Archive for January 30, 2013

No crystal ball? No problem!

Vision.  It’s what all psychics claim to have, what all artists try to find, and what all business executives pine for.  The terrible fact of the matter is, that the track record of people actually being able to predict the future is terrible, especially businessmen.

You don’t believe me?  Well!  How about feast your eyes on these famous zingers…

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

Yeah, but those guys are all from the last century.  Certainly we’ve gotten better at predicting the business climate these days, right?

Well some of the world’s most famous business leaders are guilty of making some absolutely terrible predictions even within the last 10 years or so.  Bill Gates is particularly bad at predicting the future, and seems to save his worst predictions for the World Economic Forum that’s held in Davos, Switzerland every year.  Back in 2003 he pretty much suggested that Google would be gone once Sergey Brin and Larry Page got tired of running a business.  Then in 2004, he famously claimed at that time that spam would be eradicated within 2 years.  How’s that working for you?  I thought so.

So, what’s the point of all of this?  Well, nobody has a crystal ball, but yet Product Managers are asked as part and parcel of their job to create a vision for where their product will go in the future and a strategy for getting it there.

So, without a crystal ball, how do you go about creating a vision and a strategy?  Have no fear.  There’s a template for that…

My PM Survival Kit item #3: Vision and Strategy Template

Basically, as with all of my templates, it asks you to answer a bunch of questions that outline the landscape for your product, future opportunities, the competitive landscape, and a strategy for product development.  Along the way, you’ll also define possible projects that will help your company execute on the strategy.  All of this information can then be used in a business proposal to your management.

See?  It’s not so hard.  And no crystal ball needed….



Who’s your daddy?

The customer, that’s who.

But how well do you know your customer?  In order to service your customer in the best way possible, you need to drag out your deerstalker hat and your meerschaum pipe to do some detective work.

How you handle a customer depends on many variables.  Do they own one of your products or many?  How many licenses of your product do they own?  Are they big or small?  How is your current relationship with them?  Who is the salesperson who is responsible for the account?

Answering these and many more questions will give you the ability to address the customer’s needs much more effectively and to decide how much of your limited resources you should be applying to each customer.

What you need, my friend, is a simple Customer Dossier.  Luckily for you, there’s a template for that (created by yours truly, of course).

My PM Survival Kit item #2:Customer Dossier Template

Use it to record the relevant information about your customer and share it with colleagues within your organization.

As with all of my templates, it does include information that would be of a proprietary nature to you and your company, so I suggest adding password protection to it and/or encrypting it.

And as with all of my templates, this template has been licensed by me under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit

To buy or not to buy, that is the question…

At some point during your Product Management career, you will run across a situation where you’ll need to decide whether you make a solution in-house, buy a solution from a vendor off-the-shelf, or partner with a vendor for a solution to satisfy your customers’ needs.

The “Buy, Partner, or Make” (…or BPM, not to be confused with “Beats Per Minute” if you’re a music aficionado…) decision can make or break a project and can determine whether a job is done as cost effectively as possible and with the quality required by your customers.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much common industry knowledge about how to make such a decision.

So, where to start?

My suggestion is to start by asking some basic questions to lay the groundwork for your recommendation. What are the requirements for the solution?  What is my least restrictive resource?  Effort?  Money?  Time?  Do any of our existing partners already do this?  Do we already own any solutions that are similar or work in this space?

This is the origin of my Buy, Partner, or Make template.  I just sat down and asked a bunch of questions that after answering will hopefully lead you to the correct path ahead.  I mean, in the end, that’s what you’re really doing with a BPM decision.  Just trying to collect a bunch of answers to questions that will lead you to a decision.

So, my Product Management Survival Kit inclusion #1: Buy, Partner, or Make template

As with all of my templates, the BPM Template is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit

3345 days and I’m breaking out of this place…

I’ve been working as a Product Manager for over 9 years now, and during that time I’ve come to believe that there aren’t enough resources for PMs, and especially those who are just starting out.

There, are of course, some resources out there if you look hard enough.  I’m starting to see other blogs that have some good information and there are various companies who provide training for Product Managers.  I’ve taken some of the classes offered and found them to be somewhat helpful although also lacking.  I’ve searched the internet and found some useful resources, but I haven’t seen a basic repository of things that a PM needs on day 1.

So, I’m breaking out of my role as just a consumer of product management knowledge and I’m using my 9 years of PM experience to put together a survival kit of sorts that PMs can use in the hopes that it will make your job just a little bit easier.

I’ll be posting templates, suggestions, ideas, thoughts, and anything else I think might be useful all gleaned from my hard-earned knowledge about how Product Management works.

It’s worth noting that my experience has been exclusively in the software field, but hopefully the information I provide here will be useful to Product Managers who work in other areas as well.

I hope that some of the information here will make you think, that some will pique your interest, and that all of it will be useful.  Feel free to drop me a line or comment on any of the postings here.  (You will be required to register to comment, but I hope that won’t be too much of a hassle.  It’s just an effort to keep the spam down as it seems to be a problem for many blogs.)

In any case, enjoy your stay and it’s my honest hope that the information provided here will be useful to you.