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

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

The Edge of Product Management: Talk at Institute of Product Leadership

Product Management Talk Institute of Product Leadership

I gave a talk to the students of Executive MBA at Institute of Product Leadership, Bangalore on 19th Nov 2016. It was a conversation around Product Management, industry practitioners approach to it and what’s new in this domain.

I also shared some new ideas I am toying around with and sought the feedback. It was a lively discussion.

SlideShare.net: http://www.ddiinnxx.com/slideshare-edge-product-management/

SpeakerDeck: http://www.ddiinnxx.com/speakerdeck-edge-product-management/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qvp-I-vymp0


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 Thinking Sessions at IIM Ahmedabad IIMAvericks Event

dinker-iim-ciie-iimavericks

IIM, Ahmedabad continues to be the best B-School of India. They have a startup incubation center called Centre For Innovation, Incubation & entrepreneurship (CIIE) at IIM, Ahmedabad.

From their website:

Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship was setup at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) with support from Gujarat Government and Department of Science and Technology (Government of India) to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in India.

Their Young IIMAvericks Program enables graduating students who want to startup.

After the Business Modelling sessions earlier, we were invited again to hold a Business Modelling Workshop. The workshop was conducted by me and my fellow ThoughtWorker, Sachin Sapre.

We added a topic on Product Thinking (both of us being Product managers) along with conversation on how to use the Product Management Canvas.

This was their first day / session at CIIE. The response was good and they found the workshop useful in understand the business and question their assumptions.

Financial Services Startups Hackathon at CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad

dinker-iim-ciie

Participated in Day 1 of Financial Services Startups Hackathon. This hackathon was conducted by Centre For Innovation, Incubation & entrepreneurship (CIIE) at IIM, Ahmedabad.

From their website:

Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship was setup at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) with support from Gujarat Government and Department of Science and Technology (Government of India) to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in India.

Me and fellow ThoughtWorker Shaun Jayaraj  did the Business Modelling session. We used the Business Model Canvas for this session.

It was a long, tiring bit wonderful day. Interacted with founders of around 8 startups and answered their questions. Many were focused on rural markets and served underprivileged. This made the sessions richer!

Did a small session on Product Management too. This was the first time I introduced Product Management Canvas to startups. The response was positive. Though there we quiet some questions around it.