Hour-Glass Model for Platform MVP

The Hour-Glass Model for Platform MVP

An MVP ‘thin slice’ allows the product team to align a key business process for clear desired outcomes and value to ones who are ultimately paying up. This thought needs a little extra when it comes to Platform MVP.

A platform (data or otherwise) supports multiple channels (desktops, mobile, voice, etc), business applications that consume data via services and data sources that pour data into the platform.

The hour-glass approach allows to establish a platform MVP: a small set of capabilities critical for the key business application, useful & usable for at least two more applications and are scalable for many more business applications.

Hour-Glass Model for Platform MVP

This approach matches the metaphor of an hour-glass. It is broad on the top covering a few business processes, narrow in middle for the minimal set of capabilities and broad at the bottom covering multiple data sources.

Platform MVP to Replace a Legacy Platform

When replacing a legacy system, it is common to take the Strangler Approach. However, for a platform, this runs a risk of creating a platform that was too close to the key business process and the relevant data sources. The platform runs the risk of being tightly coupled with that key business process.

The Platform Product team should focus on providing a minimal set of capabilities that would be useful for the key business application. These minimal set of capabilities should also be sufficiently useful for at least two other. The platform capabilities should be sufficiently useful for the other two business processes so they would invest enough time with the Platform Product team so the Platform ProMa can analyse their possible needs.

Platform MVP for a Business Process

Like in eCommerce, a business process consists of multiple important steps. Again, a ‘thin slice‘ or a ‘strangler application‘ may not evolve to the right MVP. The Product Team should identify key steps in the process and define ‘thin slice‘ or ‘strangler application‘ for each step. Hour-Glass Model for eCommerce Platform MVP

Conclusion

I have effectively used this approach for designing a Data Platform for a Private Bank. I have talked about this approach in my book on Product Management called #ProMa.

Image Credit: hourglass by Mint Shirt from the Noun Project


 

About The Book: #ProMa Product Management Tools, Methods and Some Off-the-wall Ideas

#ProMa Cover

Based on his popular blog, Dinker Charak brings a collection of tools, methodologies, and some unexpected approaches to Product Management. He also talks about his entrepreneurial journey from the eye of a Product Manager and discusses the strategy and its failures.

Available as Kindle eBook

Early Praise for #ProMa

Sriram Narayan Agile IT Org Design ProMa Dinker Charak
Dinker offers an enjoyable potpourri of helpful advice and ideas from his experience in consulting and his experiments with building products.

– Sriram Narayan, Digital-IT management consultant, ThoughtWorks & Author Agile IT Organization Design
Sriram Narayan Agile IT Org Design ProMa Dinker Charak
Dinker is a magician — in a crisp book that is light and easy to read, he has packed in more than a semester’s worth of high priced B school education, and several years (and many dollars!) worth of lessons from a startup. Pick it up, you will not be disappointed.

– Naren Nachiappan, Co-Founder, Jivox
Devangana Khokhar Gephi Cookbook ProMa Dinker Charak
A brilliant resource for all consultants, irrespective of the role they are in, and not just Product Managers. Dinker has poured his years of experience into this one book. He covers entire life cycle of a product/business evolution and introduces a lot of handy artifacts – checklists, frameworks, tools, etc. – that can be readily used at various stages of evolution. He sheds light on the real-life charms and challenges of building a product and does so in a simple yet eloquent manner. Keep an open mind and give this book a read – you’ll later on thank him for providing a wealth of knowledge on the topic.

– Devangana Khokhar, Senior Data Scientist & Strategist, ThoughtWorks & Author Gephi Cookbook
Dinker is quirky, interdisciplinary and full of real-world wisdom. The same could be said of this breezy new book on Product Management.

There are plenty of simple ProMa tools you can use every day – ‘Product in a Box’ and ‘Five buckets of Product Management’ stand out. There is also the philosophical exploration of the subject through lenses as varied as Indian materialism, Francis Bacon (he of the scientific method), and Rene Descartes. Most remarkably, there is a vivid tale of a failing startup – something any product entrepreneur will benefit from.

