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Showing posts from 2007

The Ultimate in Requirements Traceability: DBA

Requirements traceability refers to the ease of tracking the relationship of artifacts to product requirements throughout the development process. One form of requirements traceability involves slavishly documenting each design decision and precisely which requirement(s) it addresses. There's got to be a better way. And there is. If your team isn't communicating well and your process is broken, you are likely to have some of the following problems: Features that are "neat" but don't address requirements. Designs that don't address requirements. Difficulty adjusting to changing requirements, priorities, and scoping. QA that doesn't know what to test. For this reason, some managers are enamored with the concept of requirements traceability. An untrusting manager tries to impose some heavyweight processes to ensure these problems don't occur. Usually, the process usually involves some huge, complicated spreadsheet with all sorts of links be

A Problem Understood is a Problem Half Solved

In a Q&A over at Functioning Form, Tom Chi gave us this nugget: Usually when a group of smart people is at an impasse for a long time, it is because the problem is poorly framed, not because their solutions are not good. Unfortunately, it is par for the course in the tech industry to try to bowl headlong into solving things even before we know what the problem is, or the criteria for success. Defining a problem is also an extremely creative activity. If you are falling back to the same lame problem statements and measures of success, then you aren’t really trying. And there are a ton of reasons to try. The most important is that a well defined-and exciting problem (and its associated constraints) is the catalyst that makes design go. By not drawing a clear and compelling problem, you are cheating your team out of an incredible unifying and driving energy.

More Is Not Always Better in Surveys

Having trouble getting responses to your survey? In a article , Dean Wiltse tells us seven rules for achieving higher online survey response rates. One of the rules is: Rule #4: More is not always better Many organizations believe the more questions they ask, the more measurable the results will be. However, the reality is the exact opposite. The more questions asked, the less focused and thoughtful survey responses are and the more survey takers rush to exit. Instead of asking every possible question under the sun, survey designers should keep the survey focused and to the point. Survey administrators should bear in mind that to get a solid response rate the number of questions should not exceed 30. I'm even more radical. I recommend limiting the number of questions to 12 in most cases.

Demonstration-Based Agile (DBA)

Adopting agile development processes means adopting key practices, usually some combination of the following: Develop in short iterations. Release frequently. Write tests first. Communicate frequently. Organizations moving towards agile product development typically face major hurdles as many people are entrenched in old waterfall thinking. How can you most effectively move towards agile in such an environment? Forget about Scrum, XP, and all the buzz words. Let me introduce a new buzz word. Start with demonstration-based agile (DBA) on a small scale. With demonstration-based agile, you insist on only one thing: Regular Demos . The development staff demos the product to the product manager and other members of the team at the end of every week (or some other short period). It's a lot easier for a team to agree to regular demos than it is to short iterations or frequent releases. Yet regular demos aren't much different. The team must iterate on developing th

Positioning Cough Syrup

Positioning your cough syrup can be like positioning mouthwash. Last year, I cited the example of Listerine as a product that highlights the weakness within its strength. It tastes bad, but the bad taste instills confidence that it kills germs. Now John Moore at Brand Autopsy tells us about Buckley's Cough Mixture employing a similar positioning strategy.

Effect of Fees on Your Brand

Sometimes fees above and beyond the base price of your product are a lucrative part of your business. For example, late fees, though they purportedly are exceptional and merely for recouping revenue that would otherwise be lost, are in fact a major cash cow for video rental stores. From a narrow economic point of view, such fees are good for your business. After all, business is about making money, and the fees bring in revenue. But the long-term impact of such fees is hard to measure and may be negative. Fees affect the long-term perceptions of your product and company. They affect the equity of your brand . For details, see this post by Roger Dooley on the Neuromarketing blog .

Presenting at the SMP Conference

I will be presenting at the Software Marketing Perspectives Conference and Expo Tuesday, October 23rd. My seminar will be "A Template-Based Approach to Positioning". Here is the description of the session: Product positioning is the process of defining your target market and shaping the perceptions they have of your product. Positioning largely determines which product requirements to tackle and how to market your product effectively. Prospect problems, distinctive competence, and competitive analysis should drive positioning. Yet how should these factors combine to determine your product's positioning? We will discuss positioning principles and fill out a positioning template for a sample product. The event will take place at: Hyatt Regency Austin on Town Lake 208 Barton Springs Austin, Texas, 78704 See the full line-up of sessions and presenters here . Register here .

