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!