Given the key role Product Managers play in creating the environment for their teams… what must they do to avoid the bell curve of mediocre products that unfortunately are the norm? I shared my perspective as the guest speaker at the SVPMA (Sept 3, 2014) based on my own experiences and other authors/speakers that I trust.
I discussed specific ways to set clear goals and establish the right metrics. Dipping into my eBay days, I shared a little known story of the importance of asking for forgiveness rather than permission in driving innovation that resulted in the launch of the eBay iPhone app.
In my talk I’ll discuss how Product Managers play a profound role in creating the environment around product development teams. I’ll explore various ways they can influence these products to move up from mediocrity and how to avoid micromanagement and “flavor of the month” feature ideas.
I’ll discuss specific ways to set clear goals and establish the right metrics. Dipping into my eBay days, I’ll share a little known story of the importance of asking for forgiveness rather than permission in driving innovation.
Some other takeaways from this talk will include:
How to focus on the right, few, customer adoption metrics (e.g. AAARR). More is often not better and can distract from the main goal
How defining your product’s purpose often improves working relationships with designers and engineers so you aren’t left arguing about the “what” or the “how
How to avoid getting in the executive micromanagement web especially if they are distracted by the “flavor of the month” or “pet feature” ideas
How to drive stealth projects or go through quick business case or product prototyping within a big company
In addition to speaking, we’ll be hosting the event at our Comcast Silicon Valley Innovation Center in Sunnyvale.
I’m doing a 2-day 90 mile bike ride (Sept 20-21) for the second year to support an end to multiple sclerosis (MS). I am riding with and in support of my son’s godfather who was diagnosed about 6 years ago.
Generous donations from people like you last year helped me raise $2,800 which combined with other riders came to over $2M to help in research and treatment!
I recently spoke on how to run an innovation center within a large company at both the Lean Startup conference in SF and the Strategic Planning Innovation Summit in NYC. As part of the leadership team running the Comcast Silicon Valley Innovation Center, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t especially within a BIG company.
How can you apply Lean Startup principles at your company? I have 6 pieces of advice:
Ask for forgiveness, not permission
The eBay mobile app almost didn’t get built as the mobile team was restructured away shortly before Apple announced the App Store in 2008. By “hiding” a small team of people building MVP (Alan Lewis, Ken Sun, Karlyn Neal) enough momentum was established that the Exec team went along.
Build credibility thru projects–then scale The Comcast Silicon Valley Innovation Center was built out of an earlier acquisition made a couple years earlier in Plaxo. By running projects under the Plaxo brand and then Comcast Labs, credibility in the approach was established with the executive team. Over time its scaled to include higher profile projects, such as SEEiT.
Don’t just swing for homeruns
We take a VC mindset for “funding” concepts at the center. Ideas can come from anywhere (often Hack Days) and get evaluated using a Lean Canvas. Receiving “Seed” funding means we might assign a few engineers for a month or so. If they prove their hypothesis they might get “Series A” funding where they could build an MVP. Meanwhile we’re always looking for an “exit” which could be an “acquisition” from another internal business unit–so a solid “double” in baseball helps offset the “strikeouts” that might occur.
Adapt Lean Canvas for your company
I adapted Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas to better fit within the enterprise. Cost included the number of FTEs / time and Revenue includes indirect improvements to retention/acquisition. Finally a new cell was added for “Strategic Fit” which evaluates how well the concept fits within the corporate strategy and who on the Exec team will sponsor it.
Watch out for corporate antibodies
Organizations are just like the body and will attack what they see as “foreign objects” (different ways of doing things). You need to be aware of who’s toes you might be stepping on and building allies at the exec level is important. It’s also helpful to understand resource allocation is often a “zero-sum-game” so don’t scale your resources too fast or they become a target for others looking for funding.
Use vanity metrics (but don’t believe them)
As you analyze using rate-based metrics that ruthlessly look at acquisition, activity, and retention is the only way to go. However its important that you present your product fairly alongside others at the company. Shining a bright light on all things wrong with your project may not give you the time you need to pivot and get it where you want it to go. So occasionally, its useful to share “vanity metrics” alongside the equivalents of other products at your company. 😉
Hi Friends and Family,
I’m doing a 2-day bike ride (Sept 21-22) to help end multiple sclerosis (MS). I decided to ride with and in support of my son’s godfather who was diagnosed a few years ago. If you are familiar with MS you know that while there are treatments available to try and slow the disease their effectiveness is sporadic and there is no cure .
If you can sponsor me and my team in this ride, your donation will go toward treatment and cutting-edge research to both stop and reverse the damage done to the nervous system by this disease. Ways you can help:
Today I’m demoing at the NCTA Cable Show in Washington DC a slick new “app” we built to help groups of people pick a movie to watch at home, called Movie Night. Tony Werner, Comcast’s CTO, invites me and my team to demo on stage.
If you’re like me, you’ve been on the couch trying to pitch to your spouse or friends movie ideas only to either end up settling for a movie you’re not thrilled about or just give up altogether. So a few of our best engineers and designers were also interested in this problem and over the last 6 weeks put together a collaborative experience that gets everyone in the room involved–and having fun while doing it.
This is just one of a number of innovative products we’re incubating using Lean Startup methods in Silicon Valley as part of Comcast Labs. If you’d like to join us, let me know… we’re looking for more product, design, and engineering talent.
Video of Presentation (jump to 21:50 – 33:28 for Movie Night)
I’m on the lookout for a strong mobile PM to join our team focused on redefining how people enjoy, discovery, and interact with TV. Here’s a short job description I put together as well as an example of one of the products you’d manage in the role.
Here at the Comcast Silicon Valley Innovation Center we’re also hiring designers and engineers. It’s a great team with some of best I’ve worked with so if you or someone you know might fit the bill ping me.
Listen to your users more than the press. Don’t get sucked into the gravity hole between you and your competition. Ruthlessly run your own path, not someone else’s. – Josh Williams
An excerpt from an insightful piece by Gowalla’s co-founder on how he let the competition and the press shape his startup’s priorities. A must read for anyone building a product.
I see it also as a classic case of letting “vanity metrics” drive decisions rather than focusing harder on rate-based metrics that might lead to the kind of breakthrus he alluded to in his piece (e.g. Instagram).