The Differentiation Test

Laura Ries tells us: The mission of a slogan is not just to define your brand, but more importantly to differentiate it from other brands. One way to test the differentiation factor is to reverse the slogan and pin it on the brand’s major competitor. Does it make sense? Could it define another brand? If not, then the slogan is just plain puffery that is likely to be ignored. Read Laura's entire post . It's a great lesson on positioning with many concrete examples.

Industry Experience: How Important Is It?

In the latest Pragmatic Market BlogFest, Steve Johnson wrote about the importance of domain expertise. Steve's two main points are: Developers need to understand the domain and not merely code to specs. Product managers need to understand technology I can't disagree with Steve on these points. However, more interesting to me is: How important is it that a product manager have prior knowledge and experience in the domain? I have written on this topic in the past. In fact, it was one of the first entries in this blog. Below are some more thoughts. Should a company hire a product manager with years of experience in, and knowledge of, the industry? How about a capable and experienced product manager with little or no prior domain knowledge? The key to understanding the importance of domain knowledge lies in recognizing a product manager's most important skill: learning about the market. Thoroughly understanding a market necessarily entails being intimately

The Big Brands Do It, Why Can't We?

Good marketing often contradicts intuitions and instincts . Those wishing to cling to their intuitions find solace in the fact that big companies are just as likely to make mistakes as little ones. Kimberly-Clark, a huge company and umbrella brand, chose "Huggies" as the name of a line of diapers. "Huggies" is a descriptive name in that it implies in a not-so-subtle way that it is comfortable and effective. (Similarly, Procter and Gamble sells the "Pampers" line of diapers.) Yet descriptive names generally don't make good brand names . I can hear it now: "If Kimberly-Clark's marketing department decided on a descriptive name, why shouldn't we?" I should point out that, aside from its descriptiveness, "Huggies" is actually a pretty good name. It is easy to pronounce, easy to spell, and slightly shocking - all attributes that foster brand recall and recognition. Plenty of products succeed despite a descriptive name. But

A few days ago, I received in U.S. Mail a notice from UniCare that the premiums on my health insurance were going up. Given that my health plan covers little and now is going to cost more than twice as much as it did four years ago, I decided to research other options. I originally signed up for my health insurance plan through, a helpful service that enabled me to browse and compare numerous plans from a number of different providers. At the site, you can specify various plan features (deductible, co-pay, etc.), view a list of plans that satisfy those parameters, and compare the plan details. It's a great concept. Unfortunately, it has nonetheless frustrated me. The reason is that the service focuses on the features of health insurance plans rather than addressing real-world scenarios. This morning, I went to to research alternatives to my existing plan. I brought up various plans but scratched my head when trying to determine w

Trade Shows: Of What Value Are They?

The esteemed Steve Johnson recently wrote a provocative blog entry on the merits - or lack thereof - of demoing at trade shows. He implies that showing demos is usually not very effective: Nobody retains information from a trade show--everyone is yelling to be heard. Perhaps you could be a little quieter and much more effective. Let's use the demo where it belongs, much later in the sales cycle. And he contends that collecting information about prospects' situations and problems is often a better use of trade show time: At your next event, try just asking people who come by the booth a few simple qualifying questions about their problem and its urgency to them. If they answer in the affirmative, scan their badge or take their card and invite them to enjoy the show. Meanwhile send a set of materials to them through the mail or better yet, have a sales person contact them the week after the show. In my opinion, Steve's key point is that: The best demo is cust

GSD&M's Idea City

GSD&M is changing its name to "GSD&M's Idea City". This move seems like a bad idea for at least three reasons: The new name is too long. The length of the name makes it less "speakable". A brand name that's easy to say is more likely to be remembered and more amenable to word of mouth. The new name is too descriptive . Descriptive brand names are less memorable and make differentiation in the mind of the customer harder. Any identity change is costly. Every bit of marketing and sales collateral has to be modified and redistributed. But the threat of rebranding disease is constant and almost ubiquitous.

iPhone Convergence in Action

It's just one person's experience, but Amy Tiemann recently described her disappointment with the iPhone. Her conclusion: It turns out that combining multiple functions into one device isn't always more convenient. For me, a Blackberry Pearl plus an iPod Nano seems to be the best combination. I need basic online access on my smart phone, but I don't browse a lot or compose a lot of e-mail on my Pearl. I either call back, answer e-mails from my desk, or if I am traveling, I have my laptop with me. Recall that Laura Ries stubbornly predicted that the iPhone would fail (after some initial success) because it is a convergence device. The jury's still out, but Amy Tiemann's experience is an interesting data point.

