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

Product Management Canvas – Product in a Snapshot

Product Management Canvas (PMC)

The Product Management Canvas (PMC), is a strategic management and entrepreneurial articulation tool. It allows one to describe a product having the highest return on investment versus risk.

This is different from Product Model Canvas or Roman Pichler’s Product Canvas.

Where Does Product Management Canvas Fit?

Let us understand the Product Flow. I have talked about it earlier in the Hackathon: From Idea to a Product in a Day post.

 

Using Product Management Canvas

To summarise the flow diagram:

Using Elevator Pitch & Product in a Box, we describe the product we want to build. However, no product exists in a vacuum and is part of an ecosystem. We then layout the Product Ecosystem that enables the key product. The product is then described using the Product Management Canvas.

A Product Management Canvas then informs the process of Epics. Adding a business case to these we arrive at a Product Backlog. Each item in the Product Backlog can lead to one or more stories. When these stories Go Live and the hit the market, in the spirit of build-measure-learn, we learn and periodically do the Product Backlog Grooming.

The Elevator Pitch & Product In A Box, (Lean) Business Model Canvas, High-Level Products Layout and Product Management Canvas are explained in the blog post above.

Epics, Product Backlog, Stories and Build-Measure-Learn are standard terms that are described as part of the Agile process.

I think this sits one step before Roman Pichler’s Product Canvas and used to plan and describe a product, rather than track the agile product creation/development.

Understanding The Product Management Canvas

The canvas started as a checklist for Product Managers to ensure they have not missed any aspect of Product planning. However, it was always aimed to capture the current state of an evolving product. Thus, Product Management Canvas should be used to communicate across various groups and departments to ensure all have the same picture of the product.

Using The Product Management Canvas

Using Product Management Canvas Steps

The suggested flow is:

  1. Idea
  2. Market
  3. Customer Segment
  4. Business Value
  5. Features
  6. Metrics
  7. Evangelism
  8. Visual Identity
  9. Go To Market
  10. Key Resources
  11. Risks

Now let is look at each section in detail:

Product Management Canvas (PMC)

Idea

We start with describing the original problem or opportunity that the product addresses. It can be a unique need, a dormant need (we are creating the market) or aspiration (of the user/customer) that needs to be addressed.

Once the above is stated, it is important to connect it what the idea of the product and state how it addresses the above.

Market

Start by stating the market size (defined as the market volume or the market potential). VCs will want this to be a very big number. Big enough to accommodate you and all your competition.

The state the market opportunity your product addresses from the whole market size. This should be a more realistic number that should allow you sufficient growth so as to allow you to give investors a good rate of return.

A product never exists in a vacuum. There is an ecosystem of partners that enable it. We should note all key partners (data suppliers, data consumers, channels, SDKs and so on).

What’s fun without any competition? It is important to note competition and track them. If you have analysed competition in detail, you can add the link to that document. My thoughts on how to do Competition Analysis.

Customer Segment

Identifying if the product is B2B or B2C is sometimes obvious. But going one level deeper is important. (does my B2B target Startup, SME, Business Houses, MNC, etc. or does my B2C target BPL, LMC, MC, UMC, HNI, etc.) is important.

Does my B2B target Startup, SME, Business Houses, MNC, etc. or does my B2C target BPL (Below Poverty Line), LMC (Lower Middle Class), MC (Middle Class), UMC (Upper Middle Class), HNI (High Networth Individuals), etc.)?

Also important is to identify Early Adopters, Influencers, Recommenders and Innovators who try something new.

Business Value

Large organisations that create a lot of products need to ensure that there is a product – organization fit. This would involve making sure that it fits in tot established ecosystems, reuses tools used, etc and does not create whole parallel infrastructure requirements.

The product – market fit is very important and needs to be articulated crisply.

There are many revenue models available and many times the same product will have multiples of them. State the considered revenue models in this section.

Cost Analysis is a complex task but having a broad idea of the cost of producing the product that reflects the pricing model is recorded. Even when the aim is to invest in seeding the product, it is important to state and communicate the revenue – cost ratio.

It is important to state the key Regulatory & Compliance items. These should not slip through cracks of day-to-day tasks.

Features

It is important to state the value propositions / USP and communicate it uniformly. Not every differentiation is a USP, nor should it be. Along with USP, the other key features that set us apart, make usage simple or make us better than competition should also be noted.

