives take it upon themselves to create sales messaging ad hoc, or Field Marketing is tasked with creating the messaging out of sync, and/or customers are forced to figure out the answers for themselves to justify their purchase decisions. This wastes cycles, risks revenue loss, and frustrates sales and customers alike.

Cannon discussed an infographic from CSO Insights, 2008 Sales Performance Optimization Report that displayed the “Effort vs. Impact on Sales Effectiveness” of marketing programs.  In order of impact from highest effort to lowest cost:
  • ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
  • SKM (Sales Knowledge Management), Sales Training Event, Blitz Campaigns & SPIFs (Sales Promotion Incentive Fund), Sales Collaboration, Sales Process Mapping
  • Sales Messaging mapped as the most impact for least effort and cost 
Sales messaging must provide a persuasive answer to the buyer’s primary buying questions. Buyer’s questions can be answered at three different levels: feature, benefit and customer business value.  Customer business value centric messaging is the most effective in creating the business value from the customer’s perspective, by identifying the lowest total cost of ownership and implementing the least risky option.  Since most buyers consider your sales messaging to be claims, it’s important to provide proof points with customer testimonials and 3rd party organizations to prove the truth of each key claim. The more clearly you contrast the difference between you and your competitors, the more business you win.  Messaging should succinctly clarify the contrast between offerings using quantification and sharply contrasting adjectives.

Sales messaging must be aligned to the buy/sell process, with key messaging relevant to each step of the customer’s decision making experience as well as buying identity in the technology adoption life cycle.

A summary of the top ten principles of highly effective messaging:
  1. Target the buyer by audience type and buyer role
  2. Indentify and persuasively answer the audience’s primary buying questions
  3. Enable the sales cycle and the Technology Adoption Life Cycle (TALC)
  4. Make the right comparison
  5. Use strong comparative language
  6. Define clear capability advantages
  7. Communicate value in the customer’s context
  8. Incorporate lots of proof points
  9. Make the customer the hero
  10. Pass the sales and customer validation test

Additional information is available from Michael Cannon's Silver Bullet Group at http://www.silverbulletgroup.com/resources


Cindy F. Solomon, CPM/CPMM blogs & tweets about software, startups, innovation and product management issues 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

8 Great Reasons to Shop At Locally Owned Businesses!

Mobile Applications, such as SCVNGR, may be the key to invigorating local economies by encouraging foot traffic in the door of local establishments. 

Mobile Apps enable constant conversation across all digital connections, but the real opportunity is in the potential they have to inspire face-to-face community between shoppers and local, independently owned business locations.

Why shop locally?

1. Significantly more money re-circulates in your community when purchases are made at locally owned, rather than nationally owned, businesses: More money is kept in the community because locally owned businesses purchase from other local businesses, service providers, and farms.  Purchasing locally helps grow other businesses, as well as your community’s tax base.

2. Most new jobs are provided by local businesses: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally.

3. Local business owners invest in community: Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future.

4. Customer service is better: Local businesses often hire people with more specific product expertise for better customer service.

5. Reduced environmental impact: Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers, as opposed to developing on the fringe.  This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.

6. Public benefits far outweigh public costs: Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services, as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.

7. Encourages investment in your community: A growing body of economic  research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

8. Non-profits receive greater support:  Non-profit organizations receive an average 350% greater support from local business owners than they do from non-locally owned businesses. 

This is my holiday greetings card to (and from) my local merchants! 

Why shop at local, independent businesses this holiday season?
Because Community Matters!

Build Community!
The casual encounters you enjoy at neighborhood-scale business and the public spaces around them build relationships and community cohesiveness.  They’re the ultimate social networking sites!

Strengthen Your Local Economy!
Each dollar you spend at independent businesses returns 3 times more money to our local economy than one spent at a chain – a benefit we all can bank on.

Shape our Character!
Why did you choose to live here?  What keeps you?  Independent businesses help give our community its one-of-a-kind personality.

Create a Healthier Environment!
Independent, community-serving businesses are people-sized.  They consume less land, carry more locally-made products, locate closer to residents and create less traffic and air pollution.

Lower Taxes!
Local businesses put less demand on our roads, sewers, and safety services and generate more tax revenue per sales dollar, helping keep your taxes lower.

Enhance Choices!
A wide variety of independent business, each serving their customers’ tastes, creates greater overall choice for all of us.