When the Market Changes, Should Your Brand Also Change?

Trends in the marketplace affect the appeal of your message and the profitability of your product. When the trends run counter to your marketing message, should you re-position your product? Laura Ries says, "No." She discusses the Hellman's brand. Hellman's mayonnaise is full fat, so What do you do when the world seems obsessed with dieting, fat and calories? When every product is promoting it is low-fat, fat-free, low-carb, high fiber or zero calorie? When everybody is on a diet, gobbling up calorie reduced manufacture foods yet still hungry, miserable and (at least in the U.S.) fat? Most company executives and product managers would either modify the marketing message or come out with a "light" version of the product under the same brand. What does Laura suggest? Whatever your brand is, you have to deal with it. Pretending it isn't high fat isn't going to change what’s in the package. And promoting your “light” version just reinforces

How a Six-Month-Old Startup Got Bought by Google

Yes, this piece gives advice (based on an actual startup experience) about how to get bought by Google, but it's really just sound advice for any business: Don't focus on getting acquired. Instead, focus on the user. Ignoring limitations lets you tackle problems from a different angle. Don't be afraid to tackle the giants. Pay attention to the details. Have a really understanding spouse. See the piece for details.

Buy a Problem

In my last entry, I described the Buy a Feature innovation game . One of the shortcomings of the approach is that it focuses on features instead of problems. Unless they are product designers, your customers likely do not know how much a feature is worth to them. What they know - or at least what you can elicit from them - is what problems they currently face and how much those problems cost them. Before your product designers decide what features to include, they need to know the product requirements. As I've mentioned , requirements are simply a manner of expressing, in measurable terms, the problems that customers want to solve and avoid. So Buy a Feature can put the cart before the horse. Your team needs to understand the problems customers want solved, and how they prioritize them, before jumping into features. And once your team is considering various features, why do you need customers to prioritize them for you? Your team's job is to weigh the features i

Buying Features

One of Luke Hohmann's great innovation games is "Buy a Feature": Create a list of potential features and provide each with a price. Just like for a real product, the price can be based on development costs, customer value, or something else. Although the price can be the actual cost you intend to charge for the feature, this is usually not required. Customers buy features that they want in the next release of your product using play money you give them. Make certain that some features are priced high enough that no one customer can buy them. Encourage customers to pool their money to buy especially important and/or expensive features. This will help motivate negotiations between customers as to which features are most important. This game works best with four to seven customers in a group, so that you can create more opportunities for customers to pool their money through negotiating. A nice consequence of using this approach is that it gets customers away from th

Monitor Your On-Line Presence

If you monitor mentions of your company or product on search engines, in on-line news, or in blogs, you may find yourself manually performing searches on an irregular basis. An easy way to monitor your on-line presence is to use Google Alerts: Go to the Google Alerts page . Sign into your Google account (if you don't have one, create one). Click the 'New Alert' button on the bottom right of the page. Type the search keywords you wish to monitor. Select whether to monitor news, blogs, web, groups, or comprehensive (all of them). Select how often you wish Google Alerts to perform its searches. Click the 'Create Alert' button. Then you'll receive e-mail notifications when your on-line presence changes.

Your Product Will Be Buggy

No matter how thoroughly you test your product, no matter how many quality control measures you put into place, any new or significantly-enhanced product you release will be buggy. Some good quality control measures include: Your product manager gathers realistic usage scenarios from prospective and existing customers. Your testing team maintains a suite of regression tests, adds to them as tricky new scenarios come to light, and runs the tests on a regular basis. Your developers maintain unit tests and run them on a regular basis. Your developers review each other's designs and code. You release beta versions of the product to customers. Yet even with these measures in place, your product will almost certainly contain defects. Part of your release plan should be to put mechanisms in place to efficiently process defect reports, fix them promptly, and enable users to obtain the fixes as quickly and painlessly as possible.

iPhone: Distinctive and Inviting

My friend Tamara got an iPhone over the weekend, and I got a chance to play with it Sunday. After watching her use it, listening to her comments, and trying it for myself, I concluded that the iPhone is distinctive and inviting . The iPhone is distinctive in the sense that I have never seen another phone that simultaneously is sleek, has a large and bright screen, and has a fingerable touch screen. My 8525 has a fairly large screen and a stylus touch screen, and it is more powerful, but it is by no means sleek. It looks clunky in comparison to an iPhone. The iPhone is inviting in the sense that, while not necessarily easier to use than many other phones, the phone's user interface is innovative and stylish. You want to hold the phone and use it if just because it looks so "neat". That said, aside from its distinctive and inviting look, I see little reason to buy an iPhone. And it still remains to be seen whether the iPhone will be a success in the long run.