Metrics

We all talk about success metrics. But before a product is successful there are some metrics that are minimal a product should achieve. These should not be ‘not meeting success metrics’, but independent ones.

Eg: while achieving an MAU of 1M is the success for your chat app, the number of messages exchanged is not growing at the same rate as user adoption is a failure metric.

Failure metrics are important as they tell us how key hypotheses could be wrong and it is time to reassess them and re-learn and re-build.

Viability metrics are good to have to make sure we are on track to success.

Evangelism

Product evangelism is, as Guy Kawasaki put it years ago, “selling the dream.”  It’s helping people to imagine the future, and inspiring them to help create that future.

Many things need to fall into place for an Evangelist to be effective. This section offers a checklist of essential items need to enable an evangelist.

This includes an elevator pitch, relevant content generation is a content strategy to keep it updated, uniform terminology across all departments and collaterals, SEO strategy so content is geared to show up in right searches, right brand assets, and social media presence.

Using all possible social networks is not the right approach. Choose and state ones that are relevant to the product, the audience and manageable by the team.

Visual Identity

This section offers a checklist of essential items need to establish a visual identity.

Product name, logo, icons, brand playbook, presentation/docs/stationery templates, product docs templates, Social Network assets (cover picture, etc.) and display ads assets.

Go To Market

This section offers a checklist of essential items to formulate an effective go to market strategy.

In the case of a new product, time of launch is an important date/period. Product Manager should initiate and collaborate in the launch strategy & related collaterals, describing sales and product delivery channels, positioning & promotion strategy, identify and help reach out to decision makers, influencers & recommenderssales collateral, marketing collateral, user support docs and training collaterals.

Often a product leads to changes in processes and people. The product manager has to think about a change management template.

Key Resources

Stating key resources is important as it allows a product manager to track them. This includes licenses (eg: SSL licenses as anybody can forget to renew on time like this, this and this), 3rd party platforms like SDK, analytics tools, etc.

Risks

State the known shortcomings and assumptions made. This helps plan the build-measure-learn better.

Product managers need to be paranoid about the product getting disrupted. Disruption Readiness is important to consider by identifying processes and methods that can be all be replaced in one go.

More

 


 

Product Management Workshop for Chennai & Gurgaon

product-management-workshop-chennai-gurgaon-pic

We conducted a Product Management Workshop in Gurgaon on 12th Nov, 2016. This time we joined it with Chennai. So some folks from Chennai travelled to Gurgaon. There was a wonderful response and 14 ThoughtWorkers attended. Thanks to Jagbir Singh Lehl for all the help.

The day started with some excitement with Dinker Charak (aka me) missing the flight! I had insisted that Chennai team travel to Gurgaon as this workshop is most effective when done face to face. Now I had to face them remotely 😉

But thanks for great coordination by Jagbir and enthusiasm/cooperation by the attendees, it went well (as per feedback).

The agenda was very fast faced and aggressive. But we made it through all sessions with skip few items here there.

product-management-workshop-chennai-gurgaon-schedule

Thank you Ankur Arora, Bijesh Vijayan, Jagbir Singh Lehl, Jeneef Joshua VJ, Kandan Muthukumar, Khushbu Agarwal, Kshama Tikmani, Kuhu Batra, Neha Agarwal, Ramani Siva Prakash T, Saif Khan, Sreerupa Dutta Auditto, Surabhi Seth and Virapandy Thulasimani for attending.

 

Product Hackathon – Idea to Product – Nov 5th 2016

product-hackathon-idea-product-day

In line with earlier workshops in

based on the one day ‘Idea Hackathon: From An Idea to A Product’, we held one more this weekend on 5th Nov, 2016.

The agenda was:

1st-idea-hackathon-agenda

Based on the request of the participant, we had a discussion on the role of ProMa. I used the attached deck.

The workshop was attended by Sudeep Kumar, Pradeep Kumar, Ashwini Chiplunkar, Jawahar D, Jincen Easo Mathew and ThoughtWorkers Kiran M, Mark Gonsalves, Kartik Kannan and Sharath Satish.

Hackathon: From Idea to a Product in a Day

Product Management Canvas (PMC)

I have been running these 1-day workshops for IIM’s Entrepreneur Cell and various offices of ThoughtWorks. We start with a new idea or an existing idea, work through it over the day, focus on one key product to come up with a clear picture of what it will be and an MVP for it. The audience has been folks who came in just with an idea, startups that came with a prototype or startups that have started seeing some customer traction.