Create Jobs and Opportunities!
Locally-owned businesses also are the customers of local printers, accountants, wholesalers, farms, attorneys, etc., expanding opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

Give Back to Your Community!
Indies donate more than twice as much per sales dollar to local non-profits, events, and teams as chains do.

Join me on SCVNGR at http://scvngr.com/cindyfsolomon

Relevant links:
4 Reasons to Invest in Location Based Services http://bit.ly/dbDV2B

Rewards on SCVNGR Spread Holiday Cheer to Businesses http://bit.ly/cfRspj

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Makes Product Management Different in Life Sciences?

     At the August meeting of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association (SVPMA), Jennifer Turcotte and Dione K. Bailey, Ph.D from Complete Genomics, Inc. provided a comprehensive discussion of what is required to successfully transition from product management in high tech to the Life Sciences industry.

    Jennifer Turcotte, vice president of marketing at Complete Genomics, drew upon 15 years of enterprise software and biotechnology marketing and product management experience with both venture-funded startups and public companies. Jennifer currently directs all product management and marketing activities at Complete Genomics including strategic product planning, product marketing, market entry strategy, marketing communications, branding and public relations. She has held senior product marketing positions at SAP, Siperian, Ariba and BEA. Jennifer holds a B.Eng. in mechanical engineering from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

    Dione K. Bailey, Ph.D. is the Director of Product Management at Complete Genomics, Inc.  She joined Complete Genomics in 2009 where she focuses on requirements gathering and improvements to existing products and strategies that impact the direction of future products. Prior to joining Complete Genomics, Dr. Bailey was the Product Manager for CGH/CNV microarrays at Agilent Technologies. Dr. Bailey was at Affymetrix for 5 years where she started as a Postdoctoral Fellow and also served as a Genomics Collaborations Scientist and Application Scientist.  Dr. Bailey has 14 years of experience in the life sciences market. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Delaware and a B.S. in chemistry from the College of New Jersey. Dr. Bailey has co-authored articles that appeared in Science, Cell, Cancer Research, The American Journal of Human Genetics and Genome Research.

       Dr. Baily began with an introduction to Complete Genomics, explaining that they are a life sciences tools company, not a diagnostics or medical devices company.  The goal at Complete Genomics is to provide large scale and affordable complete human genome sequencing as a service to enable the large scale research of the genetic mechanisms underlying complex diseases and drug response.  As a small start-up company, their biggest challenges, from a product management perspective, are the highly competitive market comprised of a small number of amply sized, fierce competitors and the multi-disciplinary technology required to provide DNA sequencing of human genomes.  Domain knowledge of bio-chemistry, hardware, software, bioinformatics and genetics is essential because they sell to PhD level research scientists.

       Regulatory considerations are a factor in the life sciences industry, however they do not currently affect Complete Genomics since their customers are not doctors or CLIA labs (testing laboratories affected by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments).  However, if and when DNA sequencing becomes a diagnostic test or part of standard care, it will require FDA regulation.  FDA regulation will severely impact product management’s role in product lifecycle management given the rigorous reporting and clinical trials necessary.  Product Marketing is also inhibited by FDA regulation in restrictions of who you can sell to, how you can market, what you can and cannot say about the product.  These are not common issues in high tech product management.

       Dr. Baily referenced bay area companies focusing on personal genomics services,  Navigenics and 23andMe. They provide analysis of personal genomes to individuals for use in predictive medicine.  They use the information produced by personal genomics techniques for making decisions on medical treatments, such as type of treatment or drug and appropriate dosage for a particular individual.  The companies require genetic counselors to help interpret the results.  Currently these sequencing tests and results are considered a regulatory gray zone for the FDA.  All have received warning letters from the FDA asserting that the gene-analysis systems the companies are using are medical devices that must be regulated.

       The presentation focus shifted to the differences between the Life Sciences Tools and High Tech industries.  The life science tools industry does not utilize industry analysts as is done in high tech – instead there are key opinion leaders who are renowned, leading scientists who influence customers’ buying decisions.  Selling to scientists requires facts, proof and validation and credibility. “Scientific meetings” are considered closed events where scientists interact with scientists to share research.  Scientific meetings are not a conference, trade show or event and no venders are present. News is provided under embargo and opinion leaders are treated equal to journalists and put in touch with R&D directly for peer-to-peer discussion.