Use Cases for Sales Enablement

The sales folks in your organization need to connect with customers by addressing their specific situations and problems. Arming sales with use cases and scenarios can help. The idea is to document use cases and scenarios for all situations that a qualified lead might face. When a sales person is on the phone with a prospective customer, she then can not only tout benefits of the product, but she make those benefits tangible and clear by applying them to the prospect's situation. Fleshed-out use cases and scenarios contain the following information that is critical to a sales person interacting with a prospect: Description of the functional goal of the user. The name of the use case/scenario should convey what the user wants to accomplish. An explanation of the context and the reasons is also helpful. User interactions with the product. The step-by-step description of how the user will interact with the product to achieve her functional goal. Preconditions and postcondi

Dadnab Media Coverage

A couple of weeks ago, I sent a press release to Austin media outlets announcing the launch of Dadnab . (The service has been operational for over a year, but for various reasons I had held off on announcing it to the traditional media.) Two weeks later, stories or mentions of Dadnab have so far appeared in three publications: Austin Business Journal . A blurb appeared in the 6-22-2007 print edition. Austin Chronicle . The "Naked City" column dedicated a section on Dadnab in the 6-28-2007 print and on-line editions. Also, on 6-25-2007, an entry on Dadnab appeared in the "Chronic" blog. Daily Texan . Both the print and on-line editions of the 6-28-2007 University of Texas campus newspaper contain a full-blown article on Dadnab. Properly-crafted press releases really do stimulate media coverage.

Seth Godin on Focus

Seth Godin points out one reason that focus is so important in marketing: [Y]ou can learn much earlier in the process if you've gotten it right or not. Because you're making more per sale, you can spend the time necessary to figure out what really sells and modify your offering sooner in the process. When you're all things to everyone, you're nothing to anyone.

Requirements Elicitation Research

Over on Seilevel's Requirements Defined blog, Joy Beatty wrote about some research into requirements gathering. The results of the research appeared in a paper, "Child's play: using techniques developed to elicit requirements from children with adults" (IEEE membership or subscription required). The research was mainly into eliciting requirements from children, but many of the same lessons apply to adults. The main lesson from the paper seems to be that it is foolhardy to elicit requirements from children or from adults by simply asking them what they want. Placing them in realistic scenarios and focusing first on what they are trying to achieve - rather than how to achieve it - is the key to successful requirements elicitation.

Lessons from Apple

The Economist has an article about Apple and business lessons to learn from it. According to the article, the lessons are: Incorporate outside innovations. Not all innovative ideas have to come from within your own company. Design from the perspective of users, not from the perspective of a technologist. Usability is key. Be willing to ignore what the market says it wants today. Sometimes, concentrating on prospective instead of existing customers is the best policy. Fail wisely. Expect some of your products to fail and to learn from those failures. More on "failing wisely": The fourth lesson from Apple is to “fail wisely”. The Macintosh was born from the wreckage of the Lisa, an earlier product that flopped; the iPhone is a response to the failure of Apple's original music phone, produced in conjunction with Motorola. Both times, Apple learned from its mistakes and tried again. Its recent computers have been based on technology developed at NeXT, a company Mr Jobs s

Seth Godin: Against Meaningful Logos

The best logos and brand names have little or no preconceived meaning and little or no relation to your product. So it's good to see Seth Godin come out so unambiguously against "meaningful" logos: If you're given the task of finding a logo for an organization, your first task should be to try to get someone else to do it. If you fail at that, find an abstract image that is clean and simple and carries very little meaning--until your brand adds that meaning. It's not a popularity contest. Or a job for a committee. It's not something where you should run it by a focus group. It's just a placeholder, a label waiting to earn some meaning. If you find yourself or your team evaluating the quality of a logo in terms of what it conveys about your product - instead of it conveying little or nothing at all - you're on the wrong track.

Reference Cards

If your marcom team is thinking of creating a brochure, stop and think about its purpose and context. Where are you going to make it available to prospective customers? Do you expect or want them to read it as soon as they pick it up? Do you expect or want them to take it home or to work with them? Do you want customers to hand them out to their colleagues/friends? Do you want customers to keep them on hand for reference? Depending on the answers to these questions, you might consider information or reference cards instead of a brochure. If you distribute durable cards the size of a standard business card (3.5" x 2"), customers are more likely to: Take it home or to work. Hand them out to their colleagues and friends. Keep them in their purses or wallets for reference. Sometimes a brochure is the way to go, but it depends.