Over time a structure has emerged. This is what I am sharing here. And, this is going to be a long one.

My commentary with use startups who have spent sometime on the idea and have a prototype in market as a typical example. However, this approach work for the who spectrum I mentioned above.

Here is what a typical agenda looks like:

Agenda

9:00 AM Our Approach, Objectives and Ground Rules 0:30
9:30 AM Product in a Box 0:30
10:00 AM Elevator Pitch 0:30
10:30 AM Business Model Canvas
Value Prop., Customer Segments & Channels
1:00
11:30 AM Break 0:15
11:45 AM Business Model Canvas
Cost & Revenues
1:00
12:45 PM Lunch Break 0:45
1:30 PM Product Strategy
Products line-up & Prioritization
0:30
2:00 PM Product Management Canvas
Idea, Market, Customer Segment, Business Value & Metrics
1:00
3:00 PM Break 0:15
3:15 PM Product Management Canvas
Features, Evangelism, Go To Market, Visual Identity & Key Resources
1:00
4:15 PM Break 0:30
4:45 PM Identifying MVP

Using Product Management Canvas to identify an MVP

0:45
5:30 PM Done

The day is run over a very tight schedule. So keeping time is important. Also, the aim is breadth-first and cover all rather than depth-first and iron out details.

This allows the attendees to get familiarity with the methods and they can do a do a detailed version on their own.

Our Approach, Objectives and Ground Rules

This is similar to Inception. One thing I always bring out that we will be discussing each idea with the team. Folks attending should be comfortable to share their idea with the group.

I always allow mobile phones. Folks are going to be here all day, typically a Saturday. A few minutes of phone calls related to family and work is not very disruptive.

Product in a Box

At times referred to as Product Box[1], it is a fun activity in which everyone is asked to imagine if their product came in a box, what would the label of the box look like. I provide this empty sheet to participants:

Product In A Box Guide

In order to help them visualize and organise their thoughts, I show them this slide for reference and walk them through each section and give some examples.

Product In A Box Guide

Usually people struggle a bit with this. Either they will be lost for words or write too much text and are frozen! Also, this being the first session, folks are bit slow to get started. I suggest to them is to just start writing. Once they do, words follow words and they are able to finish.

Once all are done (15 mins), I request each to read out exactly what they have written and add nothing as an after thought. I then as all if they will be willing to buy/invest in the idea.

The very exercise of having to write out the thoughts, read them aloud, not add in ad hoc manner to it and then hear responses, sets the time for rest of the day. I stress a lot on brevity and simplicity.

Elevator Pitch

We have a very good format for Elevator Pitch[2] that is part of the Inception Deck. I often reuse that. We give them a printed page which has outline of an Elevator Pitch that they have to complete. Having gone through the Product in a Box exercise earlier, heard the feedback, folks just go swiftly though this and are able to come up with excellent articulation. The format looks like this:

Elevator Pitch

Note: I have reversed the order and done Elevator Pitch first and then the Product in a Box. But in either case, attendees struggle with the first one and then do the next one rather fast and nicely.

Business Model Canvas

Business Model Canvas

We do Business Model Canvas[3] across two sessions.

Session 1

I first ask them to write down key Value Props. This is followed by writing down the various Customer Segments. They key is to narrow them as much as possible. So using words like ‘All’ are discouraged.

Then I ask them to make a line for each Value Prop to each Customer Segment it serves. Ideally, all Value Props should serve some segment and all segments should have some value prop for them. If none, the customer segment needs to go.

Then I ask them to name a channel for each Value Prop. At least one channel for each stage of Brand Awareness Funnel. That is, Awareness, Consideration, Engagement and then Purchase. In my previous life, my work on Brand Awareness Funnel was converted into a patent by my then organization.

Session 2

In this session we focus on Cost and Revenue. Surprisingly, helping startups that been been around realize their cost is the most a-ha / oh-sh*t moment. Perpetual optimists like Founders rarely internalize the cost of getting things done and this serves as a good eye-opener. Lots of time is spent on revenue side of things.

I usually help them with quick back-of-envelop calculations. Salaries of founders, office rent, internet bills, laptops, furniture, folks for sales, support, development, CA, filings, buying compute power, licenses, fees, etc and soon the estimate balloon.

Session on revenue is smaller. I ask them to write down all possible avenues of revenues and then estimate revenues it can bring in over time and the complexity of making that revenue. This helps them prioritize one avenue over another.