       Life science companies rarely employ complex selling or unique marketing tactics because scientists are only interested in the features and functions of the products. They are aware of all the offerings available since it is a small industry where everyone knows everyone, and the marketing grows out of research and development. In life science companies, buyers will purchase every solution they can acquire to advance their research. Comparatively, in the high tech world, briefing and influencing industry analysts is critical to the marketing strategy.  Sales require differentiated positioning and messaging, competitive intelligence and sales tools to highlight product offerings.  Product management and product marketing are understood and valued in high tech companies when compared to life sciences.

       Regarding research and development in high tech, product management is often brought in half-way through development to steer the final product feature set, run the alpha/beta testing and launch the product.  This may be three to six months after launch of the company.  In a start-up life sciences tools company, R&D works for many years without any marketing or product management.  R&D is often multi-disciplinary and it takes longer to transition to a commercial organization.  Dr. Baily suggested that bringing in product management to help drive the way products are developed, marketed and sold by focusing on the problems of the market rather than the features of the product is optimal.

    Typically in high tech, product management and product marketing have separate but coordinated roles even in small companies.  Developers want product managers to prioritize requirements; marketing people want product managers to write copy; sales people want product managers for demo after demo. Product managers are so busy supporting the other departments they have no time remaining for actual product management. But just because the product manager is an expert in the product doesn’t mean no one else needs product expertise. Product marketing must work alongside product management to fill in the more tactical outbound role.  Successful companies clearly define the distinct roles of product manager and product marketing, and they work together to maximize sales revenue, market share and profits.
    Successful products come from companies that know the market and its problems. Strong dedicated product management is necessary to provide nimble product development and highly differentiated products with a strong value proposition within highly competitive, rapidly evolving markets.  It is important to keep product management focused on strategic product direction while simultaneously ensuring that vital tactical activities are managed, including providing consistent messaging to customers, sales support, marketing programs, industry analysts and the press.  One person is unlikely to have the bandwidth to do both jobs well.
    In Life sciences, the product manager is often responsible for both product management and product marketing, yet it’s difficult to find one person who can do both roles well who also has domain expertise.  Each role is critical and necessitates different skills and talents.  Due to the technical nature of the buyer who is a scientist, product management in life sciences requires someone with more scientific background than marketing training.  Marketing training in life sciences comes from on-the-job training which prevents much out of the box thinking.

    Being a product manager in a life sciences company often requires a PhD which makes it difficult to transition from other industries. Domain knowledge in life sciences requires understanding of the customer’s problem in depth.  Requirements are often technically focused and detailed (i.e. requires molecular biology, genetics background and understanding).  This is not solution selling as the only thing differentiating one product from another are the technical product features and most buyers purchase solutions from more than one vendor.  Many researchers from R&D within life sciences transition from a technical development role into a marketing role.

    In high tech, domain knowledge is secondary to product management and customer facing experience.  Jennifer Turcotte told the story of when Ariba decided to hire purchasing managers from their customer channel to help guide product management, assuming they would convey what drove their purchasing decisions to enhance the product development process.  The experiment was an utter failure because purchase managers couldn’t translate their job into product requirements, they were not skilled as product managers.  In high tech it is often important to have business to business or business to customer product management experience as well as business acumen.  Jennifer talked about when she was in enterprise software and wanted to move away from enterprise to a consumer-oriented business like Yahoo, Google, Adobe, but lacked consumer experience.  She thought it was weird that she was a consumer yet couldn’t represent one when she represented B2B software but was never a business. Sometimes things aren’t logical and you have to find a way to breakdown these misconceptions.

    Ms. Turcotte discussed social media where bloggers are emerging as a key media audience.  Many life science tools companies believe they don’t need to participate in social media marketing because their products or services are not customer facing.  Whereas in high tech an integrated approach that includes social media like blogging, Facebook or twitter is second nature.  Customers, decision makers, influencers and investors are all participating online and companies need to actively listen to what is being discussed in this arena.  She shared she will pre-brief key reporters and key bloggers. She treats key bloggers with the same respect and inclusion given to the press because they are read by customers who are often more knowledgeable than the reporters.

      Jennifer tackled the challenge of changing industries, not roles in your career progression as a product manager.  Really understand why you want a change and what is motivating that change.  Research new careers and key companies, identify transferrable skills, network and find a mentor. Be flexible with location, role and salary.  Changing roles within a life science organization to transition from R&D to marketing requires patience.  Take the time to learn the basics and grow into the role.  Don’t be afraid to ask your marketing peers for advice and help.  Expect on the job training.  Some companies will contribute to MBA and other training programs.

