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Showing posts from June, 2006

Product Requirements Analysis: Skills and Talents

The Requirements Defined message board has a discussion about the skills and talents a product manager should have to gather and document product requirements. The discussion touches on a number of important issues, such as: To what extent requirements analysis is trainable. How important it is to have prior experience gathering requirements. Whether prior domain or industry knowledge is needed for effective requirements analysis. The role of facilitation in requirements elicitation. Requirements gathering abilities are among the most difficult to find. Simply assigning the product requirements to subject matter experts in your company is usually a mistake.

Innovation and Prototyping

Jefferey Phillips recently wrote about the relationship between innovation and rapid prototyping: People can't react to ideas that are not modeled or simulated for them - it's simply too hard to get everyone to "think" the same way. Place a prototype or simulation in front of them, however, and the reactions are worth their weight in gold. The speed to prototype is important because it helps highlight the "gap" between idea generation and the resulting next steps. A long gap indicates that your firm does not have the processes and systems necessary to bridge the gap, and will probably be beaten to the market fairly frequently. A short gap can actually increase cycle times but improve the product, as a rapid prototype receives a lot more commentary and feedback into the system. Interestingly, he maintains that taking a long time to put a prototype in front of a customer indicates your product will probably fail in the marketplace - not just because it won

Worthy and Worthless WOM

John Moore of the Brand Autopsy blog reprints Spike Jones' assessments of various word of mouth (WOM) ideas. Here they are, printed yet again: If you train your sales force in the ways of evangelism, they become better recruiters. SPIKE SAYS: WORTHY, but not exactly a “go home and implement” tool. Make it easy for people to find you and tell people about you. SPIKE SAYS: WORTHY Create a market advisory council. SPIKE SAYS: WORTHY Use interesting stories to bring your WOM topics to life. SPIKE SAYS: WORTHLESS – your identity should already do that. Encourage your brand champions to tell two friends about you, not just one.SPIKE SAYS: WORTHLESS – Give them something to talk about Do something unexpected and generous for your customers — send a free product (include an extra for them to pass along to a friend) just for being a valued customer.SPIKE SAYS: WORTHY, but you don’t have to bribe your customers, just surprise and delight Identify influentials using online social networking

Resuscitating Your Brand

Laura Ries writes about resuscitating your brand after a PR disaster. The four steps she recommends: Get out of the spotlight and give the public a break. Embrace the controversy, apologize in front of the media and end the bitterness. Start slow. Keep your brand focused. She uses the Dixie Chicks as her example, but presumably the same steps apply generally to other brands.

Parity Products

Unless you have a way of producing or delivering them more cheaply than anyone else, you generally want to avoid selling parity products . A parity product is one that is no different from other products in its category. When you can't differentiate your product's benefits from the competition, you must resort either to superior marketing or to having the lowest price. (And superior marketing is difficult when you have no benefits to tout.) A parity product resembles a commodity , which, according to Webster's, is a "mass-produced unspecialized product". Parity products are not necessarily mass produced, however.

Benefits, Not Features

I think this slide from a Mike Cohn presentation says a lot about what the focus of a product manager should be. The presentation has lots of other good info related to requirements, use cases, and user stories. Check it out.

Apple Commercials

Is the "Mac guy" in the recent Apple advertisements really annoying, or what? The idea behind the ads is that you're supposed to view the Mac guy as trendy and cool, and view the PC guy as a geek. Yes, the PC guy is a geek. Maybe it's just because I, too, am a geek, but I find him immensely more likeable than the Mac guy. Maybe that's why this review calls the Mac guy a "smug little twit".