Ayn Rand and Taxation

Ayn Rand is a hero of libertarians and other advocates of limited government. Many of her fans complain about progressive taxation and favor a flat tax. A progressive tax system is one in which the tax rate is higher for larger incomes, profit, or sales cost. A flat tax system is one in which the tax rate is the same for all incomes, profit, or sales cost. Most proponents of flat taxation argue that having the wealthy contribute a disproportionate share of their income towards the government's expenses is unfair and wrong. They may even quote Ayn Rand as part of their argument. I don't want to argue for or against a flat tax here. But I do want to dispense with the notion that Ayn Rand opposed the wealthy contributing a disproportionate share of their wealth or income to the legitimate operations of government. The money quote is from Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness : It is in their own interests that the men of greater ability have to pay for the maintenance of armed

Positioning Statements - Courtesy of Wal-Mart and GSD&M

A leaked Wal-Mart competitive analysis (prepared by GSD&M) gives some nice positioning statements: Best Buy = Electronics, because they provide information and knowledge to help you make an informed decision. Kohl's = Apparel, because they provide a wide selection of brand-name apparel for any occasion, any style and any budget in a stylish environment that inspires browsing. Bed Bath & Beyond = Home Decor, because they have great displays that provide ideas on how to pull looks together. Walgreens = Quick Prescriptions, because you get them quickly and efficiently so you can get back in bed. Details here . Via Brand Autopsy.

Big Screen Productivity, Yet Again

Another study showing that bigger computer screens increase productivity: On the bigger screen, people completed the tasks at least 10 percent more quickly - and some as much as 44 percent more quickly. They were also more likely to remember the seven-digit number, which showed that the multitasking was clearly less taxing on their brains. Some of the volunteers were so enthralled with the huge screen that they begged to take it home. In two decades of research, Czerwinski had never seen a single tweak to a computer system so significantly improve a user's productivity. Big screens are convenient , not just a luxury.

Wiegers on the Requirements/Design Distinction

Karl Wiegers and I have disagreed in the past on requirements terminology . Now Wiegers has a good piece  on the distinction between requirements and design. Or rather he attempts to sidestep the interminable semantic debate and focus on some important consequences of failing to understand the "why" behind product specifications. In my view, the summary passage in the piece is: When it comes to requirements specification and design, the essential issue is not one of what versus how . It’s a question of distinguishing the real customer need from just one possible description of how a clever developer might satisfy that need. Incorporating a solution idea into a requirement imposes a design constraint. The requested solution describes one way to satisfy some requirement but perhaps not the only way, the best way, or even a good way. Focusing on solutions masks the underlying requirement. This can make it difficult for a developer to understand what the customer is real

Kevin Brennan on Strategic Thinking

Kevin Brennan explains how we can't rely on customers, unfacilitated , to tell us their problems and what it would take to solve them. A strategic thinker needs to be involved. The summary quote: A genuinely effective business analyst is someone who can understand business needs well enough to propose better solutions than the business people can develop on their own. Well stated.

Strategic Advice for Lenovo

Laura Ries has three recommendations for Lenovo, the largest personal computer maker in China and a spin-off of IBM's ThinkPad line. Focus the product line on notebooks and discontinue desktops. Change the company name to ThinkPad. Focus on battery life as the company's key differentiator. While I question the wisdom of the second recommendation, I wholeheartedly agree with Ries' other recommendations. This sort of gutsy strategic thinking about positioning (sacrificing a portion of the market to enhance focus) is precisely what is lacking in many companies today.

Survey Incentive

Meritline recently sent me an e-mail asking me to fill out a survey. The e-mail stated that Meritline would send me a desktop organizer for free as a reward. I chose not fill out the survey. The irony is that I might well have decided to fill out the survey had they not offered any sort of reward. I thought, "I don't want a desktop organizer, so why should I bother filling out the survey?" Had they not offered a reward, I might have thought, "If this survey is short, I'd be happy to answer questions to help improve Meritline's services." Survey incentives not only pale in comparison to the deterrent effect of a long survey , but they can actually make some potential respondents less likely to complete the survey. Furthermore, isn't Meritline biasing their sample in favor of people who want a desktop organizer?

