Monday, April 28, 2008

Top 10 things for product manager to build the product right!

Below is my take on top 10 things a product manager should consider as part of product development -
  1. Understanding Market Competition & Needs: #1 thing for a product manager is to ensure that he understands the market space for the product, aware of the competition in the space to ensure that product features planned are couple of notches above than current players
  2. Road Map: Needs to have a clear Road Map for the product, if he is not sure - then should request a priority list from the entrepreneur or top guys & create the feature road map
  3. Product Specifications: Specs, specs... high level specs for each feature needs to be put in-place & where ever needed detailed set of use cases should be created
  4. Release Milestones: Product manager should work closely with engineering or dev manager to get a clear understanding of release milestones & ensure they meet the business needs
  5. Co-ordinating with other groups: Ensure all stake holders of the product, like end users, administrators, marketing etc are communicated & they are preparing the integration points
  6. Domain Expertise: If the product manager himself is not a domain expert, then he / she needs to ensure that required domain expertise is acquired or hiring is done for having an in-house domain expert
  7. Check-points: Product manager needs to have a constant check point with the dev manager to ensure that planned milestones are going to be hit (or slipped) & perform appropriate communication to other parties who are involved
  8. Integration API: Products in current generation mostly co-exist (or start like that) with some existing products to piggy back on the user base for the jump-start, product manager needs to understand the complimentary / associated products that could be used along with this product & look for integration points
  9. Consider focus group testing: One of the essential aspects to the success of the product is to ensure that end users "understand" & "get" how to use the product, it would be a great thing to perform one round of focus group testing before the "beta" launch of the product to get the quick user feedback & address them
  10. Avoid being greedy on features: Product Mangers should resist being greedy on adding features to the product, limit them based to meet the business needs & avoid going overboard & trying to add everything in first milestone or development iteration

Let me know your opinion.


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Thursday, April 24, 2008

iPhone user in India since Jan 08...

I have been an iPhone user in India on Airtel network for the past 3 months & I wanted to share my views on how iPhone has been & what I love the most:
  • iPhone has been a huge upgrade for me, being a Nokia 2100 phone user
  • Love the Email, Camera & Calendar features on iPhone
  • Amazing interface & not found any usability issues in the product
Looking forward for the iPhone 2.0 - that would provide active sync with MS Exchange!

iPhone definitely is a great product in the cell phone space, waiting to see what cool features will come out from Android platform in order to compete with iPhone.

This post is the first in series of iPhone, I will be writing further posts on comparison of iPhone SDK & Android... currently experimenting them!


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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Experience from my first BarCamp session

Apr 19th - BCB6 was my first BarCamp Session - I did not go with lot of expectations, but with inquisitiveness of how the event is organized by the community - overall I think it was a great organization by the community / leads of BCB chapter folks... kudos to the team!

From CoreObjects we visited BCB6 with an intention to do 1 presentation, but we did 2 sessions (second being impromptu), I will share my experience on how these 2 sessions went -

Session #1 : Challenges in building technology products
This session was presented by my colleague Rajesh Sheshadri, his was the first session for the day in "Startups & Demo" category - the main idea for this presentation was to stress on how a vision to build a product can get very obsessive from a technology perspective & lead to delays or wastage of efforts... Rajesh started off well with an intro about the session explaining the evolution of the product over the past 2yrs. He faced some challenges while presenting this session, few folks in audience started questioning the core need for such a product & why or how it would be successful - which was not really the point Rajesh was trying to drive... I think if the audience were little mature to allow speaker to stick to his topic & speak about it, would have been great!

Session #2 : RIA Story - Building RIA using OpenLaszlo
I should thank Mrinal & Panduranga for squeezing this session on OpenLaszlo in between their series of sessions on RIA. I met Mrinal during lunch time, introduced myself as a person with OpenLaszlo experience - he requested me to share my experience of working with OpenLaszlo. My session was a quick 20mins one, below are the highlights of how RIA sessions went -
  • Parts of discussion started looking a marketing pitch for the technology, which could have been avoided
  • Constant comparison of RIA with HTML was not required - which was also rightly raised by a gentlemen in the group
  • Flex, Silverlight - lacked demonstration of real time application, if they could have demonstrated live full fledged RIA products - it would have been great
  • Some of the members in the audience were in a pre-conceived notion about Flash - like existence of Flash player is taken for granted - we should have spent some time talking about can every & any kind of product need RIA?

Overall... I enjoyed my 1 day visit to BCB6 - I do intend to visit again on their next edition!



Monday, April 14, 2008

RIA - what are the side effects, that are usually ignored?

In an attempt to make the interface rich, different, colorful & cool from UI perspective - usually following issues are faced by RIA products:
  • Initially loading time of the product is too high, that tends to drive away the potential users from using the product
  • Memory footprint of the application increases over a period of time as end users are on the product, this tends to make the application heavy & less responsive
  • In an attempt to build the web interface that consumes a generic web service or API response data XML, that is built to return global or data more that what is needed... this heavy weight returned data tends to slow down the UI
  • Lack of eye for detail by developers tends to make compromise on the look & feel or style guides of the product - this should be avoided & the scope for deviation from original guidelines
See you at BCB6 Event to interact & discuss more on this topic.



BarCamp Bangalore 6

6th of BarCamp Bangalore is happening at IIM Bangalore, lots of interesting sessions being planned for this edition - checkout the sessions page

I'm a co-presenter for a session at BCB6 titled - Maturity of RIA Technologies for commercially deployable products : A Case Study

My next few posts will be around this subject area to be an evangelist of RIA technologies & adoption for creating commercial products.



Monday, April 07, 2008

I don't want to sign NDA...

