Three Product Challenges for Early-Stage Entrepreneurs

Rich Mironov led a clinic on product management concepts for very early-stage start-ups (1 to 3 employees), hosted by Agile Entrepreneurs. Three Product Challenges for Early-Stage Entrepreneurs Three Product Challenges for Early-Stage Entrepreneurs from Rich Mironov When: Thursday July 15, 2010 Where: Fenwick & West, 801 California St, Mountain View CA Who: Hosted/presented by Agile Entrepreneurs Rich talked about what product management is, who does it at start-ups, and three things that every founder must do (or get help doing) even though there’s no product manager on board yet: Seriously listen to their market/prospects Build a thumbnail customer-side ROI Take time for whole-product thinking

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“What If Dev Doesn’t Think Product Mgmt Represents Customers?”

Recently, I put up a small assessment tool for product management teams.  This tool is intended to generate discussion and highlight areas for team improvement.  Several PMs had follow-up comments and questions along the lines of “what should we do if we’re scored ourselves poorly on a specific item?” There are no generic prescriptions for improvement, especially in product management.  It’s worth drilling into an individual item or two, though, and imagining how we might analyze the situation and take corrective action. 

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Market Facts, Judgment, Fallibility and Ownership

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love market uncertainty. Every few weeks, I find myself itching to play the product management “heavy.”  This is the moment when I want to yell “….because I’m the product manager and I said so!” Not an ideal strategy for PMs or parents.  Here’s a more productive approach, with input from many other PMs. Assuming we’ve been doing our homework all along and are working with well-intentioned, rational people, we can make the following case to technical and marketing teams:

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Kindle version of “Art of Product Management”

Rich Mironov’s “Art of Product Management” has been converted to Amazon’s Kindle format, and is now available for download. Get the Kindle version here or the paper version here. From the original book summary: “The Art of Product Management takes us inside the head of a product management thought leader. With color and humor, Rich Mironov gives us a taste of Silicon Valley’s tireless pursuit of great technology and its creation of new products. He provides strategic advice to product managers and tech professionals about start-ups, big organizations, how to think like a customer, and what things should cost. He also reminds us to love our products and our teams. The Art of Product Management brings together the best insights…

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Site Licenses and Other Real-World Intrusions

We recently finished a major pricing exercise with a start-up in the enterprise software space: tuning up their prices, improving their upgrade model, and looking at alternative pricing metrics (i.e. what to meter when quantifying the customer’s usage).  A great opportunity to match quantitative models against actual customer behaviors. During the engagement, the client’s sales team identified some real-world messiness that we (as product managers) would prefer to ignore: high-end customers who demand enterprise-wide licenses – instead of limited-use licenses tied to volume.  These are sometimes called “all you can eat” or AYCE deals.  Let’s describe the situation, then explore a few of the messy conclusions.

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EOL from the Customer’s POV

As seasoned product managers, most of us eventually have to phase out old versions and completely eliminate old products.  This is called End of Life (EOL) or End of Service (EOS), and is important weed-clearing.  It’s generally motivated by our internal economic needs: rebalancing resources in our product portfolio, reducing support costs, moving customers to the latest version, abandoning products that can’t pay for themselves.

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Profitably Pairing Software and Professional Services

Wearing our software product management hats, it’s easy to think that all problems should be solved with software. (To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.) Software PMs need to be looking for opportunities to combine professional services with software – because services can be highly profitable, meet customer needs more quickly, and market-test ideas for future products. First, let’s set up an example. You’re the product manager for a financial application for businesses.  Customers and prospects provide an endless stream of requests that need sorting and ranking.  You’re inclined to tackle the most frequently demanded items and ignore the rarities, since development time is scarce and you want to meet the broadest set of needs. If you have a…

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Strategic Pricing for Start-Ups and New Products

How do we understand customer value and relevant pricing units in entirely new markets?

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More Chefs and Agile Restauranteurs

As more of our clients have moved to agile software development, we’ve seen a growing need for business agility: getting non-engineering functions involved earlier and more collaboratively, so that companies deliver better revenue results as well as better software.  Let’s make this more concrete by mapping it to the restaurant business. Our first thoughts about restaurants are usually about the food.  It’s important to remember, though, that restaurants are businesses first-and-foremost: if they don’t make money, they close their doors.  A well-functioning restaurant profitably coordinates the chefs with its front-of-house staff and sales/marketing.  Translating this to the software world, agile software development teams (engineering, QA, tech docs, tech ops) are our chefs: creating the most visible part of what we…

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How Well Can You Predict The Future?

It’s been a very tough quarter for economic forecasters, quota-carrying sales teams and CEOs.  The sudden downturn even caught GE’s legendary planners by surprise.  If you’re an executive at a technology company, you may already have started an FY09 planning process to re-examine staffing, product investments and revenue.  These already bake in your core business assumptions, though, so you should “stress test” your assumptions using scenario planning. We’ve worked with a range of executive teams on scenario planning: using market-driven product roadmaps to identify business risks and core assumptions, and then highlight the interrelationships among strategic choices. Once you can see how products and delivery dates relate to market realities, you’ll be able to answer the “what if” and “how…

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