Alyssa Dver on Great Product Managers

Alyssa Dver tells us what distinguishes a great product manager from a good one. Great product managers: 1. Know their product but also know their own limits. 2. Listen first. 3. Ask why, not what. 4. Are decisive. 5. Are responsive. 6. Communicate frequently, concretely, and concisely. 7. Manage passion. For details, read the rest of Dver's piece .

Not an SUV

Want to differentiate your brand ? Sometimes it's as easy as being the opposite. I just heard a BMW ad on the radio saying that BMW doesn't make SUVs. And BMW's ad for the X3 portrays it simply as "Not an SUV."

Dollar Coins

Has the government done any product management on its currency product? Since 1971, the U.S. government has made several attempts to ween its citizens off of paper currency (dollar bills) and onto coins. In many other developed countries, similar denominations of currency have been coins, not paper. Supposedly, the similarity of dollar coins to quarters has been one reason that dollar coins have not gained popular acceptance. If the government were to gather requirements for a currency product, what would they be? What would the use cases be? What would the attributes and constraints attached to these use cases be? Some of the use cases might be: Pay for Goods Carry Money Withdraw Money Deposit Money Some of the attributes might be: Fit (Does it fit comfortably in pockets/wallets/purses?) Weight (Does carrying a lot of it around weigh you down?) Durability (How well does it withstand the elements and time?) Identifiability (How easy is it to distinguish relative to other currency?) I a

Are Two Brands Better Than One?

Are two brands better than one? Al Ries says no: It's a trend. Glide is now Crest Glide. Cottonelle is now Kleenex Cottonelle. SpinBrush is now Crest SpinBrush. And so it goes. Consumers, however, will usually use one name instead of two. Nobody in their right mind would write Nescafé Taster's Choice on a shopping list. Or Crest Glide. Or Kleenex Cottonelle. It's just Taster's Choice, Glide and Cottonelle. Furthermore, the most powerful brands are those that stand on their own, without corporate endorsements or master-brand hocus-pocus. If Nestlé bought Red Bull (an acquisition they should definitely consider), should the brand be re-badged as Nestlé Red Bull? I think not. Also, beware: Research can lead a company astray because consumers prefer the known to the unknown. Before Dietrich Mateschitz launched Red Bull, he hired a market-research firm to test the concept. "People didn't believe the taste, the logo, the brand name," he said. "I'd neve

Agile Development

Is your company doing true agile development? At one time, most people thought of agile development as shown on the left. Determine the requirements up front. Then iterate on the analysis, design, and implementation. Slowly, people began to realize that BUFR is often a bigger risk than BUFD . The new model of agile development is shown on the right. Iterate on the entire process: requirements, analysis, design, implementation, and testing. This depiction of the new model is still somewhat crude and incomplete. Testing really occurs throughout the process. And when market research and strategy appear in the iterative loop, it turns into agile product management .

Is Positioning Strategic?

Branding and positioning are highly relevant to "outbound" marketing and marketing communications. So you might wonder if: They are relevant to the requirements for a product. They are part of strategic product management. I believe the answer is "yes" to both. As your product manager is understanding the problems in the market, the distinctive competence of the company, and the competition, she should be formulating the positioning of the product using established positioning principles. Branding strategy and positioning should in fact drive product requirements. Should your focus be on ease of use, customizability, or style? The answer to these sorts of positioning questions determine which problems you choose to solve and thus what the requirements for the product are. They also determine how to prioritize those requirements. A strategic product manager is a product manager who sets the strategy for building and marketing the product but doesn't necessaril

When Convergence Can Work

Al Ries and Laura Ries post a new video each month on their Ries Report web site. This month's video is about the iPhone and convergence . In the video , Al Ries echoes his daughter's prediction that the iPhone will flop (after some initial success), saying it Will not dominate the market. Will not have a big market. Will not be a success. Will not make money for Apple. One important nugget that stuck out was his statement that: Convergence can work where convenience is a major issue. People buy products with a singular purpose except when doing so creates a compelling problem . Mobile phones are an interesting case, because their users usually carry them everywhere. But some people also want to carry cameras, digital audio players, and computers everywhere, too. It would be a problem to carry all of these separate devices. The convergence of these devices in a PDA phone thus solves a real problem for some people. The question is whether the seriousness of the problem outwei

Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivation

My friend Chris H. recently sent me a link to this Joel Spolsky piece . Measuring results and basing employee evaluations and compensation on them is important. However, you risk killing their intrinsic motivation : Intrinsic motivation is your own, natural desire to do things well. People usually start out with a lot of intrinsic motivation. They want to do a good job. They want to help people understand that it’s in their best interest to keep paying AOL $24 a month. They want to write less-buggy code. Extrinsic motivation is a motivation that comes from outside, like when you’re paid to achieve something specific. Intrinsic motivation is much stronger than extrinsic motivation. People work much harder at things that they actually want to do. That’s not very controversial. But when you offer people money to do things that they wanted to do, anyway, they suffer from something called the Overjustification Effect. “I must be writing bug-free code because I like the money I get for it,”

Use Case as a Black Box

Consider the following use case: Purchase Items Actor: Purchaser Precondition: Purchaser types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40. Postcondition: For the average Purchaser acting at full efficiency, the number of seconds elapsed is no more than 30 + 20 * n, where n is the number of items purchased. The name of the use case represents a functional requirement. What does the product do, or enable the user to do? Purchase items. What are we to make of the preconditions and postconditions? What relationship do they have to the requirements for the product? Answer: the preconditions and postconditions are the nonfunctional requirements attached to the functional requirement . Another way of expressing the nonfunctional requirement would be as an attribute and associated constraint: Usability: For a Purchaser who types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40, it shall take no

Requirements and Functional Decomposition

What is the difference between these two specifications? 1. Security: a team of 10 hackers [profiled elsewhere] per hour attempting to access account holders' credit card information shall be successful no more than an average of once every five years. 2. The system shall require users log in with a user name and password. On the third consecutive unsuccessful log-in attempt using a particular user name, the system will lock the corresponding account. The first specification is a nonfunctional requirement . The second specification is a functional decomposition of that nonfunctional requirement. All nonfunctional requirements can be decomposed into functional specifications. In fact, when an interaction designer fleshes out (defines the particular steps in) a use case, she is functionally decomposing both functional and nonfunctional requirements . She is specifying functional steps that will satisfy the requirements.

Revisiting the Technology Adoption Curve

[Graph from CNET ] A recent Pew research study categorized adults' "evolving relationships to cyberspace" as: Omnivore (8 percent) Devoted Web 2.0 users of either gender, though usually under 30, who voraciously update personal Web pages, blogs and mashups to publicly express themselves. Likely to watch videos on an iPod or participate in a virtual world. Most social interaction takes place via instant messaging, texting and blogging via a high-speed Internet connection at home and work. Connector (7 percent) Mostly female thirtysomethings who have been online since the early 1990s and have a fully loaded cell phone or smart phone. They are happy to use the Internet, usually via Wi-Fi, from either device as a place to manage content and connect for work, community, family, hobby and entertainment interaction. They are twice as likely to blog or have a Web page than the average American. Lackluster veteran (8 percent) Been there, done that on the Internet since the mid-&#

Cingular 8525 Received

Over the weekend, I finally received my Cingular 8525 (a.k.a. HTC Hermes) mobile phone . Here are some observations: Navigating the phone with the touch screen is fast and easy. (The exception is the camera; I am still learning its touch screen interface.) The touch screen dialing is convenient and straightforward now that I'm getting over my expectation of a separate numeric keypad. Synchronizing contact, calendar, e-mail, and tasks with Outlook took me a long time to get working properly, almost exclusively due to problems with Microsoft's ActiveSync software. The SMS synchronization software I installed works beautifully. Now copies of all of the text messages I send and receive automatically are stored in Outlook on my computer. The speakerphone is clear and sufficiently loud. The slide-out QWERTY keyboard is very handy for typing out text messages, e-mails, and Word/Excel documents. Wi-fi initially seemed to work well, but now it seems flaky, and configuring it is a bit co

Four Keys of Great Managers

In First, Break All the Rules , Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman tell us the four keys of great managers: Select a person based on talent, not so much for experience, intelligence, and determination. Set expectations by defining the right outcomes, not by defining the right steps. Motivate the person by focusing on strengths, not by helping to overcome weaknesses. Develop the person by helping him find the right fit, not by helping him get promoted. Somewhat counterintuitive, but based on some sound premises and research. I recommend the book.

Style and Usability

For what single idea does "Apple" stand in customers' minds? Here are some possibilities: Stylish Easy to Use Design It occurs to me that style and usability are both aspects of design, and that customers may perceive them synergistically. The ease of use seems to heighten perceptions of style, and aesthetics seem to strengthen perceptions of ease of use. I haven't thought deeply about the issue, and I haven't researched it. So it may already be a known fact or may just be plain wrong.