    To transition industries, set a goal and map out a plan with steps and milestones.  Satisfaction is found when playing to your strengths and passions.  Try to determine how the role you are in now will get you to your next goal.  Leverage your network immediately and look for peers who have made a similar move.  You’ll need to be flexible about nearly everything, from your employment status to relocation and salary.  Set positive goals for yourself, but expect setbacks and change.  Besides a totally new career, you might also consider a lateral move that could serve as a springboard.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Why Have A Strategy?

At the May meeting of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association, Barbara Nelson presented an interactive session demonstrating the vital necessity of developing and executing on a product strategy even in a climate of rapidly changing market influences and survival mode conditions. Drawing upon more than 20 years of experience in the software industry, Ms. Nelson speaks as an evangelist for market-driven products. Prior to joining Pragmatic Marketing as an instructor in 2000, Barbara served in product management and marketing positions for an enterprise accounting and finance software company. As vice president of product marketing, she worked closely with product managers, marketers and developers, showing the value of using market facts over opinions. She attributes her success to actively listening to the market in order to build products people want to buy.

Refreshingly, Barbara began with an allegory about a friend returning from their uncle’s funeral with boxes of pictures from his life. Her friend was in a quandary about what to do with the pictures. None of the pictures were labeled. The friend tossed all the boxes of pictures as they had no meaning to her and no one in the family could identify the people photographed.

Ms. Nelson suggested that the issue of organizing photographs from a lifetime has not gotten simpler with the availability of new software and technology – rather it has gotten easier to capture photos in an unwieldy fashion and store them in a myriad of digital locations. She suggested that solving the problem of organizing pictures is a real life dilemma requiring product management skills. Start with identifying themes in the pictures. You could take a waterfall approach to proceed in a sequential manner from the bigger “picture” assuming that all the pictures are quality and worth keeping, then break down the problem into smaller projects, identify the method for determining where the pictures will be filed, the file names, and then proceed to label and place the pictures appropriately. Or take an Agile approach by organically sorting pictures based on the themes and subject matter, quality, sentimental value, frequently adapting filenames and organization choices as more pictures are reviewed and recurring patterns are recognized.

Transitioning from this universal issue, Ms. Nelson inquired “What is your personal strategy?” Is it “I have a vision: our product is for anybody, anywhere, anytime.”? She stated emphatically that product management requires both strategies and tactics. But faced with deadlines, what is the need for strategy if progress is being made? The market changes so rapidly it’s impossible to execute on a strategy. We’re in survival mode. We take every deal that comes along. The executives don’t agree on a strategy so how can we execute one? Our developers think the strategy is flawed so they have stealth projects. Strategy takes time that we don’t have. Connecting the detailed tasks to the strategy slows down execution. We can’t afford to stop executing for a minute because we have limited time, money, and resources. During these tough economic times, our philosophy is to just do it!

Ms. Nelson’s overall message is that PMs don’t have the luxury of working on the wrong tactics. Good strategy helps you filter out bad tactics so you can focus on what is most important to your long-term viability in the market. The PM is the President of the Product, although in reality a PM may experience being the janitor of the product. A company’s original vision created income for the founders, who solved a problem that they experienced firsthand. The challenge is to figure out how to get to the next product, and the CEO has to transition to strategizing for the company and away from tactical details.

Strategy helps you figure out what NOT to do. Research into companies identifies that only 5% of employees are familiar with the company’s strategy. How do they know what to do to move the company forward? Things change when you move from strategy to execution. You must determine where you are trying to go, what mountain you are trying to climb. The work being done is the defacto strategy – does it connect to the vision? Every level of planning MUST connect to the strategy: Vision, Product, Release, Tasks. Find a problem in the market for which there is no solution and make sure it fits with the overall company direction.

A good PM is involved in the release and feature set of a product. Prioritizing backlog is tactical. Prioritizing themes is strategic and guides tactics. Do the detailed tasks connect all the way back to higher management? PM requires communication at the executive level and trust between layers of management. You must identify if there is a gap between strategy and execution, or worse between the executives and the sales, marketing and development functions. Product Management falls between strategy and execution and must provide simultaneous interpretation within that gap or risk becoming “demo boy”.