If you’re a product manager or work with these sometimes-mysterious creatures, take a copy on your next flight. You’ll have a spring in your step when you land.

– Nagarjun Kandukuru, Principal Digital Strategist, ThoughtWorks
"Who is my customer? Everybody, anyone you can think of—"

"Who is my competition? Amazon, Google, Netflix— (add any popular name in the Silicon Valley)."

"Who am I? I am a technology company who happens to do X (the industry this company should be in, till I probably walked in)."

This is what I keep hearing from the C-Suite at the clients I am engaged with.

In this world of needing and wanting to reinvent (or else—you are doomed), the most common response I have seen people resort to is by saying we have moved to a "product organisation" or an "experience organisation". This, no one will argue, needs change.

However, Dinker continues to argue that the challenges lie in the core philosophy. It’s not an easy journey. I can guarantee you will fail if you thought reading this book will solve the challenges of "product thinking".

But here lies a great starting point from a great product philosopher, thinker, transformer, doer and practitioner, and above all, a great colleague and a friend.

Read on, but engage with him when you get a chance. He will not fail to surprise you.

– Sagar Paul, Client Services – Strategic Accounts, at ThoughtWorks

Why the Book #ProMa and Why Now?

Product Management is an accidental and a new role. It is gaining importance as a pivotal for a Product based business. Being new, there are no set definitions, job descriptions or even well-known educational courses. In fact, in IT industry, Product Managers come from the most diverse set of background and may not always be technical or even have an MBA.

As opportunities for Product Managers grow, it is natural that consulting organization start offering this as a consulting role. This increases the complexity of the job.

As the role evolves, all this leave a new-comer with lots of questions about how to go about the job.

This book is based on the real and personal experience of being in this role in a variety of situations and draw upon the experience and output of last decade. Thus, the book also presents an opportunity to establish some Thought Leadership in this domain.

About the Book #ProMa

“Based on his popular blog, Dinker Charak brings a collection of tools, methodologies, and some unexpected approaches to Product Management. He also talks about his entrepreneurial journey from the eye of a Product Manager and discusses the strategy and its failures.”

Each chapter is complete in itself and focused on a specific theme. Some chapters may rely on concepts introduced in details in a previous chapter. However, a reader can still benefit from it without know details from the earlier chapters.

Some ideas are results of extended discussions, an opinion sought or a point-of-view constructed for a client. All of them are the result of sincere effort to produce something useful and usable. And at times, something unique.

The book is divided into three sections.

The first section (chapters 1-6) is about various tools & methods I have created and used for Product Management. These include the Product Management Canvas and the Product workshops I run.

The second section (chapters 7-18) is about various thoughts and ideas that I have around what it means to be a Product Managers and around Product Management.

The third section (chapters 19-26) is about entrepreneurship and based on my experience as a founder who hasn’t succeeded yet. It also has some ideas on team building, mainly around a novel concept of Dirty-Work Group.

Key Takeaway from the Book #ProMa

The book covers the entire lifecycle of a product/business evolution and introduces a lot of handy artifacts - checklists, frameworks, tools, etc. - that can be readily used at various stages of evolution.

There are plenty of practical ProMa tools you can use every day and also the philosophical exploration of the subject through lenses as varied as Indian materialism, Francis Bacon (he of the scientific method), and Rene Descartes and Sociology.

Who is the Target Audience For the Book #ProMa

The First Timer:

Has a tech, business or design background. Is now a Product Manager for a B2C product. Is poly-skilled enough to get the job but worried if is knowledgeable to pull it along.

An Experienced ProMa:

Has been a ProMa in an Enterprise that is building a B2B product. Has done MBA and/or has a technical background. With the expectation of B2B products to respond to market at speed of startups and with Usability of B2C products, is looking for ideas on how to reinvent the attitude towards this job.

