Friday, June 20, 2008

Making Product Decisions

Recently, I conducted product feedback and evaluation session, separately, with two customer groups. Both the groups had same Beta product to evaluate and worked in same department but on different projects [clients].

During the first feedback session, the group unanimously rejected a major feature suggestion / expressed indifference. They needed more time to understand the applicability of the feature. During the second feedback session, the other group found the same feature suggestion quite useful, or apparently so.

It was very interesting to note how opinions are emotionally driven and how group dynamics work. It was very easy to fall in the trap and accept the second (positive) feedback to be true immediately [without further considerations]. In fact, engineering actually started considering to stop some other development work to fix some issues in this new feature, based on just the feedback an accompanying developer had witnessed in this session.

I went back to writing my report and considered the following driving factors for the difference in reactions:

First Group
1. Had no emergency in their current project
2. Things were working just fine in their current product suite
3. There was no urgency to scale their current client requirements
4. Were a satisfied bunch!

Second Group
1. There was a gap of a week between the sessions and in between, there was a major outage in the same product suit for this group
2. There was a big frustration and they needed some immediate solution
3. The client was demanding / scalability was important
4. Needed much more than what they had to be satisfied!

When, the second group was shown some features that would solve their immediate problems, they were ecstatic. With the already set "happy mood", everything else shown next was considered to be a major improvement on what they currently have and with group dynamics in action, they went ahead expressing positive feedback for all features, including the one that was not quite accepted / understood by the first group.

It was also interesting to note that the second group found just one aspect of this new feature conclusively useful. However, the tempo of the room was such set that this fact was apparently ignored.

I found this exercise very enlightening! We just cannot make our decisions based on Enthusiasm. However, intuitive it may sound, but it is very important for the Product Managers and Decision Makers to understand not just what the evaluation results were, but also the process in which the evaluations were made.

As for this particular case, I will still want to keep the major feature on evaluation / beta and not invest in developing further. At least in product decisions, first impression is the last impression, does not hold true always! I need to validate the first reactions.

PS: These are my personal opinions and do not reflect the opinions or stand of my company.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Incentive that works ...

I am reading this book called Nudge.

This book discusses about Economics of Behavior and how we Humans can be influenced to make decision by just a soft hint. Please review the book at the link mentioned above and if you get a chance, read it. It is a very well-written book where the simple decision making scenarios are discussed and how we can contribute to the process, by being, what the writers call as "Choice Architects" are explained.

The purpose of this blog is to write about an idea that I found very interesting in the book. For all of us who have used STD / ISD calls from Indian Phone Booth, know how the conversations go - depending upon how much the running meter shows. I know for sure, if I had a target of Rs 50, I would at the max let it go to Rs 55, or start cutting short my conversation, at Rs 45 if I had only 50 bucks with me. Now, if at home in absence of such a running meter, though we know that we need to control our talk time - we do not care much and make that one extra call every time. The reason is that the Phone Bill comes at the end of the month.

Yesterday, I was watching the local news and came to know of drought situation in California. Government is not doing mandatory rationing, but requesting users to reduce their water consumption. Users who have excess water usage will find a surcharge in their monthly bill. Now, will that really let users stop using water as they normally would? May be to some extent. What if there was a running meter of water consumption installed in each household?

Similarly, we all know our Power bills are at a rise and that excess use adds to the global warming. How often do we remember to turn off the room heater, if we are going out for few hours? What if the Thermostat displayed the cost of using each unit of energy? Users can set a target and as soon as they are close to the target, they can consciously reduce the consumption.

There are numerous such examples where sellers exploit this behavior and make users spend beyond their capacity. The concept of Nudge (soft hint) can be used in either way to influence the decision making.

This is a very strong concept, in retrospection looks so simple!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I am not gone ...

Just busy elsewhere ... I will be back !!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

[Timely] Romance from Ralph Lauren

Have you seen the Ralph Lauren "Romance" commercial on TV? I found it to be a "beautiful" video, giving the right message and at a sub-conscious level, making the viewers want it! Couldn't be a better time to launch the campaign than during the V-fever time!

You can watch this and all the commercials of Ralph Lauren at the corporate website. Just click on "RL-TV" while you are there and you can watch this commercial.

Alternatively, you can watch this and other variations of this commercial at YouTube.

And, did i mention, it was a TV commercial? I watched it on TV.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Change in Perspective

A picture can be taken from different angles. Some angles produce the best shot, some not. But nonetheless, all these angles show the same truth!

Well, the point I am trying to make is that “a change in perspective does not necessarily shifts the core”. Instead, it brings in more variety and options for us to talk, think, and argue about. In organizational context, we often tend to get caught in the “do not touch, it is working” complacency or high “self efficacy” bias of executives.

Whatever, it be, the winning organizations always like to challenge their assumptions.