At this point, Ms. Nelson broke the audience into groups to do a “Force Field Analysis”. The instructions were to come up with two to three driving forces that have positive impact in closing the gap as a product manager, and two to three constraining forces that prevent product management from operating successfully. The product managers, product marketers, engineers, entrepreneurs and other interested parties in attendance were quite vocal and animated in this discussion. The small groups came back together to share results of the discussion.

A list of what works included:
1. Involving the team with users and use cases including UI and QA for buy-in from the beginning
2. Providing rewards and incentives to the developers to acknowledge and reinforce desired contributions
3. Ongoing market sensing activities
4. Clear goals and milestones that the entire team understands

Other positive driving forces were;
• a culture of honesty, integrity, transparency and trust
• good executive leadership, internal communication and technical skill set
• clear understanding of market trends and opportunities
• customer input without intermediaries

The list of Constraining forces included;
• Not having a common language in the vernacular of doing business
• Outsourcing challenges that don’t always save money – even if it appears that it does on paper
• Customer requirements confused between key customers versus markets of customers

Ms. Nelson was adept at reframing the constraints into the constructive opportunities for the product manager to provide given pervasive problems, such as:
• Identify patterns that are repeatable for customized features
• Distill down commonalities to figure out how to deal with nuances
• Challenge engineers to build tools, APIs

Regarding constraints on time:
• Cut features
• Present value calculations, tradeoffs
• Utilize conjoint analysis

Recognize that the product manager is the messenger for the market and must bring market data to enable the executives to make the right decisions. The PM must consistently stay on course and communicate often with management. “You can’t do everything. You can’t even do the compelling many.” Therefore the PM must focus on the vital few. The closer you are to the sales process, the more difficult it is to make product tradeoffs. Sales depend on individual deals and ultimately want products the market wants to buy, so the PM must provide a higher view of sales to many. The PM must assess the market as big enough and teach sales to recognize the right fits to stuff their pipeline.

The PM articulates the distinctive competence of the company’s unique, sustainable value. PMs figure out drivers in market segments using data, not opinions. “Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.” PMs identify the market segment that values what you do that the competitors don’t do well. Delight user personas by solving their problems – figure out why the customer wants to buy. Regularly use Win/Loss Analysis to validate why your product is winning and losing. Continuously connect strategy to execution with post mortem corrections and quarterly road map reviews.

Perform Agile retrospectives by questioning:
• What did we say we would do?
• What did we do?
• What’s next?
• What are the barriers?

Ms. Nelson’s bottom line education for a PM is to be consistently immersed in high value activities that
• Provide market feedback to help you adapt and improve along the way
• Drive alignment between executives and workers
• Communicate the strategic vision to marketing, sales, development
• Show leadership by bringing market expertise to the strategic planning process.
• Align your team around a strategic vision to drive execution towards building products people want to buy.

“Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker

Monday, May 10, 2010

Google Scholar

An important part of product management is culling data and research about industries and products to identify market opportunities to develop product line swot, conjoint or competitive market analysis and road map presentations.  One of the tools I use to keep updated is Google Alerts, which sends me an email every time something is added to the web about my identified interests.

Thank you Panos Ipeirotis, A Computer Scientist in Business School, for your most recent posting that Google Scholar now Supports Email Alerts  
Google Scholar is a search on scholarly literature and research.  

Features of Google Scholar

  • Find articles, theses, books, abstracts or court opinions
  • Locate the complete document through your library or on the web
  • Learn about key scholarly literature in any area of research
Google acknowledges that much of scholarly research involves building on what others have already discovered. It's taken from Sir Isaac Newton's famous quote, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Try it here: 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Entrepreneurs Flood San Jose for Startup Weekend

Thanks to Chapin Hansen for reporting on the Startup weekend.  Following is a copy of  his blog posting at:
Entrepreneurs Flood San Jose for Startup Weekend

Nic and I (the menuvore guys) have been working to get ourselves involved in the startup community, so we headed down to San Jose to attend 'Startup Weekend'. In short,  you pitch an idea, try to form a team and then work your ass off for 2 days in an attempt to have the product up and running by Sunday night to demo for a panel of well known startup judges. 

With that being said, here is what I learned from this event.
1) Pitch an idea - it takes you out of your comfort zone and who knows, it might be something someone else wants to be a part of. Lots of ideas were pitched, some good, some not so good. I pitched one and it didn't go anywhere, but I'm glad I threw it out there.