Target and Nike Logos

Interesting info on logos and whether they should be " blank slates " or more descriptive of the product or company. Consider two of the most respected logos in the U.S. About Target's logo: Yet all around us are demonstrations of how effective a blank slate can be. It's just hard to learn from them. I'd like to think, for instance, that I'd see the potential of a red dot in a red circle if I was designing a logo for a company named Target. But in truth I'd probably say, "What, that's all?" and not let it into the initial presentation. How, after all, could you guarantee that the client would invest 40 years in transforming that blank slate into a vivid three-dimensional picture? The execs at Nike initially didn't like the "swoosh" logo: It doesn’t do anything,” Johnson complained. “It’s just a decoration. Adidas’ stripes support the arch. Puma’s stripe supports the ball of the foot. Tiger’s does both. This doesn’t do either.”

Dan Russell on User Interface Bias

Dan Russell recently wrote about the tendency of developers to design user interfaces that are intuitive to them but not to users. He then counsels: As interface designers we often achieve our greatest successes when the interface disappears, and getting to that point is what makes us professionals at this game – our willingness to go beyond our personal intuitions and see what really works for our target audience. Great user interfaces are ultimately about creating something that’s ego-less, something that works well for people who are not you and not just the same as you. One of the reasons it's important to keep user interface designs out of product requirements specifications is that you lose the ability to judge whether the interfaces are actually usable. The metrics you use to judge usability - not the designs - are the requirements.

Vote at MarketingSherpa

The MarketingSherpa Blog Awards nominations are complete, and voting has begun. Cauvin is in the crowded "blogs on general (multiple topic) marketing" category. Thanks to whoever nominated this blog. Now I encourage you to vote .

Informal Definition of Scalability

Scalability is a nonfunctional requirement that almost every product should possess. But specifically which metrics should you use to define it? A simple (and informal) definition of scalability is: "More and more of it while still satisfying the other requirements." You then must ask, "More of what?" And, "How much more?" The Wikipedia entry for "scalability" mentions three forms: load geographic administrative Answer these questions in measurable terms, and you've defined the scalability requirements for your product.

Profiles and Personas

One way to document your understanding of customers is to compose profiles or personas. A profile describes the situation, problems, and general personality traits of one type of user or buyer in the market for your product. A persona differs from a profile in its level of specificity. Personas are a bit like what some people speculated "Deep Throat" (the secret informant in Woodward and Bernstein's account of Watergate, All the President's Men ) was: a composite of various sources. (We now know that Deep Throat was a single person, Mark Felt). According to the composite character theory , Woodward and Bernstein concocted the character Deep Throat to represent a combination of many sources that gave Woodward guidance and information in their investigation of Watergate. Personas are similar in that they represent all of the people in a market segment as a single person. That single person has very specific characteristics that many of the people in the segment do not

Children Book

What do you call an instruction manual for users? user's guide users guide user guide users' guide According to the The New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage , "users guide" is one correct style: Although an apostrophe is not incorrect in terms like the following, increasingly it is omitted when the sense of the term is descriptive rather than possessive - that is, when for is meant rather than of . teachers college boys clubs Merchants Bank officers club travelers checks users manual The name of the publication is a little ironic ("Writer's Guide" rather than "Writers Guide"). The implications of their reasoning are also interesting. What is a book for children? A children book?

Women's Magazines

The next time you're sitting in a waiting room, check out the covers of the women's magazines. See what percentage of them have some form of the word "sex" on them? You'll be hard-pressed to find an issue of Cosmopolitan or Glamour that doesn't have "sex" on the cover. Nothing new; sex sells. But I have a prediction about what you'll find inside the magazines in a few years. At this point, the articles can be racy or graphic, but not raunchy . A women's magazine will eventually distinguish itself by being raunchy. Mark my words.

Copycat Naming

The garbage collection companies that serve my downtown neighborhood are named: Texas Disposal Systems Central Texas Refuse Waste Management Inc. (The reason I know so much about garbage collection is that the City of Austin recently forced my building to use Waste Management Inc. and pay almost 800% more in monthly fees.) These company names are all way too descriptive , and they pay the price. Imagine Central Texas Refuse had something that distinguished their service from the others. How would a building manager remember which company was which? "You know, the one that picks up recycling at no extra charge. Texas Disposal Systems, maybe? Oh heck, I can't remember which one."

