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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Understanding the Opportunities of Buy-Side Economics

As CEOs of our products, we product managers have a lot to do.  Traditionally, this has included “build-versus-buy” decisions. The debate often hinged on whether technical tasks were “core” or just “context”.  Over the last decade, this has shifted from “build-versus-buy” to “buy-versus-buy” as we balance more kinds of internal and external resources.  Here are some thoughts on sizing various “buying” opportunities to keep products shipping and revenue flowing. The smallest opportunity might be called “the expert quick hitter”, then up to “niche technology provider” and finally a large “please build this for me.”  All three are invitations to think about what your team can do for itself, and your own urgency to get revenue products to market. Small: “The…

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Customer Input and Planning Horizons (Haas Executive Education)

Rich Mironov returned to the Haas School’s Product Management Executive Education series, “Product Management: Translating Market Opportunities into Profitability,” for a lecture on product management titled “Customer Input Approaches and the Product Planning Horizon”.  This session included an in-person version of the Innovation Game “Buy A Feature.” In a program primarily taught by Haas’ distinguished faculty,  Rich was (at the time) the only product management practitioner on the program’s teaching staff. Where: Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, CA When: Tuesday, November 4, 2008 (the full program runs Nov 3 through 7) The Berkeley Center for Executive Development draws on the rich resources, talent and perspectives of top-level business educators and researchers from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of…

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Product Companies Need Product Managers, not Product Owners (webinar)

A webinar hosted by Pragmatic Marketing What: “Product Companies need Product Managers, not Product Owners” Who: Rich Mironov, CMO, Enthiosys as part of a joint Pragmatic/Enthiosys webinar series on Agile Product Management When: Friday, October 24th, 2008 Product Managers are responsible for the overall market success of their products, not just delivery of software. In the Agile world, a new title is emerging—the Product Owner—which covers a small subset of the Product Management role. While this makes sense for internal IT groups that have traditionally gone without Product Management, Rich Mironov will talk about how Agile product companies (that need to deliver customer revenue with their offerings) need full-fledged Product Managers to drive strategic activities and manage organizational/external participation. What…

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Disruptive Pricing Units

During a miserable week of domestic air travel during June, I noticed new fees suddenly appearing for checked baggage and in-flight soft drinks.  That caused an announcement about a new airline to catch my eye – an airline offering a radically different approach to pricing.  It re-raised a topic that we explore with many clients: shifting the basis of competition by changing pricing units. On June 6th, 2008, a new airline called Derrie-Air started advertising fares based on total passenger weight,  with the slogan “Pack Less. Weigh Less. Pay Less.”  A flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles was priced at $2.25 per pound – with each passenger paying based on body weight plus luggage.  Thus a supermodel carrying only a…

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Grocers and Chefs: Software Service Models

This article captured an April 2007 talk I did at SVPMA.  The original slide deck is here. I’m talking with more and more with companies considering a shift from traditional licensing models to hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS). It’s important to recognize the radical changes such a move may force within your entire company.  This column serves up a metaphor for the mental and organizational adjustments needed to move from a “product” model to a service business.

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Service Revenue and Upsell Marketing

Much of my consulting lately involves on-demand services (aka software-as-a-service, or “SaaS”).  I’m seeing ever-growing interest from business customers in subscription pricing and online services, especially since they pay much less “up front” versus software licensing.  This necessarily slows down early revenue to the vendor and intensifies the need to upsell your installed base.

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Avoiding the Post-Course Correction

As early as 1961, Soviet and American space scientists planned for mid-course corrections: those tiny bursts of rocket power designed to keep spacecraft on their trajectories to the Moon, Mars and beyond.  With such long voyages, mid-course corrections are crucial to keeping space flights on track with the minimum of effort – and reserving fuel for later adjustments. The high-tech opposite of this is something I’ve come to think of as the “post-course correction.”  This is the panicky “oops” moment when your startup realizes – much too late – that its core strategy and assumptions are flawed.  In space terms, you’ve missed the moon and don’t have enough resources left for dramatic course changes.  There’s still air in the cabin…

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Owning the Gap

Product managers are usually the people who “own the gap” for their specific products: identifying all of the missing or incomplete features and services and supporting processes that customers need for a successfully experience.  This discussion is about elevating that concept to the product executive, who should be looking for systemic problems in the company’s end-to-end production cycle.

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Open Source: Tree Museums

2005 was a great year for open source developers and solutions, with a dramatic boost in credibility, tools and respect.  As part of this, there are an increasing number of companies commercializing open source: adding value through installers, packaging, coordinated releases, technical support, management utilities and formal product planning. This has the feeling, though, of domesticating the wild spirit of open source and turning it into another IPO-driven, VC-backed, competitively focused economic model.  I’m reminded of Joni Mitchell’s verse from “Big Yellow Taxi”: “They took all the trees And put them in a tree museum And they charge the people A dollar and a half just to see ‘em”

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