An Entrepreneur / Founder:

Realising that a Founder is the first Product Manager of the startup’s Product, the Founder wants to ensure a proper approach is taken and not detail falls through the cracks and is looking for tools and checklists to ensure all basis are covered.

Business Folks:

ProMa help monetise a business opportunity via a Product. For key business owners, it is important to understand what a ProMa does and how does a ProMa think. This book can help them understand the variety of aspects of a ProMa, gain a better appreciation and establish meaning and deep partnerships.

About the Author of the Book #ProMa

#ProMa Author Dinker Charak

Dinker Charak has over 17 years of rich, diverse experience in the software industry building products that matter.

During his career, he has built software products that have been part of Real-time Operating Systems, Paperless Offices, Home Automation, help develop Online Video Ads business and founded a startup. Dinker was worked at Fermilab (US) and contributed to CERN (Switzerland), two top research lab that conducts basic research into particle physics. He holds a patent in Advertising Technology.

As personal interests go, Dinker holds Product Management Workshops for startups in collaboration with IIM Ahmedabad, CIIE, NASSCOM's 10,000 Startups and ThoughtWorks.

Dinker has done Master in Computer Application from International Institute of Professional Studies, Devi Ahilya University, Indore, India.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/ddiinnxx

Blog: http://www.ddiinnxx.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dinkeratwork

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dinkercharak/

Professional Profile: https://www.thoughtworks.com/profiles/dinker-charak

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/ddiinnxx

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_IUZYlwwD4F1ZZ_BKU7FD3ll0BJS7rBr

Using Product Management Canvas for Your Product

Using Product Management Canvas Product

Your organisation

Your org is one among these:

1) A startup or an SME company. Hopefully there is not much of hierarchy and ‘Individual Contributors’ in how most of you describe yourself.

2) A startup or a stable mid-sized org that is scaling up. You have great ‘Individual Contributors’ and a set of senior folks who make sure the ICs are focused on their efforts and are cared for well.

3) You are a large org or an enterprise that is managing BAU and seeking innovations via multiple smaller initiatives. There are processes in place to ensure that the right folks have the right authority to decide regarding what they an accountable for.

Now, things are never ideal. But let us assume that you are in an excellent organisation.

Your Role

Based on the organisation you are in, you may be playing the role of a Founder, Product Owner, Product Manager, Solution Manager, Program Manager or a GM of a Product Line. Whatever the scale of your role, you are responsible for delivering a product that brings profitability and repute to your organisation.

Your Mission

Many tools are available for you to accomplish your job. However, communicating the Why, the key capabilities and the adoption path of the product will always remain the key pieces of information you will need to communicate far, wide and deep within year organisation.

There is enough talk of evangelisation of the product in the market. However, there is equal and important need to evangelise within your org. This communication has to be simple, crisp and easily digestible.

No product is developed in isolation. It is a journey from conceptualisation to development, to release to usage to monetisation and finally for re-invention or sunset. Many groups and departments come into the picture.

This is where the Product Management Canvas comes in.

Your Product Management Canvas

Product Management Canvas is a tool to articulate your product, describing the key elements that should be known far, wide and deep among your team.

Product Management Canvas (PMC)

You will notice, this Canvas makes you articulate the Idea behind it, the market it addresses, customer segment within that market, business value it delivers, features and capabilities, metrics and makes you aware of all the collaterals that you should have handy and linked to. Finally, it will hold you honest and reduce excessive optimism by making you state various risks.

All this in one page / slide / canvas. This single page becomes the communication about your product to all of the org far, wide and deep. Share it via email, hang on the wall where your team sits and or even print it on a team T-Shirt. Once you have this articulation, you can share the why, the key capabilities and the adoption path of your product in a crisp and readable format.

Wishing your product success!

More About Product Management Canvas

Product Management Canvas – Product in a Snapshot

Hackathon: From Idea to a Product in a Day

Download Product Management Canvas (pdf)

 


 

Go-To-Market (GTM) Strategy in 4 Steps

Go-To-Market (GTM)

To develop a Go-To-Market (GTM) Strategy, I suggest following four steps:

1 Know Your Product Well

Quick Guide GTM Strategy Dilbert New Product Knowledge

It is OK for Sales superstars in Dilbert world to know little about the product. But you have to know it very well to devise a successful Go-to-market strategy. Not only that, you should be able to describe it in sufficient detail to other departments in your company.

