Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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How cloud is changing product management

Guest post by Mauricio Prinzlau

A product manager is generally considered to be leading the product, as if the product were a business by itself. The product manager holds responsibility for various aspects related to product management, including developing roadmaps and strategy, and coming up with feature definition for the product. The position may also include responsibilities for forecasting, marketing, profit and loss responsibilities. At its core, product management takes care of the entire gamut of activities related to managing requirements, gathering user feedback and making enhancements for a product.

Product management is a critical function due to the need to rapidly implement product features and refine them based on feedback. There are several ways in which the advent of the cloud is changing product management. According to research by Berkaweb, Cloud hosting is expected to grow by 18.3% a year on average over the coming years.

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How do you reduce the customer churn rate?

Guest post by Ryan Harrison

SaaS (software as a service) sales teams often focus on bringing in new clients; however, they often miss the key fact that existing clients pay more dividends in the long run. The blog ForEntrepreneurs.com reports that 5-30 percent of a business’ revenue comes from the initial sale. Renewals and upsells account for the other 70-95 percent. Businesses that struggle with a high churn rate lose out on these compound dividends.

Churn rate measures the number of customers leaving a business over a specified period of time. For any business with a subscriber-based service model, churn rate can mean the difference between profit and bankruptcy. Continue reading

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Technology is not enough

Just because you port or transition your product (software, hardware, etc.) to a model that is new/up-and-coming/exciting/proven/<fill in the blank>/ you have no guarantee it will succeed; technology is not enough to make a mediocre idea succeed. You must understand the market. If your product or idea is not what potential customers are looking it does not matter what technology you use to roll it out. If the market you are seeking to service has no need for what you are rolling out, the technology irrelevant.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is now a proven way of providing software to companies. SaaS is gaining increasing acceptance and viability for many software companies, and customers appreciate the fact that much of the work and worry of software management  is now handled by the vendor. However (and this is a BIG however), if the ideas you are promoting and selling as software are not needed in the market — i.e. if the software is not market-driven — porting it to SaaS (or any other model/technology) will not save it; in fact it will complicate it.

Last year Steve Johnson wrote an excellent article called Stop Perfuming the Pig that goes in-depth on this topic. Steve says: “No amount of perfume can overcome the stench of a technology product that people don’t need.” Amen. You have to understand the market and make sure the market needs what you are building.

The Product Management Perspective: These ideas fit squarely in the realm of product management; after all, the product manager is the voice of the market. One of (if not THE) most important responsibilities of a product manager is to have a profound understanding of the market, customers and potential customers his or her software targets. If you are not spending time doing market sensing, take a close look at where you are spending your time, clear up your calendar, and schedule time to understand the market. There are many effective ways to do this and they vary by industry, so you will need to figure out what works.The important thing is that you do it.

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Upcoming webinar

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has been proven to work, and is increasingly becoming the mechanism of choice for software delivery. Most of the software in use today was developed as traditional client/server or on-premise software. On Wednesday I will present the webinar Product Management Best Practices – Transition to SaaS, for The Product Management View webinar series. I happy to announce that Robin Lowry, VP Product Management at Ryma Technology Solutions will join me on the webinar. We will discuss important considerations in your decision to move to SaaS:

  • Does it make sense to move traditional software to SaaS?
  • When is the right time to move to SaaS?
  • How does SaaS affect product management?
  • Who should drive the SaaS initiatives and product direction?

We will discuss these questions and more with real-world examples of companies in various stages of transition to SaaS.

The Product Management Perspective: This webinar is all product management. Please join us: click here to register.

Disclosure: I work with Robin at Ryma Technology Solutions.


The product management perspective

You have probably noticed during the last month the new feature at the end of each blog posting called “The Product Management Perspective.” I’ve added this new feature for the purpose of linking leadership principles to product management best practices. Effective product management is intricately tied to leadership; in the absence of effective leadership, product managers rarely succeed at getting the right products to the right markets at the right time. So the product management perspective section with each post will continue to highlight principles that connect the main point(s) of each post with effective product management.

Since this post IS about the product management perspective it would seem redundant to add the feature this time. Instead I want to highlight a few of the great posts from other bloggers to give you additional perspective on product management:

  1. Career Growth and Product Management by Art Petty. Art writes consistently great posts on leadership, and this post decribes key skills that product managers must focus on if they want to “crack into the ranks of senior leadership,” namely: leadership, strategic thinking, communication skills and mastering the art of diplomacy. This is a great post for any discipline, but especially for product managers.
  2. Lack of complaints does not equal success by Jeff Lash. In his distinctive form, Jeff poses a statement of how a bad product manager acts and then contrasts it with how a good product manager handles the same situation. This post suggests that good product managers seek out feedback rather than wait for complaints.
  3. The Product Management Question Corner by Ivan Chalif. Ivan has added this new feature to his Productologist blog where he interviews a product management professional to get their opinions, insights and experiences on a wide variety of product managment topics.
  4. Is the SaaS Market Broken, or Just Efficient? by Scott Sehlhorst. Scott discusses the impact SaaS is having in the software world. He conludes that although there are inherent risks with SaaS, smart companies (and product managers I would add) will seize SaaS as an opportunity “to build a better moustrap.”
  5. Agile/Scrum – Reality Check by Saeed. This is an in-depth look at the world of Agile and Scrum through the eyes of a product manager. If your development teams have moved to Agile/Scrum, or if they are thinking about it, you need to read this post and its links.
  6. Friday funny: Robin and the car that wouldn’t start by Steve Johnson. This is a flat-out funny. In his characteristic way, Steve relates a funny story with a principle incredibly important to product management: communication. It will make you think about the way you listen to and communicate with customers and colleagues.

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Agile and SaaS

Two somewhat related topics are getting increasing attention these days: agile and SaaS (software-as-a-service). Agile software development changes the the paradigm for developing software; it breaks things down into smaller “bite-size” chunks. Tom Grant writes a nice post on the many reasons to be Agile. He compares its evolution with the Protestant Reformation. It’s a great post; well worth the read (regardless of your religious beliefs).

The onset of SaaS is making its mark in the world of software development. Many companies have rolled out successful SaaS offerings and even built their entire business model on SaaS as a delivery mechanism (e.g. Google and Salesforce.com). Gopal Shenoy takes on a critic who makes a prediction that the SaaS model will collapse in two years. He says: “While I totally agree that Saas is not the panacea to solve everything that is wrong with software, that many of the Saas vendors are not yet profitable, I cannot come to terms with him calling his prospective buyers stupid.” Again…well worth the read.

The Product Management Perspective: If you have not read much about Agile and/or SaaS, you should, and the sooner the better. Both Agile and SaaS are having a major impact on product management. Both will significantly affect how product managers do their jobs. Take time to educate yourself on these two important industry trends.