For now, I will end with a simple suggestion. When you ask your folks to answer Y/N questions – just change the meanings to read as follows:

Y – Why?
N – Why Not?

See, what difference this simple exercise makes. It will charge up the room and suddenly you will see better responses to your Yes and No questions. Don’t believe me? Try it!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Microsft Bid for Yahoo!

My last month's post (Jan 14th) "Microsoft+Yahoo>Google" - the billion dollar question - where I had written about Microsoft's interest in Yahoo, seems to be getting closer to reality. With today's announcement of Microsoft's offer of $45 Bn to yahoo, where at one end Yahoo stocks rose by 60% during the day, Google's dropped. This, in spite of the fact that Google showed 17% growth in Q4, its stock price went down by 7%. As a side note: Q3 profit for Google was 46%. Wall Street is benchmarking Google against Google :)

Anyways, it will be an interesting development and many equations will change if the Microsoft-Yahoo deal gets finalized. It is worth the wait to see what happens next - I surely am watchful.

In my previous post, I had mentioned and I repeat "
But, at $45 billion, is this game worth playing?"

These are some related interesting read, that adds different perspectives to the deal:

CBS News

M&A and the Anti-trust

How it Helps Google - Information Week

80% odds that deal will be successful

India Connection

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Mistake Family

How tolerant is your organization towards mistakes? How often, have we been asked to “learn from our mistakes” and how often, have we actually (learned)?

I read a beautiful excerpt on “mistakes” from a book called “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator” that made me thinking. We make mistakes, every day in some or the other form. For example, when we wake up in the morning and rush to work, skipping breakfast – we are making a deadly mistake, one that will come back to us later… Since, I am deeply engrossed and passionate about my role of a Product Manager, and while I am writing about mistakes, the one that is closest to me is the mistakes that we make documenting the requirements.

As a Product Manager, when I see priorities shuffle in random fashion, new requirements getting added at the whims and fancies of few good orators in the team, ambiguity and delay in communication, da daa, da daa ….I shiver at the thought of the end product. And still that happens over and over again and from one organization to another.

Of the several difficult to articulate and intangible to measure and abstract in nature, responsibilities of a Product Manager, there is one that stands out as a very specific deliverable, which, ties an idea to a final product and that is the PRD (Product Requirement Document) or its variant. This is one such document, that is the bible, the book of truth, a must read for anyone building the product. However, in my experience, most of the PRDs are analogous to the roads in India – roads that are built in between the potholes. Even though most of us PMs know the value of this document and understand the visibility of this textual collection – why do we make mistakes writing it without ambiguity and not adding the utmost details as possible? We learn from mistakes. We do. If we missed writing that the system will be used by 5 simultaneous users and if it starts to burn and fume as soon as the 5th user keys in, who is to blame? So, next time, we make sure to include in the PRD the performance criterion. But, we get so overwhelmed by the mistakes of the last release that we omit adding the end criterion for another feature (for example). And so on…

Mistakes are inevitable, but we need to know how to contain them. And I am sure, each to her own pace, we learn.

Like I said in the beginning of this post, my thinking was based on an interesting excerpt, I read in a book called (and I repeat) “Reminiscences of a Stock Broker” by E. Lefevre. This book was written in 1923 and is claimed to be the most relevant to date for investors and stock brokers (and for people like me, who are generally interested in the subject). The excerpt, very succinctly said, but profoundly suggests, why we end up making mistakes, over and over again! And it goes like this ...

“Of course, if a man is both wise and lucky, he will not make the same mistake twice. But he will make any one of the ten thousand brothers or cousins of the original. The mistake family is so large that there is always one of them around when you want to see what you can do in the fool-play line.”

Friday, January 25, 2008

Where is the Problem?

If you remember this flow-chart, you can very easily do away with the Problems... Source - TechRepublic.

Click on the image for larger view.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

And Google Evolved ...

I was reading about some search algorithms and trying to find more about Inverted Index search. I happened to come across this site, which discusses about the way different search engines execute the queries and index the sites (if they do).

I was enjoying reading and trying to absorb the relevant information, when I read the following (see the excerpt, below):

"Page Ranking
There is a relatively new search engine on the Internet - Google. This uses a system of page ranking to achieve accurate search results (Google calls this technology PageRank - highly imaginative name ... not). From Google's own web pages, here is their explanation of how their system works:......"

This is when, I realized the age of the document and how different the style of writing would have been, if it were written, like now.

Google has evolved, since then!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Slashing Jobs! When will "Yahoo!" Yahooooooo?

When my offer at Yahoo! was put on hold 4 months back, given the reasons that "Yahoo! is re-prioritizing its Business Units", I understood.

Even though, Yahoo Mail maintains a high market share in the US Internet usage for December, 2007, it is very important to note that the user preferences between the top three webmails [Yahoo!, GMail and Live Hotmail] are marginal. This becomes critical when we all know that Yahoo! Mail is one of the leading business units of Yahoo.