Product Management Canvas is one such tool. It captures the product in one canvas and gives a good 360-degree view.

2 Ask Yourself Three Fundamental Questions

2.1 What to sell?

What exactly are you selling? This has to be articulated for each customer segment and each value prop.

Many times a solution could be combinations of your products. In that case, above needs to be done for all product combinations.

2.2 Whom to sell?

Depending on if you are a new product or a mature product, your userbase and customers would differ.

If you are a new product, identify key influencers, usual suspects among early adopters and focus on reaching an early majority.

If you are a matured product, identify key late majority and laggards. Decision makers in large enterprises (like the CTO’s office, the Procurement division) can help you situate yourself stronger while the product team keeps innovating to keep your product relevant to your client.

The key is to identify right recommenders and decision influencers for long-term success.

2.3 How to sell?

Pricing is complex. Sometimes, it is easy to start with tiered prices that allow you to serve small-scale, small-budget customers to allow for revenue while you hunt for large ones. You must have seen ones like this:

Go To Market GTM Strategy Pricing Sample

Your Pricing strategy should have such Pricing models and option to use channels to accelerate sales.

3 The Sales Funnel

We know the typical sales funnel. It is the journey of your customer from when they become aware of your product to when they actually buy it to when they choose to rebuy it.

The journey in short:

Awareness -> Consideration -> Research -> Selection -> Purchase -> Delivery -> Support -> Repeat Purchase -> Recommendation to Buy

Understand it is very important and a plan to how to egg them on to the next stage.

4 Work on These Nineteen Tasks

  1. Time of Launch
  2. Launch Strategy and Collaterals
  3. Sales and Delivery Channels
  4. Positioning and Promotion Strategy
  5. Decision Makers and Influencers
  6. Recommenders
  7. Sales Collateral
  8. Content Strategy
  9. Marketing Collateral
  10. User Support Docs
  11. Training Collaterals
  12. Change Management
  13. Social Media Assets
  14. Digital Marketing Assets
  15. Brand Playbook
  16. Pricing Model Experiments
  17. Market Positioning
  18. Competitive Positioning
  19. Ecosystem Map

 

Dirty-Work Group – A Model for Entrepreneurs

Dirty-Work Group

Or Don’t Let Your Lack of Ability To Do a Part-of-it Stop You from Doing What You Want to Happen

Let us face it. Either we have all the talent needed to pull off an idea or we do not have all the talent to pull off the idea. Should this lacking stop us from going ahead and follow the idea?

Conventional wisdom says, if you can’t do it, you won’t be able to do it. So forget it.

Should we?

In a modern market, a businessman should have multiple capabilities to survive. Not every entrepreneur can hire accountants, financial advisors, lawyers, technical experts for advice. They start with limited resources and consultants don’t come cheap.

All entrepreneurs have one common quality. They are good at multiple tasks. If a successful entrepreneur was good at computers, sure there was at least one more field which the entrepreneur had a “natural knack” for. Maybe marketing, finance or any other area that helped in converting an “idea” into a business reality.

But at times either that is not sufficient or there maybe a lack of “natural knack”. It can discourage an entrepreneur into inaction. A Dirty-Work Group model can be a good approach to walk away unscathed by all these problems.

The Process

As you follow the Beating Down the Idea you would have broken down your projects into activities. The thing different in this break-down is that the activities are classified as per your (the initiator’s) capabilities. It will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Use this list to look for a team that will make up for these lacking.

