Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lean Coffee: Minimum Desirable Product

Today's Lean Coffee TO discussed the concept of a "Minimum Desirable Product" in relation to the more well-known MVP.

An interesting way to visualize this concept, from @andrewchen's presentation is as follows:

I also took some notes from the discussion:

  • Twitter, Facebook, Google all started as MDPs (without a viable business model)
  • Viability is measurable, whereas desirability is more difficult to measure
  • Desirability is about demand -- does it exist at any price (including free)
  • Are you viable initially, or only after X number of users?
  • MDPs can give awareness, publicity, etc. to a company to help them launch 2nd, 3rd products
  • MySpace -- Still viable, but not as desirable anymore?
  • Just starting out: Tradeoffs between desirability and viability
  • Desirability is a _component_ of viability
  • MVP when spoken about, often really refers to MDP
  • Can viability kill desirability? (ie. Facebook early stages)
  • With a desirable product, your viability may be tied to different users than you think
  • Like "Ladies Night" -- free customers and paying customers
  • What should you focus on at what time? Feasibility vs. Desirability vs. Viability
  • Feasibility is a lot easier for most type of applications now
  • Viability is easier too since costs have gone down
  • So the most difficult part now might be Desirability
Thanks to Andrew and Satish at Jet Cooper for hosting this morning's session!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

PMRobot Project Management Survey #1 Results

Back in March, I put together a survey with two very simple statements:

1. When managing a project, I often feel like a glorified secretary

The results for this question surprised me. Only about half of the 32 respondents felt this way.

2. Communication between clients and programmers is poor or non-existent

This question turned out more like I expected. Most people agreed that client-programmer communication could be improved.

There were also some great insights from the free form comments:
  • Programmers: "Often they are not engaged early enough in the project.  Therefore they are missing information that has already been covered."
  • "If your programmers just aren't client-safe, then you are doomed to be, or to rely upon, 'Systems Analysts' of the sort you see in the movie 'Office Space'."
  • "It's important to engage with clients and programmers. When you wait for them to come to you and don't engage proactively, then communication suffers."
Thanks again to all who responded!

I've already used this feedback to help prioritize the communication aspect of PMRobot over the automation features.

P.S. I'm running a new survey about existing tools. I'd love to hear your feedback at http://bit.ly/ifX4SV

Lean Coffee: How to launch a product

This morning we chatted about how to launch a product the lean way. A few key observations:
  • What's the definition of "launch" for Lean?
    • Multiple "launches" during customer development
  • You need to refocus you team from development to sales and support
  • Infrastructure: As you move from beta, backup and failover systems become more important
  • Looking for early adopters
    • Do beta/soft launches first to smaller groups
  • Don't see a lot of "big bang" launches anymore -- more "constant" betas
  • However, "hard" launches are still common in enterprise (CDs, media, etc.)
    • Slowly going away and moving to SAAS (software as a service)
  • Product Lifecycle Curve (from Crossing the Chasm)
  • Techniques:
    • Target influential bloggers in the field
    • LaunchRock (a bit spammy, but works)
  • Need organic growth -- make it easy for people to do the marketing for you
  • It's a different story launching something that people need to actually spend money on
  • Difficult to cut through the noise and get people to pay attention
  • The personal approach:
    • "Bribe" early adopters and influencers and give a personal touch (example: Hashable)
    • An email from the founder makes people feel important
    • Personal connections can't be faked
    • As you grow, build the personal connections into the culture ("customer development team")
    • Big launch with press release, etc. less personal -- not as approachable
  • Your current users are more valuable than new ones
  • Are you launching a product, or launching a company (with a business model)?
  • Don't assume it's going to "go viral" -- Design for if it doesn't
  • Categories of influencers: How well do you know your customers?
  • If you want to get coverage, have something truly interesting, novel to say (example Gmail "goggles")
    • Key influencers (especially well-known ones) can make all the difference
    • Frequent, iterative launches: Find "excuses" to get heard, and stay consistent
    • It takes many times of people hearing something before they actually remember
This is great advice as I personally iterate towards progressively larger "launches" of our project management software, PMRobot.

These Lean Coffee sessions are always a great way to start the day and get thinking about "big picture" stuff that you might not otherwise.

Thanks to Jeremy for hosting, and everyone else for attending and contributing!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lean Coffee: Micro-management

This morning we talked about management, project management, and more specifically, micro-management. A few key points from the discussion:

  • What's involved in management?
    • Timelines, resources, problems/obstacles
  • When to micro-manage?
    • Highly selective micro-management
  • What are the key things you need?
    • Visibility
    • Accountability
    • Communication
  • Need to let people fail and fix things themselves when possible
    • But maybe not when it's on a client's critical path
  • When to step in? When things aren't going as expected or estimated
  • Make sure workers know when to flag things and ask for help
  • Manager's job: Find out the impediments and remove them
  • Need to give frequent feedback, especially positive
    • Don't forget about the positive feedback -- it's easy to only give feedback when there's problems
  • Hiring: People observe who stays and who is let go
    • Contributes to group culture
  • Tools: Pivotal Tracker, Basecamp (good for discussions), Trac (didn't like), PMRobot (coming soon :), Intervals, Bugzilla, Fogbugz, JIRA (bloated, enterprise-y), Redmine (customizable)
  • Pivotal Tracker: Velocity / points system works really well

I was really interested by the tools discussion, and on a related note, prepared a quick Google Docs survey. Check it out --> How do you manage? -- I'll post the results at a future session.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lean Coffee: Project vs. Product Management

This morning's Lean Coffee TO was hosted by Jeremy at Jar Creative. We had an interesting discussion (and side topics) related to project and product management, including:

  • Difference: Projects are finite (at least they're supposed to be :)
  • Products: The end isn't always clearly defined
  • Is Waterfall methodology still is use? Yes. (unfortunately)
  • Product management is a bridge between the customers and development team
  • Product Management overlaps with Customer Development
  • Projects: Divide them up by features / user stories
  • Time-boxing: Pick a fixed date
  • Product management is about making decisions
  • What do you do in the later phases when your product is launched?
    • Sometimes need to go back and do a full adjustment
    • Often when you release people don't use it the way you expect
  • Difference between strategy and tactics: long term goals with iterations as a tactic
  • Helpful: The ability to turn feautures on and off for individual users/groups
    • eg: Google, Facebook, Big Bang (Woople)
  • Sometimes discussing features takes longer than just implmenting it and getting immediate feedback
  • How does technology affect product development? (ie. mobile, tablets, etc.)
    • The technology decision should come from product management / customer development
Great seeing everyone, and looking forward to next Tuesday's session with Ali from Well.ca.