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

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


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.

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

Conclusion

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

Product Backlog

product-backlog-feature

I propose a method to build a Product Backlog, how to record a feature that has business value clearly quantified and how this fits into a project inception.

Introduction

Backlog Definition From Agile Alliance:

A backlog is a list of features or technical tasks which the team maintains and which, at a given moment, are known to be necessary and sufficient to complete a project or a release:

  • if an item on the backlog does not contribute to the project’s goal, it should be removed;
  • on the other hand, if at any time a task or feature becomes known that is considered necessary to the project, it should be added to the backlog.

These “necessary and sufficient” properties are assessed relative to the team’s state of knowledge at a particular moment; the backlog is expected to change throughout the project’s duration as the team gains knowledge.

The backlog is the primary point of entry for knowledge about requirements, and the single authoritative source defining the work to be done.

Not That Backlog

Various terms exist for a backlog being used in Agile development. Based on scope / tradition, terms Story Backlog, Feature Backlog, Epics Backlog, Development Backlog and at times Product Backlog too are used.

I will refer to these as Story Backlog so I can differentiate it with the Product backlog I am introducing in this write-up.

Story Backlog Definition From Mountain Goat Software:

The agile story backlog in Scrum is a prioritized features list, containing short descriptions of all functionality desired in the product. A typical Scrum backlog comprises the following different types of items:

  • Features
  • Bugs
  • Technical work
  • Knowledge acquisition

Story Backlog Definition From Atlassian:

A story backlog is a prioritized list of work for the development team that is derived from the roadmap and its requirements. The most important items are shown at the top of the story backlog so the team knows what to deliver first. The development team doesn’t work through the backlog at the product owner’s pace and the product owner isn’t pushing work to the development team. Instead, the development team pulls work from the story backlog as there is capacity for it, either continually (kanban) or by iteration (scrum).

Product Backlog

A Product Backlog is prioritized features list, containing short descriptions of all functionality desired in the product, with a business value for each feature clearly quantified along with source of the feature request / inspiration.

Product Backlog Card

A take at what a Product Card can look like:

ID
Theme / Module
Action – Expected Result / I want to – So That / Feature / Inception time Epic
Assumptions
Priority
Value Ranking
Success Metric (to judge value delivered)
Failure Metric (to trigger a re-learn / re-analyze)
Status
Source

I am still not sure if Priority would still make sense given that Value Ranking is there. The reason I have added it is because Priority represents the perspective on person who is creating this card and Value Ranking is a quantitative analysis based on weightage. Value Ranking is a kind of check on the ‘gut feel’ or ’emotional’ Priority.

I think Source is important. We should link back to the CRM entry, the social media post, a market study, email, etc that lead to creation of this. It is important to refer to that original content which can be referred to as-is in future and considered as ‘interpretation free’ source which a ProMa used.

Scoping Product Backlog Card

How much work is a feature? There are some questions that a ProMa should ask to give BAs, IMs, Dev a good idea of breadth of work involved. There is, always, more to a feature than just implementation. Look at the suggested list to get an idea what I mean here:

Time Is a GTM time identified?
If yes, date?
Collaterals Does it need marketing collaterals?
Does it need sales collaterals?
Does it need support collaterals?
Does it need user collaterals?
Change Management Does it need change in process?
Does it need change in people & behaviour?
Does it need change in how users interact?
Does it need change in tech?
Control Does it bring in regulatory & legal aspect?
Does it bring in un-handled regulatory & legal aspect?
Does it need extra/new licenses?
Does it get covered by existing licensing model?
Security & Safety Does it need extra security focus?

A yes on any of these, will affect the scope of work and for folks other than the Devs. It is important to look beyond the functionality during implementation.

Prioritizing Product Backlog

Quantifying Product Vision

A feature can be seen to provide / contribute to one or more of following values at various levels:

  • BAU
  • Strategic
  • Competitive
  • Collaborative
  • Revenue
  • Cost

Based on the vision, these six can be given various weightage.

Eg: 1/ A product like say ‘Am-Behind App’ is playing catch up on feature parity with competition, the weightage can be:

BAU           10%
Strategic     10%
Competitive   40%
Collaborative 10%
Revenue       20%
Cost          10%

 

2/ A product like say ‘Am-Expensive App’ is focused on reducing capex, the weightage can be:

BAU           10%
Strategic     10%
Competitive    5%
Collaborative  5%
Revenue       20%
Cost          50%

 

3/ A product like say ‘Want-2-Breakfree App’ is focused on growing by usual and innovative methods, the weightage can be:

BAU           25%
Strategic     30%
Competitive   40%
Collaborative  0%
Revenue        5%
Cost           0%

 

and so on. This given a quantitative representation to your product’s vision. This should not change too often. Changes to it will change the ‘value rank’ of a feature as we will see below.

However, it is expected to change given the Build-Measure-Learn nature of ProMa. The change will drive a new priority against which the Product Backlog can be re-prioritized.