Product Strategy

This session was added after 2-3 such workshops. When asked what all products does your company build, what is your key product, what all components does your product have or what all products are you working on to enable your key product, I used to get very vague answers. Most of them would start talking about their awesome app.

The thing is, that without realising how much effort the company is putting into various products (in house, customer facing, partner facing, admin tools, 3rd part integrations, that 3rd Parties can use, etc), it was often apparent that they were not look at whole picture when prioritising.

So I came with this Product Stack[4] template:

Product Strategy Stack

I ask them to fill this up with all things they are using and have built. The output surprises everyone. Once they have listed them all, I ask them to mark out ones without which they can not proceed as business. This eliminates lots of random / legacy products they have accumulated over time and focus on ones that really matter.

There are two things that also happen while we do this exercise:

1. We force them to think beyond Channels (like Apps, Websites, etc) and think in terms of the whole Platform.

2. Get them into exercise of prioritizing engineering output and not jump into creating apps, websites, etc without creating a roadmap at an strategic level.

Note: In case of new ideas, I ask them to list down things they will need to use and build. They then prioritise based on that.

Product Management Canvas

Once the key product has been reinforced, identified or agreed up, we use the Product Management Canvas[5] to describe it.

Product Management Canvas (PMC)

Lots of content flows in from the canvases and work done in previous sessions. That makes filling up this canvas faster. Only thing is that these are not at the level of entire business but at level of this product. This means the slice of whole business canvas that this product addresses.

We recommend they do it for each of they key product. Product Managers can use it for their products. More about Product Management Canvas here.

Identifying MVP

One thing that the Product Management Canvas helps with is identifying a MVP. Here is how I put it:

“Specific Features that deliver extreme value to a specific Customer Segment and helps attain specific Business Value using specific Key Resources measured using related Success and Failure Metrics with right Visual Identity and Go-To-Market support.”

The Product Management Canvas helps identify that MVP that should be rolled out first.

Preparation for the Workshop

As preparation, I printout some canvases. Here is the list and size of paper on which they are printed.

Product In A Box A4
Elevator Pitch A4
Business Model Canvas A3
Product Management Canvas A3

Using A3 gives some real-estate to write down on the Business Model Canvas and the Product Model Canvas.

Never Alone

These sessions were not always done alone. I want to acknowledge these fellow ThougthWorkers for contributing in various sessions I held: Nagarjun Kandukuru, Shaun Jayaraj, Sachin Sapre, Sharath Satish, Suganth Chellamuthu, Kiran M, Prasanna J Vaste and Arjun Dev.

References

[1] Know more about Product in a Box in Innovation Games by Luke Hohmann.
[2] Know more about the Elevator Pitch format on Jonathan’s blog.
[3] Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur (https://strategyzer.com/)
[4] & [5] Created by the Dinker Charak and can be shared under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Urban Transport Startup Product Management Workshop

product management workshop urban transport

We (Nagarjun Kandukuru, Abhinandan Sangam, Arjun Dev and I) did a Product Management workshop with 4 startups. They are being mentored by World Resources Institute and Centre for Innovation, Incubation & entrepreneurship (CIIE) – IIMA.

There were 2 founders per startup. The startups that participated were:

Commut – Daily commute in Hyderabad

Dryve: Two-wheeler rentals in Bangalore

HopOn | Employee Transport Management

Next2Metro – Local Places Info Nearby Any Metro Station – Delhi-NCR

Here is the agenda of the day:

Schedule-urban-transport

We used the Product Management Canvas too.

product-management-canvas

It was a wonderful day and the commitment & energy of these founders was inspiring.

Product Management Workshop in ThoughtWorks, Pune

We conducted a Product Management Workshop in Pune on 11th Jun, 2016. There was a wonderful response and 15 ThoughtWorkers attended. Thanks to Prasanna J Vaste for all the help.

As usual, the agenda was very fast faced and aggressive. But we made it through all sessions. And finished 30 mins ahead of time.

Schedule-pune

This is first time I talked about the idea of Product Entrepreneurship. We used Product Management Canvas too.

05-product-management-canvas-A4

Thank you Vishal Bhalerao, Sushant Joshi, Sudeep Mahto, Akshay Dhavle, Vivek Mehra, Hameet Gill, Richa Trivedi, Anuja Kulkarni, Pritika P Gulliani, Puja Mantri, Sneha Prabhu, Vijayalakshmi K R,  Sudeep Somani, Dubinsky Dee Soares and Chintan Radia for attending.