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.



Design Dissonance in TataSky UPI Integration

Design Dissonance Tata Sky UPI

When we choose to pay via UPI, the payments section of TataSky (website) says the merchant says TATASKY.

Design Dissonance TataSky UPI Website

However, when we open the BHIM app (iOS, Android), the pending payment request is from IndiaIdeas.

Design Dissonance TataSky UPI Bhim

This made me think twice if this was same request. Creates suspicion & looks cheap jugaad. Guess the IndiaIdeas team is promoting its brand over TataSky’s User Experience expense.

Design Dissonance in Music and Podcast Apps on iPhone

Design Dissonance Podcast Music App Play Button Location iPhone

I am among the millions of Apple’s iOS Music App and Podcast App users. I am certainly not only one who struggles with the design dissonance in their app. Here are my top 2 rants:

Design Dissonance in Location of Play Button

Design Dissonance Podcast Music App Play Button Location iPhone

The Play buttons are in opposite positions. I always have to look and think where to click. This does not allow for muscle memory for someone using both apps very frequently. What happened to “Don’t Make Me Think“?

Feature Disparity

Design Dissonance Podcast App iPhone Sleep

Podcast app provides two extremely useful features:

  • Sleep
  • 15 second skip forward or skip back

None of these are there in the Music app. Folks often go to sleep listening to music (a la Podcast) and need this function. Everybody like to revisit that beat or the clever wordplay. So skip back is a cool and useful feature to have.

Product Management Failure

Both cases are symptoms of failure of Product Managers.

It is as if the Product Managers of Podcast App and Music App don’t talk to each other or don’t like each other enough not to learn from each other.

It is also the failure of the Product Manager of Apple’s App not to drive Design Cohesion across the app that Apple builds.

Design Dissonance in Google Ventures’ Website – My Opinions

Design Dissonance Google Ventures Bach

I often visit GV‘s (erstwhile Google Ventures) website. On a recent visit, I encountered a noticed some design dissonance. It was surprising as they say the website is “This site is hand-crafted by GV.”

Here is what I mean by design dissonance:

Setting The Tone

Design Dissonance Google Ventures 1

The tone of design, layout, navigation and content sorting is set in the home page of their library. Look good! On a site that has tons of content, they have decided that trending on Medium is the order in which they will show the content. Great.

GV is known for its contribution to Design and so that is the first collection I hit!

Design Dissonance Begins

Design Dissonance Google Ventures 5

Suddenly I am in your typical ‘Blog’ template. Didn’t expect that. Not much of a surprise, though. Why not use the power of blogging platform. Some things that jump out:

  • The awesome picture of a mountain range and nice green slash, and
  • Missing Home from the top menu

Anyway, I back and for the next section, Product Management.

And It Continues

Design Dissonance Google Ventures 6

Suddenly, the mountain is gone, but the Home has appeared!

However, the Home takes me to the Blog home rather than the GV’s home. Moving on to another section, Sprints.

Continues But Does Not Jar

When I reach the Design Sprint, I am taken to a whole new layout:

Design Dissonance Google Ventures 1

Given the content is a whole new thinking, the new layout does not jar. In fact, it is a good way to set the tone that Design Sprint is a world of its own.

But Then

As soon as we move to Research Sprint:

Design Dissonance Google Ventures 1

We are taken to a Blog post. The content deserves more than a Blog post link and given how Design Sprint was done, this feels like a letdown.

What’s Wrong?

So, here is the list of things that are not right and leading to the dissonance:

  1. Library home page has content sorted in some order. That order is not followed in rest of sections
  2. Rest of sections point to a blog unexpectedly
  3. As they point to various different layouts of blog, they layout between various sections changes unexpectedly
  4. Once you reach blog area, no navigation takes you to the website
  5. Given it is highlighted as a hand-crafted website, these things should have taken care of. Hand-crafted implies attention to details to make sure they are consistent and not dissonant due to underlying differences

Suggested Fixes

  1. Crux of issues are due to how the blog is mixed with the main website
  2. Navigation in blog need to be consistent and allow for moving to GV’s home
  3. When linking to blog, link to similar layouts/templates
  4. Avoid Library link on linking to an intermediate page and rather go directly to
Feature image: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Product Thinking – UX Design + Product Management + Business Model

Before we start on Product Thinking, it will be good to understand what a Product is.

Product is something that is the result of a process.

Now, in software world, how does this apply. Let us see:

Product is something that is result of a software process.

This is better. However, is Design (Experience Design, etc) a software process? Not really. However, it is a process in itself. So, an updated definition then:

Product is something that is result of a design & software process.

Better. However, I am of the opinion that a product without a business model is neither sustainable nor a solution.

So, let us add that to the mix.

Product is something that is result of a design & software process and has a business model.

OK, there! Now we proceed to Product Thinking.

Product Thinking

Here is it in one diagram:

Product Thinking

Product Thinking is not the process of product creation itself. It is thinking of the product along with the whole ecosystem. The ecosystem is often a combination of:

  • Target Audience
  • Problem
  • Strategy
  • Objective / Vision / Goal
  • Features
  • User Experience
  • User Environment
  • Process of Making
  • Revenues

Based on Product Management Canvas, we can defined Product Thinking as:

Building on the value your customers will need to achieve business goals measured using related success and failure metrics with providing well designed experience using a well-defined go-to-market strategy and support.

Note: Need v/s Will Need

You will notice, I said ‘will need’ rather than ‘need’. Lot of innovations anticipate a need to create a new one. So, to acknowledge that, a ‘will’ has been added.

Note: Platforms v/s Channels

Platforms (backend, APIs, multi-tenancy, etc) benefit from System Centric design (eg: System Thinking) while Channels (apps, websites, devices, kiosks, etc) which humans interact with benefit from User Centric design (eg: Design Thinking).



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:

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.

Competition Analysis in 3 Simple Steps

Article on Competition Analysis

Want to get with Competition Analysis in 3 Simple Steps? Yes, only 3 🙂

Step 1: Being Competitive Means?

What does it mean to be competitive? What is the purpose of competition? And finally, when all does it mean to compete? Every business needs to be clear on these questions.

I have used this very often with the client to get them to focus on right competition and the expected outcome of being competitive:

Competitive Advantage

Step 2: Listing Competition

Competitive landscape is a spectrum. Not all competition is a threat. We need to list our potentials across the whole spectrum. I have used following 4 heading to help clients list out competition.

Competition Analysis Spectrum

Step 3. Competition Deep Dive

Identify key competition(s) from each block and do a deep dive. Here is one canvas to help structure it:

Competition Analysis Canvas


To revisit some thoughts:

  1. Be clear why business need to be competitive and expected outcome
  2. Competitive lanscape is a spectrum
  3. Not all competition is a threat (at a given point)
  4. Identify competitions from each block on the spectrum and do a deep dive