I don't want to sign NDA, I generally only do NDA after I hear & interested in your idea

When was the last time you have heard this from a prospective investor or partner that you are looking for your venture?
I'm sure many times, doesn't that sounds stupid & meaningless to sign the NDA after you have heard the idea / story & value proposition of a product? why can't people (who think they are smart) understand that NDA is required to start disclosing the information from an entrepreneur's head.

In my opinion above attitude of possible investors or partners is leading to following -
  • Entrepreneurs stops looking out for help & tries to build it himself
  • Idea tends to remain in entrepreneurs head - as there is nobody to listen / help & take it forward
  • Entrepreneur rather thinks keeping it to myself is better than leaking it & others benefitting from it

What should entrepreneurs do in such a situation?
  • Look for the credibility of the person you were planning to share the idea - try to provide teaser info about your product idea, do not share any digital documents - only provide high level overview & if interest is generated... then proceed with NDA & sharing of critical documents
  • Don't waste the idea by keeping it in your head... if the options are less for partnership, go ahead & share the idea... go for it - entrepreneurship is all about taking the risks



Sunday, April 06, 2008

Imitative Innovation...

IT boom in India till recent few years back was only limited to outsourcing & service offering by firms or individuals in India... recent couple of years we have seen several products being built in India that are imitating the products from US market, which is ok & good - nothing bad about it, but when we imitate need to keep following in mind:
  • Is the product that we are bringing into India, suit our culture & needs of people?
  • Is India market ready for such a up-scale product?
  • Customization of the concept / idea to Indian market needs to happen & not just simply copying over
Few examples of imitative products are in the space of - job, shopping, comparative shopping portals & social apps like social shopping, social networking.



Saturday, April 05, 2008

Creating entrepreneurs at college!

I recently bought this book "Billions of Entrepreneurs - India & China" by Tarun Khanna (may be I would not have bought - If I had seen the size of the book), still not read completly... not sure what I'm posting here has been mentioned in the book or not, but this idea of creating entrepreneurs at college level & nurturing them to be innovative & build companies... has been in my thoughts for sometime, never executed on it.

Why start at college?
Penetration of IT & ITES jobs in India has become so much that students who would not have still finished their studies would have 1 or more jobs in hand, I think this trend of early job offers for students in college could be curtailing the innovation that could have been created by some of the brightest minds

What can we do?
Build a network of colleges & collect the top 50 students from each of the college - these 50 students from each college (say even if we manage 5 best colleges) could form a group of 200 or 250 smart kids... these bright kids from across colleges could be trained on innovation / self thinking, we could ignite a thought in them for one day in becoming an entrpreneur?

Isn't above idea something good & physical than simply duplicating posts in our blog? :)

Interested, contact me... we will form the network & build this next generation "entrepreneur kids"!



Why new software products fail?

We have seen several new software products fail & in my opinion below are some of the major reasons for failure -

1. Failure to perform a reality check - Every entrepreneur who comes up with a product feels that his idea is the next big thing to happen & dreams of all possible cash flow / financial projections & is so excited - does not look down to see the earth... jumps into going ahead building the product. Limited opinions are taken from other people in the industry or who are currently in the market space, such entrepreneurs are so passionate & secretive about their product idea - they do not disclose the details for guidance or mentoring from veterans.
2. Market is not ready for the product - this is a case of product is & is trying to solve a real problem in the industry / market space, but the product is little early for the market & consumers are not ready for this kind of a product. Some of the products in this category could be changed for current needs by simplifying few things in the product or limiting the number of features in the product.
3. Market Space is crowded - this is "me too" category, entrepreneurs forget to analyze the current players, they also underestimate existing players features / ability & thinks version of the product (solving a problem) is better, efficient & unique. Products in this category are like mushrooms keeps growing & the single big motivation for a entrepreneur in building these products is the sight of his company being acquired some day by a big player in that market space.
4. Idea is great, but product is not usable - Quite a few of the new products fall into this category, products in this section manage to innovate & avoid above 3 categories - but when they build the product they seem to take lot of serveral shortcuts, compromise on the usability / UI of the product, tend to concentrate too much on the product launch date or internal core algorithm of the product - but fail to realise the end usage of the product is the usability / ease of use for the product

Are our entrepreneurs being devils advocate to see above possible issues that may come-up & be ready to build great products?



Collaborative Commercial Ideas

We have seen successful products built in the open source model, if we can categories, the open source products into 2 major buckets:

1. Free Open Source - products that are built by community & offered for free usage by the members & there is not really any $ profit considered by the developers of the community. These open source products fall into various categories - development tools & technologies - example: Hibernate, tools & utilities - example: RealVNC. Overall this section of the open source products are not built for making money

2. Open Source, but commercial business model around it - products in this section are started as open source, the code & product is built using the community help or built by few smart guys & make it open for the community (this case is more), these kind of products are made open source help in fixing bugs & to get the backing of community. Commercial aspect of the product will be achieved by one of the means - add-on feature, technical support etc. Jboss is a very good example in this category, that was so popular as open source / commercial mix - it was acquired by Redhat group for $$

What I'm proposing is a concept to use the power of open source / collaboration & ability to build an idea into a successful fully commercial product, below are the aspects involved -
  • Group / Community is created for discussion of ideas in selected space or domain
  • Community is closed network not really open - but folks in this community are invited or join with an intention to collaborate on an idea
  • Community is bound to NDA conditions & not allowed to take away the idea to build separately
  • Idea is hardened or collaborated by the people in the community
  • Required PoC's & initial demo's for the product are built by the group
  • Commercial grade software is built with the help of each & member in the group
Result... each member of the community will hold equal share / equity in the new product that is being built, each member takes on different roles / ownership to take the idea forward. Used the power of community & collaboration in building a commercial grade product, which could help members in the community to retire from their full-time jobs!

Sounds... interesting, we should explore this!