The Advantage

Besides a help in forming a team, the process is useful in:

  • Identifying the strength and weakness of team members
  • Identifying weakness that is not covered by another team member and thus identify a weak link
  • Taking the first step where the results of analysis can be directed inwards rather than outwards. Most planning and analysis tools are for “telling” others about a project. The DWG method is easy to adapt and hence greater advantage for the project itself.
  • It is a great team-work promoting method.
  • It helps the “purpose” rather than “people” become the leader and guiding principle.

More Reading

Forming a Dirty-Work Group

Dirty-Work Group Organization Structure

A Step by Step Guide

1. Beating Down the Idea

Step 1: With utmost pessimism, identify the knowledge/experience you as an initiator lack that would doom the project into a failure. Divide them into two parts. Your Lack of Knowledge (K) about the field and your Lack of Confidence or Lack of Experience (CE) with that field.

Then take a second trip. Revise the list. This time with optimism, start beating at your project. Identify the parts of which with good smooth because of your competence and confidence. Break them into two parts. One would be what you feel you can cakewalk through and one you feel would be tough nuts to crack, but manageable.

 

With Pessimism With Optimism
Lack of Knowledge (K) Lack of Confidence/Experience (CE) Can Manage (M) Can Cake Walk (CW)
Spices Marinating Cutting Vegetables Buying Vegetables
Frying Boiling
Putting Salt in right measures Serving Food
Cooking

 

Step 2: Revisit the column CE. If you feel after the bout of optimism you can move an activity from this column to column M, go ahead and do it. Revisit column M. If you want to move the activity to another column, go ahead. Revisit column CW. Revisit column K. Revisit column CE and column M. By now you should have a fairly stable task breakdown and your capability to handle them.

Step 3: Draw a line at the bottom of column CE and column M

Step 4: Move the items you would hate if you had to do below the line.

 

With Pessimism With Optimism
Lack of Knowledge (K) Lack of Confidence/Experience (CE) Can Manage (M) Can Cake Walk (CW)
Spices Buying Vegetables
Frying Boiling
Serving Food
Cooking
 

Marinating Cutting Vegetables
Putting Salt in right measures

 

Step 5: Draw lines under Lack of Knowledge and Cakewalk too.  Move the items in Lack of knowledge you know you can not learn or do not want to learn about. Move items in Cake Walk below the line which you think are trivial for you or not worth you spending your time on or too unchallenging for you.

 

With Pessimism With Optimism
Lack of Knowledge (K) Lack of Confidence/Experience (CE) Can Manage (M) Can Cake Walk (CW)
Spices Buying Vegetables
Frying Boiling
Serving Food
Cooking




Marinating Cutting Vegetables
Putting Salt in right measures

 

Note: What you see on top of the dividing line is your Nice-Work zone and below it is the important Dirty-Work zone.

2. Gathering People

Step 1: In general there are two pools to pick people from. One from within and one from outside. At times, the same department may mean within and the other department may mean outside. Or a company may be within and from outside would mean recruiting. A circle of friends may mean within and not knowing a person would be considered outside. For various reasons, we recommend a team as DWG be formed from the within the pool. The biggest being that the initiator would have a fair idea about the people who could have complementing Nice-Work and Dirty-Work zones.

Note: Within is described as a circle where people can be moved to around rather casually. The formal work that is needs, succeeds or is simultaneous to the moving. On otherside, outside is where a formal procedure precedes a person’s moving in.

Step 2: Interview with people aware of the project could be in form of above exercise and then finding people such that whole tasks are covered. Interview of a person having no idea would involve moving the activities above and below the lines based on response with respect to previous projects/tasks.

3. Shaping the Team

Next step is to identify when the team has been “formed”. Apparently, each item must figure in someone’s column CW. At a minimum, each item should appear in either column M or column CWcolumn. In case of activities are not in column CW but in column M of more than one, they have to sort out who takes it into his column CW. If it appears in can manage only one person he has to take it into his column CW. A team can always go looking out for more people at any time either of the scenarios appears.

Note: During the process of induction of new members, more tasks can be added or tasks can be broken down. The matrix remains very dynamic. But each task should be classified in one of the four columns for each member.