2) Find Fun/Competent People - You're spending 2 straight days with these people, you might as well pick a group you like. On top of that, look for people that have complimentary skills and are competent. Working with fun, smart people makes everything easier.
3) Outline/Explain the project immediately - It's important to talk about the idea because everyone needs to understand it. If a few people don't get it, the team becomes weaker. Making sure everyone understands it means that they will be able to contribute in a positive way.

4) Throw out new ideas - Especially in this 2 day adventure, throw out ideas that make the product stand out. You have 2 days, don't be conservative. Come up with ideas that are wacky and that will get people's attention. You can always change it later.

5) Everyone needs to constantly Talk - I know it's only 2 days and everyone is cranking it out, but marketers need to talk to coders/designers and vice versa. Everyone needs to moving along together or else people aren't working on the right stuff or being as helpful as they can be. When programmers finish something, marketers should test it. When marketers write something or come up with an idea, they should mention it so it can be implemented before it's too late.

Overall, it was an awesome experience and one that I would recommend to everyone who is interested in startups.  Thanks to Franck and the Startup weekend team for putting the event on. (and filling us with lots of Pizza Hut)

I developed and presented this product at the weekend, working with Catherine on Friday and Saturday, and with help from Project Team 42, Justin and Adina on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Everything you wanted to KNOL about Software Manifestos!

I collected over 25 different software development related manifestos and placed them into Google's Knol platform to encourage discussion between developers, designers, product managers, and marketers. 

My process was first to capture their relationships in a mindmap and try to standardize the format to make it easier to compare them.  It was similar to researching a competitive space for a product and then attempting to organize the information in order to make valid observations and identify challenges and opportunities.  The information, since it was text based with more than 7 levels of detail, became too unwieldy to share in a graphical form.  Google Knol provided a great platform to share all of the manifestos and encourage discussion.  A cross between a blog and wiki, Knol was very easy to set up and use.

Join the conversation, contribute your insights - what do manifestos reveal about the nature of software product development?

What do you KNOL about Software Manifestos? Contribute your perspective http://bit.ly/bepUOT

I will return to develop a taxonomy to further the discussion of the manifestos.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What is XAuth?

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Note: the acronymns should be capitalized as follows: XAuth, OAuth, OpenID

Friday, April 16, 2010

Who Cares? Guiding Products to Greatness: SVPMA April meeting report

On April 7, 2010, roughly 50 Silicon Valley Product Management Association members were treated to a presentation entitled Who Cares? Guiding Products to Greatness with Kimberly Wiefling of Wiefling Consulting. I was not prepared to be entertained, to learn how to ROAR with laughter, and to have things tossed out into the audience, both figuratively and literally.

Weifling is a physicist by education, who spent 10 years at Hewlett Packard in product development program management and engineering leadership. She served as VP of Program Management at a Xerox Parc spinoff. Kimberly has helped to start, run and grow a dozen small businesses. She’s the co-founder of the Open Kilowatt Institute (OKI) and the co-chair of the SDForum Engineering Leadership Special Interest Group (EL SIG). She currently spends about half of her time traveling in Japan facilitating leadership, innovation and execution workshops to help Japanese companies solve global problems profitably. She is the author of “Scrappy Project Management - The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces”, recently published in Japanese. Explaining Japanese companies’ appreciation of her emphatic personal style and approach, she pointed to Japanese popular culture that embraces game shows that are “wild, messy, noisy and too energetic.”

Wiefling is a walking resource regarding customer-centric project leadership, timeline risk analysis, portfolio management, risk assessment and mitigation, and all the tools necessary to develop products more predictably, which she doesn’t hesitate to share. What is uniquely delightful is how Wiefling communicates the essential aspects of successful product management leadership – with humor and audience involvement, memorable sayings and acronymns. She doesn’t just talk about great leadership tactics, she demonstrates every communication skill from using powerful visuals, to intriguing the audience with questions designed to draw upon relevant experiences, involving the audience in small groups to interact in response to a challenge, rewarding the teams with pertinent giveaways (buttons & stretch toys), and generously sharing her own business and personal experiences.

Wiefling demonstrated techniques for effective meetings that ROAR – Roles are clear, Objectives are clarified and kept foremost in the minds of the participants throughout the event, Agendas serve as a flexible framework for the creativity of the group and are used to keep the group on track and build momentum for achieving the required results, Rules of engagement enable everyone to participate in a respectful and productive way that builds commitment to results beyond the event conclusion.