Quantifying Value

Starting with asking some key questions around these vision directions.

BAU Does it address key market?
Does it add to the USP/ Key Value Prop
Strategic Does it open up new market / opportunity?
Does it offer significant competitive advantage?
Are early adopters identified?
Competitive Does it allow us to catch up with specific competition (eg: feature parity)?
Does it allow a ‘we-too-have-it’ comparison against specific competition?
Collaborative Does it help “free to use” ecosystem?
Does it help “paying to use” ecosystem?
Cost Does it bring cost benefit?
Revenue Does it enable potential revenue uplift?
Does it lead to revenue uplift indirectly?
Does it lead to revenue uplift directly?

The answers can be Yes or No and quantified as 1 or 0. A Yes will lead to a value of 1 * weightage. We can add up all the values and arrive at a value rank.

Eg: For the product ‘Want-2-Breakfree App’, a feature has been requested that allows it to address a similar need but in different domain. With this vision weightage:

BAU           25%
Strategic     30%
Competitive   40%
Collaborative  0%
Revenue        5%
Cost           0%

 

This is how feature analysis and value rank can look like:

BAU Does it address key market? Yes 25
Does it add to the USP/ Key Value Prop Yes 25
Strategic Does it open up new market / opportunity? No 0
Does it offer significant competitive advantage? Yes 30
Are early adopters identified? Yes 30
Competitive Does it allow us to catch up with specific competition (eg: feature parity)? Yes 40
Does it allow a ‘we-too-have-it’ comparison against specific competition? No 0
Collaborative Does it help “free to use” ecosystem? No 0
Does it help “paying to use” ecosystem? No 0
Cost Does it bring cost benefit? Yes 5
Revenue Does it enable potential revenue uplift? No 0
Does it lead to revenue uplift indirectly? Yes 0
Does it lead to revenue uplift directly? No 0
155

Now let us see for another feature. A feature has been requested that allows it to analyze the response via various marketing channels. This is how feature analysis and value rank can look like:

BAU Does it address key market? Yes 25
Does it add to the USP/ Key Value Prop Yes 25
Strategic Does it open up new market / opportunity? Yes 30
Does it offer significant competitive advantage? Yes 30
Are early adopters identified? Yes 30
Competitive Does it allow us to catch up with specific competition (eg: feature parity)? Yes 40
Does it allow a ‘we-too-have-it’ comparison against specific competition? No 0
Collaborative Does it help “free to use” ecosystem? No 0
Does it help “paying to use” ecosystem? No 0
Cost Does it bring cost benefit? Yes 5
Revenue Does it enable potential revenue uplift? Yes 0
Does it lead to revenue uplift indirectly? Yes 0
Does it lead to revenue uplift directly? No 0
185

So, the later feature should be prioritized higher in the Product Backlog.

Product Backlog and Inceptions

How does a Product Backlog fit into our Inception? Here is my earlier blog post on this: Product Management During Project Inception

Summary:

product-management-role-project-inception-feature
Product Management Role in Project Inception Feature

Never Alone

This started with a lunch time discussion with Sriram Narayan few months back. It got re-triggered by a question by Kartik Kannan “How do ProMa figure in Inception Process?” Thanks to Priyanka Kapur and Anantpal Singh Saluja who became first user of this method while creating a pitch for a client.


Product Management Role During Project Inception

product-management-role-project-inception-feature

There have been some question on how introduce Product Thinking and Product Management role during Project Inception. I and few other colleagues have been discussing theProduct Management role (ProMa) topic a lot.

As of today, this is how I see the flow. This flow is heavily influenced by experience on one day Product Management workshop that have attended by over 100 folks till now and various inceptions I have attended.

product-management-role-project-inception-feature

We follow the same visioning as we do in Inception. However, when we do epics, we convert them into a Product Backlog. Each Product Backlog will lead to multiple stories. What is different in a Product Backlog is some quantification of business value it delivers and metrics on how to measure it.

When stories go live and get consumed by users, we can measure and learn. This learning is brought back as part of analysis and grooming on the Product backlog (not Story / Development Backlog).

Re-prioritization of Product Backlog can affect the stories that picked up next.

More on this in coming days as it gets ironed out. Including what does a Product Backlog looks like.

Are Non-Technical Product Managers Becoming Irrelevant?

failing-since-2012-s04

There are three streams from which Product Managers rise:

  1. Design,
  2. Business and
  3. Technology.

The key to being a good ProMa (Product Manager) is to rise from one of these positions of strength, and then immediately lose it.

Here is what I mean:

If a technologist takes up a product, they forever see it as a technical product and do not realize that they have to pay equal attention to design and business. Same with folks from design and business.

This letting go, is where most smart folks fail.

If you are a technologist, do you have the willingness to give up being a technologist? If you can overcome that instinct and be cognizant of aspects of Design and Business, you will be an excellent Product Manager.

So as long as you know the business, domain or design, you have no fear of being irrelevant.