4. Distributing Tasks

Let the below activity matrix belong to two members are to be part of DWG.

 

With Pessimism With Optimism
Lack of Knowledge (K) Lack of Confidence/Experience (CE) Can Manage (M) Can Cake Walk (CW)
Spices
Frying Boiling Marinating
Cooking




Putting Salt in right measures Cutting Vegetables Serving Food
Buying Vegetables

 

 

 

With Pessimism With Optimism
Lack of Knowledge (K) Lack of Confidence/Experience (CE) Can Manage (M) Can Cake Walk (CW)
Cutting Vegetables Putting Salt in right measures
Spices




 Buying Vegetables Boiling Marinating
Serving Food Frying
    Cooking

 

Step 1: Merge the activities column-wise

 

With Pessimism With Optimism
Lack of Knowledge (K) Lack of Confidence/Experience (CE) Can Manage (M) Can Cake Walk (CW)
 Spices Cutting Vegetables Putting Salt in right measures
 Spices  Frying Boiling Spices
 Cooking Boiling Marinating
 Frying Buying Vegetables
Cooking Serving Food




 Buying Vegetables Putting Salt in right measures Boiling Marinating
Putting Salt in right measures Serving Food Frying
Marinating   Cooking
Cutting Vegetables Serving Food
Buying Vegetables
Cutting Vegetables

 

Step 2: Validate the matrix.

Step 3: Make an activity allocation matrix. Allocate all column CW activities.

 

Nice-Work Dirty-Work Nice-Work Dirty-Work Nice-Work Dirty-Work
Marinating Serving Food Buying Vegetables Marinating Spices Frying
Frying Cutting Vegetables Serving Food Putting Salt in right measures Putting Salt in right measures Cooking
Cooking Buying Vegetables Boiling Spices Cutting Vegetables Boiling

More Reading

Dirty-Work Group Based Organizational Structure

Dirty-Work Group Organization Structure

Introduction

A team does not and can not exist as an island. In an organizational setup, it has to indulge in intra-organizational and external communications. How does the concept of Dirty-work group provide a solution to this and how would an organization based on this idea look like?

In this article, we introduce the concept of interfaces to a Dirty-Work Group and propose an organizational structure.

Interfaces

As a Dirty-Work group‘s organization is internal to a group, from the outside it would look like a black box. Proper interfaces should be defined for various kinds of interactions. The most apparent communications are of following types:

Internal - Dirty-Work Group  Internal:  This interface is one point contact for all intra-company communications. Any request for information from other teams, dissemination of information, etc to the Dirty-Work Group is through this interface. Any member can pick this activity as their Good-Work (Good Work Group) and if none exits then as a Dirty-Work (Dirty Work Group).

External - Dirty-Work Group  External:  This interface is one point contact for all external communications. Any request for information from the press, other companies, agencies, etc to the Dirty-Work Group is through this interface. Any member can pick this activity as their Good-Work and if none exits then as a Dirty-Work.

Hierarchical - Dirty-Work Group  Hierarchical:  This interface is one point contact for all reporting to the higher level of management and their communication to the group. Any member can pick this activity as their Good-Work and if none exits then as a Dirty-Work.

Dynamics

Consider an organization named Any Organization Ltd. Its top management can be a Dirty-Work Group of all or some of these people:

  • CFO: Chief Financial Officer
  • CIO: Chief Information Officer
  • CTO: Chief Technology Officer
  • CMSO: Chief Marketing and Sales Officer
  • CHRO: Chief Human Resources Officer
  • CLO: One who manages buildings, offices, infrastructure, canteen, transportation and all that none of the above have to worry about – the ‘Handy Man’ officer.

Let there be three Dirty-Work Group working on various projects. One of them is a high visibility project about which business community is also interested.

Dirty-Work Group Organization Structure

Each member of each group after picking the Good-Work and the Dirty-Work will also pick whether to be an interface. And if yes, then what kind of interface. Internal, External or Hierarchical. The teams which do not need to interact may not pick an External interface or pick one when needed.

More Reading