Wiefling is clearly passionate about business leadership via product and project management. She discussed the benefits of concurrent engineering and integrated product development that results in less development time, fewer engineering changes, less time to market, higher quality and worker productivity. She identified key product engineering difficulties and dismantled the root causes of project failures. She touched on how email is the illusion of communication, and discussed the PRONG way to managing and influencing stakeholders. (Prioritize stakeholder interests, Relationship building, Open two-way feedback mechanisms, Needs and wants – know them, Goals – establish shared goals.)

She repeatedly emphasized her essential point – recognizing who cares – who is going to use it, what are their needs, who are the stakeholders and how do they measure success. The persistent question is, “who is majoring it?” She implored product managers to be completely and unrepentantly obsessed with the customer – and to determine who the customer is in every situation. She shared an example of a stakeholder analysis using a communication map that portrays each of the stakeholders, how they relate to other members of the team, what they need from you and what you need from them, how they could enable or hinder success, and how you will manage communication with each. This provides a helicopter view of the team relationships, dynamics, resource needs, requirements and feedback and enables you to tune into the “WIIFM” channel for each stakeholder. (What’s In It For Me)

She talked at length about managing and influencing stakeholders’ expectations for a product from the beginning by setting expectations using a one-page document. Identify what the product is AND isn’t, the definition of success, how success will be measured, who will work on it, critical success factors, assumptions, major risks and mitigation plans, relative priority of schedule, scope, budget, quality and other factors, target audience, distribution channels, roadmap of business driven milestones, rough budget and anything else that you recognize must not be left to chance. She suggested that if you can’t fit the intent of the product on one page, then it’s probably too complicated. Create a visual indicator of the route to success that indicates progress to inspire the team.

Wiefling insists that “impossible is in the eye of the beholders”. The root cause of project failures is a failure to include the perspectives of the critical stakeholders at the appropriate times. Recognize that smart people love complicated solutions even when a simple solution would work better. Smart people learn from experience, wise people learn from the experience of others. Common sense is not common practice. Product management is a high risk profession – you have to do the right thing for your customer and product and some days you’ll be a hero, some days you’ll be a zero. If you’re going to be a great product manager, you’d better keep your backbone intact, be prepared to be respected but not necessarily liked, and keep your resume updated!

Friday, April 9, 2010

I am a PM cross-certification Agnostic!

I proudly proclaim my status as a Certified Product Manager and Certified Product Marketing Manager.  I have also been through the training for the Agile Certification but have yet to sit for the test.  I chose to be certified by the Association of International Product Marketing and Management because the certification was developed in Silicon Valley by people who worked in the trenches of software technology companies, and they spoke my language and understood my pain.  It is not based on a specific framework or philosophy, nor limited by a focus on a specific industry or type of product per se, and covers the full extent of best practices, methodologies, analysis and everything that I had encountered working with medium sized, enterprise, small businesses and start-ups.

I had been entrenched in website product development from early on, so weekly updates, continuous iterations, short launch cycles and cross functional collaboration had to be incorporated from the get go.  I found the AIPMM Certification training and testing to cover all of my experience, as well as enhance my appreciation for the trials and tribulations I encountered in being responsible for leading the product marketing at 2 different start-ups, transforming the culture at a database software company, and dealing with the customer and partner community when an off-the-shelf web authoring software company transitioned into a service model.

I am proud to be on the AIPMM Ambassadors Council and will gladly speak about the program.  However, I do that out of service to professional standards and to forward recognition of product management in technology driven companies.  I highly recommend attending an AIPMM Product Managers Education Conference, product camp and participating in the online communities because I have found them to be valuable, educational, healing and validating.

Ultimately, I am an agnostic in that I support product management certification, regardless of which certification training path you choose.  I would gladly obtain all of the certifications available, as any professional committed to excellence would desire to continue their education and expand their expertise in their field.  The Pragmatic Marketing framework is an excellent tool for visually identifying the various functional demarcations in an organization.  The PDMA NPDP focuses on new product development principles and strategies.  All of the certifications are valuable, exciting, and provide a foundation for talking about complex issues and considerations necessary to survive high pressure situations when you are responsible for making decisions that will affect the product profitability and ultimate job security of your team.

