Betamax Wins! An interview with Jim Foxworthy

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Ok, so those of you around long enough know this isn’t the case with Betamax and we are now all upgrading to that blue thing, but the important part is Beta.    If you have been around product management long enough you know that processes and methodologies come and go, but best practices stay the same.  In technology one of the perennial milestones is going Beta.  While a technical feedback loop, it more so a market feedback loop.   It’s this step in any process where most of us get just a little nervous with the launch process, but hopefully not if you had launch in your mind since concept.  So like most product managers, my technical background and experience historically saw the close of beta and launch as milestones, rather than an ongoing process which started with the market requirements.

After leveraging the folks at Pragmatic Marketing to understand best practices in product management for almost a decade, I’ve come to see launch as an integrated process which parallels most of the development.   So I was glad to hear they were adding dedicated course on launch to the training catalog and was SUPER excited to participate in the beta.

Yup, Pragmatic Marketing is launching a new course on Launch Essentials and I had the opportunity to beta it onsite with the whole team – Product Owners, Technical PM’s, MARCOM and Product Marketing.   During the day I was impressed not just by the content, but the beta engagement process.  By being part of the process I was able to learn new things and share feedback with the instructor, David Daniels, and Graham  Joyce which is the goal of any beta, but the structure and measurement of the feedback is integrated into the process real time for the Pragmatic team.   Just as with any beta process, the team was looking to ensure as they launched a “product” to market it which actually meets the needs of their target market.   During the 1 day workshop we addressed the typical problems/pitfalls in launching a technology product to market profitably and the team challenged the pragmatic folks on how to ensure our Agile processes and launch methodologies were synched from concept to launch.

So with a little extra access to the team, I decided to see if I could ask some questions of Jim Foxworthy, the VP of Product Marketing at Pragmatic Marketing and Jim was kind enough to participate, as you can see by the title of the post.    The goal of the interview below is to get some insights on their beta process and the types of folks they have in their business.    I have similar interviews of two other pragmatic folks (David Daniels & Steve Johnson) to read which validate the varied backgrounds and common view of successful product managers which are echoed below by Jim’s answers.

Many thanks to Jim and best of luck to the team on the launch of the new course, with the standardize beta process, measurement and market engagement I’m confident it will be a success!

Q. What Roles have you had in the industry prior to joining Pragmatic Marketing?

I started in technology in 1975, so the ‘roles’ list would be a bit boring and long! But suffice to say that I worked in IT shops until 1983 doing operations and some development, then independent vendors until 2001, then joined Pragmatic Marketing as an instructor. During my years with vendors, I did customer support, client training, sales, and product management.

By the way, not that you asked, but while carrying a sales quota was not the easiest gig for me, the experience paid big dividends. On occasion we get a laugh at the expense of our sales brethren, but knowing what it takes to close business made me a much more effective product manager.

In 2002, while continuing to teach for Pragmatic Marketing, I started a consulting practice focused exclusively on implementation of the Pragmatic Marketing Framework. Over the following five years I worked on nearly 100 implementations.

Q. As you were with the other companies did you use the framework in other roles?

I was a student the first time Pragmatic Marketing offered the “Practical Product Management” seminar in 1993. I had both successful and unsuccessful implementations of the Pragmatic Marketing Framework between 1993 and 2001. I prefer to think of my mistakes as ‘opportunities to learn’, but some of them were unpleasant!

Q. I recently participated in a Beta process with you and the team and it appears that you not only eat your own dog food, but have a tightly defined beta program, expectations of the participants and adjusting the product in response.  How is this different than you have worked beta programs previously?

Thanks for the compliment! Being the product manager here at Pragmatic Marketing doesn’t give me much latitude to ‘stray’ from what we teach. The other instructors are NOT shy when I do (smile)!

In many ways our Beta process is not that different from programs I have run in the past. Our ‘product’ is our seminar, and the source code is in (believe it or not!) MS-PowerPoint. So, when the ‘code’ begins to look pretty close to the requirements and the positioning (we do those, too) then we know it is time to get some market validation. Beta testing gives us that, plus one more thing that we cannot duplicate in the ‘development lab’ — real teaching time. There are some things about the delivery of seminars that you can -only- learn on your feet, working with a live audience.

Q. How are the emerging development agile methodologies impacting the framework or the way PM’s need to look at the market?

Agile development methodologies are having a big impact on product managers! New artifacts and job titles are emerging that can be confusing, and there is an enormous about of pressure to spend more and more time with development. Yet the need to discover and validate market problems has NOT changed. Pragmatic Marketing recently launched a new seminar titled, “Living in an Agile World” to address these very issues. (If I had my go-to-market hat on, then I would write) For more information, please go to www.pragmaticmarketing.com.

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2 Comments

  • Reply jon gatrell May 6, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Betamax Wins! An interview with Jim Foxworthy: Ok, so those of you around long enough know this isn’t the .. http://tinyurl.com/c8m7dy

  • Reply Dave Daniels May 6, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Kinds words from @spatially – http://ping.fm/oSPal

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