Our Children and The Digital Future – A Manifesto

Our Children And The Digital Future

[Note: Author is creator of Roo Kids App, an Instant Messaging app for children where parents have access to the contacts and always know who the kid is chatting with.]

Easing Children into Real World

As automobiles started to became a commonplace on the roads, parents started teaching their children how to cross a road. Our schools started talked about safety habits around the roads. School buses added STOP sign, so traffic could give way to a kid crossing the road.

The Digital Future

Digital future is inevitable and some argue we are already there. As the 4th Industrial Revolution rolls in, how do we ease and educate our kids into such a world?

Not Just The Parents

No, it is not the responsibility of just the parents. It is everybody’s concern. Especially those who are involved in creation of products (including startup founders who are re-inventing the world). Will it be easy for kids to step into this re-invented world? Or, will they stumble and fall prey to it?

Manifesto For Children Inclusive Digital Future

We (Startup Founders, Product Managers, Product Designers, Product Business Managers, Technologist) are developing products and helping others do it while keeping children in mind.

Through this work we have come to value:

  • Products that provide an overlap of safety oversight & digital access over products that are command-control tools or promote digital ignorance

[Rather than building products that isolate tech or isolate kids, we will build products that 1/ expose enough for kids to learn & explore and 2/ provide tools to provide sufficient oversight to maintain safety.]

  • Products that consider incidental or accidental use by children over products that assume otherwise

[Never assume that a child will not incidentally or accidentally access our product. Have we considered that in our design, implementation and usage guidelines? Responsibility towards children is not restricted to products created for children.]

  • Products that respect individuality, intelligence and privacy of a child over products that make stereotypic generalization like age ranges, gender, etc.

[Standardization makes sense when we can’t customize at scale. Digital products allow for customization and personalization at large scale. Digital products should adapt to a child and present a match but without violation of privacy and then providing for sufficient anonymity. Privacy also includes providing children enough space where they are assured privacy in context of parents too but always within a safe space.]

That is, while there was value in the items on the right in early days of digital evolution, we value the items on the left more.

Inspired by the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and Roo Kids App. Picture Credit: Wikimedia.org.

Manifesto For Children Inclusive Digital Future. We are developing products and helping others do it while keeping children in mind. Through this work we have come to value: Products that provide an overlap of safety oversight & digital access over products that are command-control tools or promote digital ignorance, Products that consider incidental or accidental use by children over products that assume otherwise, Products that respect individuality, intelligence and privacy of a child over products that make stereotypic generalization like age ranges, gender, etc. That is, while there was value in the items on the right in early days of digital evolution, we value the items on the left more. Inspired by the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and Roo Kids App.

Five Buckets Model for Product Management

5-buckets-of-product-management

Inspired by The Five Competencies of User Experience Design by Steve Psomas,  ‘Five Buckets’ – Explained by Jonny Schneider and 5 Buckets of Business Analysis by Jiangmei Kang, I created a version for Product Management.

The 5 Buckets Model for Product Management

The Five Buckets is a model to describe the various capabilities of a Product Manager. This model list out important capabilities and suggests them to be competent in a subset of capabilities based on what their focus / interest is.

The 5 Capabilities of Product Managers (ProMa) identified are:

Five Buckets of Product Management

Influencing

  • Rallying opinions around the Product value
  • Active listening
  • Evangelism
  • Articulation of value
  • Connect Business, Users, Techies and be their advocate in Product decisions
  • Establish common language
  • Fill the communication gap
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Conflicts resolution
  • Jedi Mind Tricks
  • Elevator pitches
  • Quips, anecdotes, story telling
  • Personal leadership
  • CxO level conversations

Synthesis

  • Take inputs from various sources and synthesize them into coherent vision
  • Build Product Strategy
  • Product Design, Innovation, User Research keeping inputs and behaviors in mind
  • Work with Business Analysts, Experience Designers, Developers, stakeholders, contributors, builders, consumers, etc.

Prioritization

  • Roadmapping
  • Track and Manage the Delivery Progress
  • Manage and Prioritize the Product Backlog

Business Acumen

  • Sustainability of the business based on the product
  • Business case for ideas/product/innovations/incremental innovations
  • Pricing
  • Market scoping
  • Market research
  • Market size
  • Market opportunity
  • Product – Organization fit
  • Product – Market fit

Domain Knowledge

  • Ramp up at needed pace to get sufficient Domain Knowledge
  • SME or strong Design background or strong Development background

Some Key Thoughts

  • As with other versions, everyone has the combination of two or more capabilities. Nobody can be expert in all five areas.
  • Influencing is a basic and key competency for ProMa to be effective.
  • Prioritization (roadmapping, tracking, etc) and Synthesis (gather inputs and make sense of conflicting demands) are key day to day activities of a ProMa guided by right Business Acumen (business value of anything that crosses them).
  • For situations where Domain Knowledge is important, being an SME helps. Else, as a Generalist, ramping up to have sufficient knowledge of domain works.

Speaker Deck

Thanks to fellow ThoughtWorkers Sachin Sapre, Nagarjun Kandukuru, Kartik Narayanan, Vijayalakshmi K R, Kshama Tikmani and Manish Kumar for the feedbacks at various stages.

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.