It is also worth mentioning that inspite of the dipping share of Yahoo! in Search, Ad, Media, we have not heard a lot from the company to keep Internet users attached and Wall Street watchers happy. There have been a lot of hope lately from the Panama project, but that also could not give Yahoo! the much needed boost.

The most recent news hitting the wires is about Yahoo! laying off about 1400 - 2000 employees. I believe, the human resource is the most vigilant function at Yahoo that is taking actions on re-prioritizing. Instead, it would be a fresh relief to hear Jerry Yang unveil more opportunities and make some positive moves towards re-prioritizing - ones that will make us understand the situation, better.

Appendix 1: Hitwise Report on Internet Usage market Share 2007, December
Rank Website Market Share
1. 5.37%
2. 4.88%
3. 4.72%
4. 3.86%
5. 2.31%
6. 2.01%
7. 1.67%
8. 1.35%
9. 1.05%
10. 0.78%

Appendix 2: Feature Comparison of Yahoo Mail, GMail, Live Hotmail

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Frabble - Facebook Scrabble under scrutiny

When Mark Zukerberg came on CBS channel in the 60 minutes talk show last Sunday, he made it a point to show the Scrabble game and talk about how he enjoys playing it with his grand parents. Now, this could be just a gimmick. But, if he really is addicted to playing Scrabble on FaceBook, along with 500,000 other users who play each day, he will have to STOP.

The reason is simple. The quick journey to fame and money for brother pair from India is short lived. When they integrated their sleek software with the all-so-easy-to-integrate APIs of Facebook, little did they know about Copyright Infringement. Now, the copyright holder of the Board Game Scrabble has issued a notice to the brother duo and are on their way to sue them, if the notice is ignored.

When you are 21 years old, live in Calcutta (India) and if you can make $25000 per month, just through advertisement revenue, why you would think of anything that is negative – in this case, copyrights! But, wait a minute. Copyrights for a game of Scrabble? Are there not SO MANY versions available online, illegal circulating the wires? Oh, but now, there is a clear traction and these guys are making money. And this is when it hurts, the owners.

Nevertheless, this is another example of how huge and lucrative the revenue model of FaceBook is becoming. Making quick and dirty money is fine, but it always makes sense to play by the rules!

And Mark, last time when you were on channel, you had an unfinished game. Did you get to complete it?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Microsoft + Yahoo! --> Google?

Will Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo! lead the combined entity get closer to Google?

A quick glance at the stats in the Search Domain for the Top 3 players shows*:
Google - 65.98%
Yahoo - 20.88%
Microsoft - 7.04%.

Well, this is the multi-billion dolor ($$$) question that only time or the informed sources will be able to tell. Meanwhile, it is for us to speculate and watch the game.

Yahoo! acquisition will definitely help Microsoft close the gap and and boost its desperate game plan to dominate and out do Google!

A look at some more stats
Yahoo! has a market capitalization of approximately $31 Billion.
Yahoo's 1/3rd stake in Yahoo! Japan is $9 Billion.
Yahoo's 10% stake in is worth approximately $1.7 Billion.
Yahoo's 40% stake in's parent company, Alibaba Group, is an estimated of $8 Billion and $16 Billion.

The current valuation of Yahoo based on the Nasdaq listing does not fully reflect Yahoo’s investments, which if realized would give Yahoo a valuation upwards of US$45 Billion.

But, at $45 billion, is this game worth playing?

Another Billion dolor question! But what about the Anti-trust? Is Microsoft prepared to fight another suit?

*Latest Hitwise report of U.S. Searches (Dec 2007)
Read few more interested articles on this topic at:
2006 CNN Article:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Always Ad Campaign" - An ad that can influence buy!

P&G's "Always" brand has come up with a social ad for improving the hygiene of African girls and helping them to continue their education. According to a research, as posted on the p&G website:

"1 in 10 school-age African girls do not attend school during menstruation or drop out at puberty because of the lack of clean and private sanitation facilities in schools.(1) And, if a girl has no access to protective materials or if the materials she has are unreliable and cause embarrassment, she may be forced to stay at home while menstruating. This absence of approximately 4 days every 4 weeks may result in the girl missing 10 to 20 percent of her school days.(2) The Protecting Futures program will provide products and services to help keep girls in school as well as help foster the overall health and well-being of every child in the targeted school communities.
[See the full post here.]

I recently watched this ad on television. Apart from the message that it conveys to support the cause, the advertisement has a very thoughtful and creative touch. It definitely made me say "ok, I will buy Always". As it goes with social marketing, the company will benefit financially, while adding to its karma with social campaigns. I could not get the online version of the ad and so could not embed the link.

This is an ad that rightly aligns the product, message and the buyer - "A women for a women!