Ask Then Tell

As I've mentioned , SPIN Selling describes a sales process based on questioning and listening rather than telling. Many of the lessons apply to product management as well. Now, Kristin Zhivago shares : Salespeople like to talk, and they need to make a sale. Combine this character trait and this need, and you get the typical unsuccessful sales interaction. The salesman talks and talks, while the customer is standing there with all sorts of questions. The salesman doesn't answer the questions the customer has. The salesman answers the questions he thinks the customer has. Truth be told, he answers the questions he has answers for. Not only does he fail to answer the customer's actual questions, but as he prattles on, he adds to the customer's concerns. By the time his verbal spring winds down, the customer has decided that she doesn't want to buy anything from this salesperson or his company, or that the product or service isn't what she wanted anyway. So she wal

More on iPhone Predictions

I noted in March that Laura Ries predicted the iPhone will flop. Her reason is that she believes it is a convergence device. In a comment, my friend Brandon boldly disagreed with Ries and predicted that the iPhone will be a huge success. Now Seth Godin has joined the fray with his prediction: My take is quite different. I think the iPhone is going to sell 2 million units in 2007 and more in 2008. There, I said it. Meanwhile, Laura Ries stands by her prediction that the iPhone will not be successful. I respect the willingness of Laura, Brandon, and Seth to go on the record with their predictions. I don't yet have a prediction. I see the success of the iPhone hinging upon what Jack Trout and the elder Ries (Al Ries) call "the battle for the mind". Is the iPhone really a convergence of product categories, or is it merely a convergence of technologies ? Whether it is a convergence of product categories depends on how Apple will market it, and how consumers will eventually

"How Are You Doing?" Questions

When you are facilitating a meeting, it's a good idea to periodically ask "How are you doing?" questions. Some meeting participants have a lot to say but keep quiet, because they don't feel "safe". All of the participants who are vocal may agree on something, making those who disagree reluctant to share their contrary opinions. One of a meeting facilitator's responsibilities is to make all participants feel safe. How about asking: What's up, Paul? Do you have any thoughts to contribute? or It seems we have a lot of agreement that . . . . How about some contrary opinions? What do you think, Jane? How about you, Justin? Monitor the participation and body language of the meeting attendees. Proactively solicit contributions from those who aren't participating or who look like they have something to say.


Oh, Laura, thanks for your thoughts about descriptive names: One of the most tempting and logical but ultimately disastrous naming strategies is using a generic descriptive name. While you think you are giving your brand an advantage by describing exactly who you are and what you do. You aren’t able to build a powerful brand. Generic names are filed in the mind in the lowercase. To have power, brands need to be filed in the uppercase. An example? Seattle’s Best Coffee, might tell people that you have a high-end coffee shop from the Pacific Northwest. But when I ask people what Seattle’s best coffee is the answer is always the same: Starbucks. The best way to come up with a good brand name, in my opinion, is to sit in front of a computer typing candidate names into Google. Find ones that have close to zero search results .

Brand Resonance

Seth Godin recently advanced the following definition of "brand": [Prediction of what to expect] times [emotional power of that expectation] I have previously defined "brand" as A set of associations imprinted in the mind of a customer. Either way, a brand exists in the mind of the customer. And Daniel Sitter elaborates : [Godin] also suggests that focus is also an important factor for companies to remember when marketing their brand. If a company has diversified into many industries, their brand often becomes diluted, forcing confusion into the mind of the consumer, and a confused mind does not buy. Furthermore, reading between the lines reveals that the tendency towards offering various brand extensions may also tend to cloud the branding efforts of a company, leading to poor consumer recognition. The solution... keep it simple, maintaining a brand focus. In other words, brand focus not only makes it easier to set customer expectations, but also helps maximize t

Transcript of "Understanding Requirements Concepts" Webinar

Below is the transcript of the "Understanding Requirements Concepts" webinar I presented in January. You can also find it, along with links to the video and audio, here . Roger Cauvin: All right; thank you. Again, I’m Roger Cauvin with Cauvin, Inc. It’s a product management and research firm in Austin, Texas. Today as Suzannah mentioned, we’re talking about requirements concepts. The purpose of the presentation is going to be to clarify the concepts and terminology related to requirements. I’m going to do three things. First, I’m going to show how existing requirements terminology is actually contradictory. Second, I am going to show how confusion leads to product development failures, and third, I am going to clarify the concepts to remove the contradictions. I recently participated in an on-line debate about requirements terminology, and in that debate one of the other participants drew a distinction between external and internal aspects of products. The idea is that the li