So I say, choose whichever you want, but Get Certified!


Because there is not yet a Masters of Product Management degree,
Because it is still a young profession that requires persistence, passion and willingness to fail, and to go right back to another start-up, another product launch, another customer segmentation or competitive market analysis,
Because I don't know if people choose to be a product manager, or if they find themselves elbow deep in giving birth to a product and wrestling with feature trade-offs before they discover there is a method to their madness that is called product management,
Because we need to support each other to generate respect from the people who want to build products without considering the implications and consequences of the market feasibility,
Because if we're doing our job right, we may be out of work in a reorganization or because we were willing to do and say the right thing for the product rather than to protect our own selfish interests,
Because every other profession has a career path and we are carving out the road map for product management as a profession of choice and distinction in a constantly changing economic and tech landscape.

I would proudly teach, promote and evangelize the Pragmatic Marketing Framework as well as AIPMM membership.  To me there is no conflict as I have not been entrenched in the behind the scenes political struggles that always exist between organizations with different approaches to solving similar problems.

If there are different options for certification, they must have originated in response to distinct needs in different types of organizations.  I don't believe that membership or association with one certification requires exclusivity.  Different certifications are similar to different degree specializations, or the same degrees acquired from different universities.  It is ALL GOOD!  I am delighted there are choices and options.

I say GET CERTIFIED and let me know which you chose.

The more certified Product Managers, the better for the profession, the companies, the products, the market and the customers!

Thank you to both Brian Lawley of 280 Group and the Cranky Product Manager for constantly and blatantly forwarding the profession by transparently communicating your passionate commitment to quality product management!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Self notes - replicating using Googlewave for project management

Notes to myself:

DONE: coin the term "biztegrity" and explain its relevance
Check out this SlideShare presentation : What Is Biztegrity?http://slidesha.re/b2vCLR

blog agnostic position re: PM certifications
DONE: I am a PM cross certification agnostic! http://bit.ly/dA88op @crankypm @280group #prodmgmt #prodmktg
report on last night's Silicon Valley Product Management Association event
DONE: http://bit.ly/dftQ3s
UPDATE: waiting for slides and attendance report
UPDATE: received slides, thanks Grace and Helene!

use prezi to showcase history of software development manifestos
UPDATE:  Created Knol collection of more 27 Software Development Manifestos http://bit.ly/cgEqI3
UPDATE: spent some time utilizing tool
UPDATE: shared mindmap of 22 manifestos http://bit.ly/c3kZxw

prepare FAQs for tomorrow's webinar participants
UPDATE: uploaded video to show at beginning
DONE: First webinar a success!  Small learning curve for participants.
NEXT STEPs: create webinar schedule and launch plan

Thursday, March 25, 2010

East Bay Futurists Meeting Notes

This is a great meet-up that meets twice monthly in Oakland.

These are my notes from random discussion threads between Tom, Robin, Andy, Scott and myself. Feel free to edit and add context.  (There are links hiding behind many of the references - scroll over to find them)



Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking 
Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious 
The Hero with a Thousand Faces


Terminator re: post singularity robot
Colossus: The Forbin Project

TV shows:

Battlestar Galactica
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Alien Nation
Faulty Towers 


Foresight Institute
Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence 




Fundamental Attribution Error, attribution theory

Government ideas:


Re: wikiarchy website idea
Design for America contest from Sunlight Foundation
Our goal is simple and straightforward -- to make government data more accessible and comprehensible to the American public. We hope to enliven and engage new communities -- just as we did with Apps for America 1 and 2 -- as partners and participants in making government information more engaging to the American public.
Debate graph on Government transparency

---I saw a demo at SF New Tech: Argument forum start-up: 
argumentclinic.com is neutral place on the Web where you go to have real-time arguments and debates on a variety of topics. Either argue on our carefully curated daily content by our editorial staff or add your own topics. Get a real feel of what the opposition thinks without fear of your point of view being deleted.

Oakland Businesses:

Oakland Technology Exchange - recycles computers for Oakland kids
Pandora Music Genome Project talked about how it sucks for rock music


Aaron Swartz
Aubrey de Grey
Paul Buchheit
Charles Stross

Crowdsourcing definition we tossed around to define "human distributed computing"
1. work items can be done in parallel independently
2. gestalt is not rigidly dependent on any individual element
3. work of single contributors does not stand alone