Browsing Tag

web 2.0

Start-ups: Go Lean or Go Home – Usability and Getting it right

While methodologies and approaches vary in product management and product marketing there is always room to improve on what we all do today through iterative process and fact based approaches.  Lean, waterfall, agile, scrum, RUP, whatever – Dan Olsen has prepared another interesting presentation which was delivered at the Web 2.0 Expo in SF.  While I see directionally where the presentation is going and can easily understand the fundamentals put forth, I’m left a little bit wanting, since it implies that build technology quickly that users like and do it efficiently and you will be successful.  More specifically, here is what Dan said @ in an interview for his pitch at the Web 2.0 expo:

My fundamental philosophy on product management… you need to start with a user-centric point of view, Dan Olsen

I’ve got a good deal of respect and appreciation for Dan’s approach to using a metric based approach to feature prioritization and he is really interesting to talk to about this topic since he is passionate about usability.   Dan’s latest endeavor YourVersion is a live example of his methodology in action – he eats his own dog food around  early stage companies and has a proven track record with this approach.

From my perspective, I’ve historically taken a different approach to feature prioritization, but I’ve never been in a start up. While not in a traditional start up, I have launched new products from concept and grow them to say $40M in revenue in short timeline with material positive impact to bottom line leveraging a problem centric approach.    It might be that the difference in my viewpoint is the context of B2B vs. B2C, instead of late stage vs. early stage.   In that context, the only thing I would add, is that while usability is critical in products where the buyer and the user are the same person, it may not be as important  for success in more complex B2B technology solution areas when multiple functional groups, users and business drivers exist.

Can a product be successful with if the product has usability issues?  Is there some product that you use right now in your business which while not elegantly designed provides significant value to your business, but is not a user favorite or difficult to use? …(CRM, SFA, ERP, SCM, Requirements Mgt)….

I can think of a handful in just a few seconds which match this pattern, some which I even built 😉

Net-Net – Dan has provided a good deal of information for me to think about and the approach is definitely solid for a more technical approach to product management and prioritization, but it begs a few questions which I personally need to think about from a product marketing perspective for B2B technology products:

  • What can I do with the data returned to improve the effectiveness of  a given product in the marketplace?
  • How can I connect the features and feedback to demonstrate differentiated value for buyers?
  • Does the information gathered provide me a way to improve how I can speak to the market and buyers?

You wouldn’t understand, it’s a cultural thing: I want my MTV!

The first images shown on MTV were a montage o...
Image via Wikipedia

Cultural change is the most challenging for individuals and organization alike.  I’m currently reeling on my twins inability to spell anything close to dictionary version and their sheer abusive use of punctuation, but it is just a cultural gap, that I’m either going to get or or not.  Pop culture influences change – good and bad.  In my generation it was MTV.

Video ultimately didn’t kill the radio star, but 3 minute videos broadcast 24 hours forever was the initial promise of MTV and their innovative approach to delivering content over cable probably was the reason for the mass adoption of the word “edgy”.    MTV was delivering on the needs of an  extremely focused early adopter segment of young folks who were musically inclined or folks who just wanted some background noise – a new cultural phenomenon.  Social Media not dis-similar to the cultural change seen time and time again in society only, this one is changing how people work and how they WANT to work.

IT, management and corporations in general are always looking for new ways to improve productivity or how to limit access to content or activities which reduce productivity.  The emerging social productivity tools at the edge of adoption in the enterprise don’t have consensus on how they impact productivity.   Users or better put – workers needs are changing and how they work is transforming by their personal use of these tools and the benefits of thier networks.  This isn’t by any stretch of the imagination the majority, just a small segment today, since as a user sorta have to “get it” and the organization sorta has to be ready to accept/embrace these workers preferred engagement models.

Everybody Has an Opinion or a Functional Diagram

Productivity in the workplace leveraging social tools continues to get A-List street cred with McKinsey’s latest email of the Top 10 articles of the Quarter, which starts out with Six Ways to Make Web 2.0 Work, a top ten article I apparently missed.  I actually missed all of them – odd, I thought I had read a bunch of McKinsey stuff last quarter.

Interesting piece, it is written I suspect by a non-Kool-Aid Drinker and from a “big company” approach when the reality most companies are BIG and could use a little innovation and productivity lift, but it is an ok piece.  Their adoption graphic acknowledges the adoption curve has begun for social technologies, but as with most articles there aren’t metrics, just anecdotes.   This application landscape change is more about HOW folks WANT to work, than the benefits or metrics which can be tracked via social media tools.

It is often the PERSON who makes the tools productive.  How a person uses them, who is in their network and how THEIR network uses the tools.   I find that Facebook responses from business partners, industry collegues and coworkers are quicker than email and typically include an example link or hand off to another expert in their network.   What ever moniker is applied to this phase it is essentially corporate IT’s movement from machines to people.   The majority of the first generation investments were in delivering “systems”, databases, application integration and transaction management platforms – now it is people platforms which are looking for homes in the enterprise and promise productivity lifts for business.


(just guessing, but probably not to scale)

While I get the diagram below, it misses some of the high level B2B use cases, which is really all I care about as a B2B Product Marketing type, specifically Thought Leadership and Service.  Social media can increase personal, corporate and product visibility in the marketplace and improve service levels/customer satisfaction.   Perhaps the author rolled them under some of the other concepts, but the purpose of each should be a standalone set of metrics, goals and users.  With metrics as a challenge, the more you segment the use cases and owners of a use case the better you can gauge effectiveness of your social media efforts.


The artical did get the one thing really close to right:

The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top.

It is cultural, but it doesn’t involve the organization, it involves the emerging requirements of the workforce.   While today’s “I want my Facebook”, Bebo or Twitter in the workplace pleas seem somewhat trivial to some execs, these platforms are rapidly becoming the preferred collaboration tools for workers.  Risk considerations are often cited by many since these tools leverage not just internal expertise of an organization, but the networks of their employee and contractors.

It’s All About Risk

There is a time to embrace social media and a time to not, but I suspect the good outweighs the bad in the risk equation.  Risks: Perceived IP exposure, network security concerns or just plain slackerdom risk for some don’t outweigh the benefits, but the other choice for social workers is to use their personal iPhones or other PDA’s to accomplish the same tasks, only on slower connections and with less functionality.   What a drag, productivity drag that is…..for many folks social platform use is just HOW they work.

Access to answers, innovation and customers are just a click away, but only if your organization has a culture that provides access and encourages participation.

Now look at them yo-yo's, that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on that MTV
That ain't workin', that's the way you do it
Money for nothin' and your chicks for free
Now that ain't workin', that's the way you do it
Lemme tell ya, them guys ain't dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb
                                 -Dire Straits

Social Productivity: Working in a social world

I’ve recently found that Facebook is quicker than email for contacting numerous business contacts, Twitter can help with competitive intelligence and email is just a little too slow and formal, so I can relate with how companies need to embrace social technologies more.

Ross Mayfield’s Web 2.0 Expo presentation on Putting Web 2.0 to Work is a very fair assessment of the situation, even if it appears to be a thinly veiled “you really need some of this technology now” pitch with the Social Text logo throughout.

Ok, not so thinly veiled with the free trial at the end. Come on Ross, was it a sponsored session?