MarketingSherpa Blog Awards Nomination

This blog isn't very well known and doesn't get a lot of traffic, but you can do your part to help it get some recognition if you think it deserves it. Each year, MarketingSherpa recognizes favorite marketing blogs. You can nominate the Cauvin blog here: Here's the info you'll need to enter: Cauvin "General Marketing" is probably the most applicable category Thanks for your support!

Why Testable Requirements?

As I've mentioned before, all requirements should be testable in principle (but not necessarily directly testable in practice). Why is it important they be testable in principle? First, requirements that are testable in principle are precise and unambigous. Testability in principle is a conceptual property of a requirement. You don't have to consult with your testers to determine whether a requirement is testable in principal. Instead, you analyze the meaning of the requirement to determine whether the question "does the product satisfy requirement x" has a yes or no answer, even if it may not be cost effective or practical to definitively determine the answer before product release. Second, requirements that are testable in principle are, at the very least, indirectly testable in practice. Even if it can't directly implement or perform the test the requirement prescribes, your testing team can always devise simulations or other, related tests that give yo


A recent news story reports on what is quickly becoming more than just a fantasy solution : Brunner and two colleagues from the state-financed Wadsworth Center in Albany, New York were demonstrating a "brain computer interface (BCI)," an astounding technology which digitalizes brain signals emitted as electrical impulses -- picked up by the electrodes -- to convey intent. If your product's user interface requirements don't allow for this (or this ) sort of psychokinesis , you've ventured too far into design.

Roger's Theory of Food and Drugs

When a controversy arises about a new drug or a new food additive, we often hear the phrase, "There' s no evidence that it causes any problems." Well, maybe there is no direct evidence these new drugs or food additives cause problems, but there is common sense evidence of significant risk. Throughout evolution, humans have been consuming certain kinds of substances. Through natural selection, humans have grown accustomed to these substances. This process has tended to weed out any of the substances with negative effects. Even substances that humans have been consuming for only a few generations - not enough time for evolution to have had a significant effect - have stood the test of time. A few generations is enough time to begin to assess the long-term health effects of the substances. In contrast to "old" substances, evolution has not acclimated humans to new drugs and food additives. Nor has it been possible, in most cases, to assess the long-term impact of t

Intro to Kano Analysis

Bloggers in the same "circle" as I have recently paid a fair amount of attention to Kano analysis. I wrote in a previous entry that true Kano analysis differs a bit from popular portrayals. What follows is an introduction to Kano analysis. I intend this introduction merely to explain what it is and what people do with it. You use Kano analysis to help you decide what to put in your product. It helps you determine the relative importance of features or requirements . With Kano analysis, you categorize possible attributes of your product as: attractive - satisfies users when present but does not dissatisfy users when not present one-dimensional - satisfies users when present and dissatisfies them when not present must-be - taken for granted, but dissatisfies users when not present indifferent - results in neither user satisfaction nor user dissatisfaction reverse - dissatisfies users when present and satisfies them when not present Informed Kano analysis requires research

Out-of-Context User Delights

Kathy Sierra writes about "out-of-context user delights" on the Creating Passionate Users blog . The idea is to enhance the user's experience with your product by surprising them with something out of context. She gives numerous examples; here is just one of them: Context : Company that creates Business Presentations Delightful Out-of-Context Surprise : Their website includes a main menu choice for "Staff Tattoos" Not only does the "out-of-context user delight" increase the user's satisfaction, it also makes them more likely to help you market via word of mouth (to an extent greater than you might ordinarily expect from a satisfied user).

Kano Analysis: Misunderstood?

Having heard a lot about it recently, I started to write an entry with my opinion of the merits of Kano analysis , used sometimes to prioritize product requirements. After digging a bit into its origins, I realized that there's a lot more to it than popular portrayals of it suggest. An interesting (but technical and somewhat long) paper on it is here .

Free Conference Calls

A colleague of mine turned me onto services that enable you to do free conference calls. One such service is . To set up a free conference call with the service, you simply: Choose one of the standard telephone numbers listed on the site. Share a unique numeric access code with the participants so they can join the call. To join a conference call, you and the other participants simply: Dial the telephone number. At the prompt, enter the numeric access code, followed by the pound (#) sign. We did it today, and it seemed to work flawlessly. You don't have to register for an account or provide any private information to them (although I suppose they can get your telephone number through caller ID).

Good Advice at the Time?

Check out one of the things the Forty Media blog says about naming your company: Traditional naming wisdom long held that your company name should describe what you do, so that people would quickly understand your business. While good advice at the time, this principle now hurts more than it helps. These days, there’s plenty of context to help customers figure out what you do. You don’t need to name your new software firm, say, “Texas Software Group,” because people will be finding you by searching Google for “software companies in texas,” or by looking you up in the local phone book under the appropriate heading. They’ll often know what you do before you ever talk to them. Instead of trying to overburden the name by making it do everything at once, take advantage of other ways to explain your business (your business card, your website, your elevator speech, etc.), and liberate the company name to be used to engage and fascinate potential customers. I'm not sure I agree with the

Great Marketing Ruffles Feathers

Execs, here's what we marketers face: Great marketing pleases everyone on the team, sooner or later. But at the beginning, great marketing pleases almost no one. At the beginning, great marketing is counter-intuitive, non-obvious, challenging and apparently risky. Of course your friends, shareholders, stakeholders and bosses won't like it. But they're not doing the marketing, you are. Whether we're naming, positioning, or pricing your product, marketing is not common sense .

Purposeful Innovation

Twenty years ago, Peter Drucker wrote in Innovation and Entrepeneurship that innovation can be purposeful and methodical: Systematic innovation therefore consists in the purposeful and organized search for changes, and in the systematic analysis of the opportunities such changes might offer for economic or social innovation. Innovation is not just about creativity, but about analyzing opportunities. Product managers are the people whose responsibility it is to research the market for these opportunities. They therefore lay the groundwork for innovation.

Marketing a Birthday Celebration

Yesterday, I put together an evite for a birthday party for a friend. We are celebrating his birthday at DK Sushi . Instead of just urging people to accept the invitation, I described what the experience at DK Sushi is like and then instructed anyone who would be offended to decline the invitation. By telling a certain segment of people not to come, it enhanced the credibility and appeal of the event for those who had any doubts about the intensity of the experience.

Husband and Wife

I've written that a product manager need not have industry or domain experience to be qualified . Today, a colleague challenged me with a very good, related question: how can a product management consultant come into a company for a few months and understand the market for their products better than executives in the company do after years of successful operations? The analogy I like to draw is to psychology. (After all, product management is like therapy .) Imagine a couple that has been married for ten years. Who can gain greater and deeper insight into the wife's psychological problems? The husband who has known her for more than ten years, or a good psychologist after a few months of intensive sessions with her?

Two Brands are Better than One

In a February entry, I mentioned that you should brand opposing products differently instead of using brand extension. I gave the example of a successful high-end Italian restaurant, Filomarino, that wants to spin off "Filomarino Express", a fast-food version of the same kind of restaurant: That name might give the fast-food restaurant an immediate boost, but it will also cause the Filomarino brand to lose its focus. Diners who associated the Filomarino name with sophistication or quality will be forced to re-evaluate what "Filomarino" means to them. The high-end restaurant will likely suffer as a result. Fortunately, you can create a new brand for the fast-food restaurant, even if it is has the same owner and executive chef. You will have to start the branding effort from scratch, but your potential rewards are much greater. Two focused brand names for separate products tend to be much more powerful than a single brand name name with no focus. Now we have Laura Ri