Product and service offerings follow a growth lifecycle:
Once you hit Flatline and Decline, it is very hard to bounce back. Stories of flatlining businesses that suddenly take off again are rare indeed. While there are ways to resuscitate a flatlining business, the ideal is to NEVER GET THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE and instead take the right actions to ensure continuous growth.
Talking to customers to uncover unmet needs is one of the most exciting parts of product management. It's being a detective! Hunting down members of your target audience for meetings, and, once there, asking them the right questions to get to the root of what they really care about.
But most PMs find it difficult to book customer interviews on a regular basis. And even when you do have a customer interview - how do you go about it? What questions do you ask?
This article is a step-by-step guide to landing, planning and executing customer interviews in a way that directly connects with product-market fit and growth, and hopefully takes the stress out of it and makes it fun!
SaaS businesses are all the rage! Even companies that have success with traditional products are re-thinking their business as a SaaS offering, to reap the many benefits:
These benefits are so attractive that every and any product and business model is being re-imagined as SaaS, leading to some great ideas (e.g. Spotify, Coursera, bacon-of-the-month dropped off at your doorstep!). But not every business lends itself intuitively to a SaaS model. Especially if you have years of legacy technology and processes established with an existing customer base, the transition won't happen overnight. There are key questions to answer in each facet of the business.
Yes the PMP exam does have many "trick questions"! Here is my cheat sheet of tricks, gotchas and pitfalls collected about these questions. You have to be very careful about the wording and cut through the noise in the question to find what the really important answer is. This is meant to simulate project management in the real-world, where day-to-day you have to cut through the noise and make decisions based on what's truly important. There is also lots of terminology, acronyms and references to names of theories and principles that you need to know, and sometimes these terms are not even in the PMBOK itself.
A Program Manager is responsible for managing multiple interrelated streams of work and ensuring that - taken together - they produce specific business outcomes and benefits for an organization.
However the title "Program Manager" is not very common. Organizations have Project Managers, Product Managers, General Managers. But apart from some large organizations, "Program Manager" is rare. This is because often executives and middle managers play the role of Program Manager even if they don't have the title.
A marketing and sales funnel has multiple stages:
Who are the people that can't live without your product? Why is that product a must-have for them? And what is the difference between these must-have users compared to other users for whom it's just a nice-to-have? These questions are at the root of scaling growth. Find your must-have users.
Yet, when planning target markets, it’s human nature to want to go broad. There is a feeling of safety and comfort. “Why, my product has hundreds of uses, for everyone! Let me list the ways…” But one of the great paradoxes of growth is that, in general, the more broadly you define target markets, the less business you actually take in. It literally pays to get more targeted.
Now that you've read the The Complete Guide to Customer Research Interviews, you know that gathering intelligence from customer interviews, market analysis, online research, win/loss analysis, is critical to developing a strategy that drives product-market fit and growth. But once you have accumulated all your customer and market insights, what do you actually do with it? Here are 5 immediate steps to infuse your strategy with intelligence in practice.
A company is only as secure as its weakest link. But what if the weakest link isn't at the company at all, but rather one of its third-party vendors? A company can reinforce its own security posture by training its staff and implementing the latest tech, but it still has to provide access and share information with its suppliers, and its suppliers’ suppliers, and so on along the chain. With each degree of separation, the company has less control over its suppliers’ security – especially small suppliers lacking security controls. But when there is a data breach, no matter how far along in the supply chain (e.g. even if it's your vendor's vendor's vendor), you yourself bear the consequences.
Last year I was fortunate to attend several all-day Chief Security Officer (CISO) roundtables on data protection with some of the top CISOs from Fortune 500 and beyond. Imagine being the CISO of a huge company like Honeywell with over 100,000 employees made up of hundreds of loosely coupled acquisitions worldwide, or Thales, a $17B organization and itself an industry leader in security. Imagine being the CISO of one of the major international banks like JP Morgan. As the CISO, what would be most on your mind? What would be keeping you up at night? Here are the 5 recurring themes I heard.
It can be encouraging and disappointing all at once if your team has worked hard to generate marketing qualified leads (MQLs) but somehow they just aren’t converting to actual revenue. For SaaS stores, this can look like lots of sign-ups but few actual transactions. In a traditional B2B company, you might see a lot of activity - website visitors, webinar attendees, trade show booth visitors, and even direct requests for a quote - but conversion to sales is low. What’s going on? It can be tempting to point fingers, but this is almost always a system problem more than any particular team's failing. Here’s a checklist to help diagnose.
In many industries, sales is used to ‘selling’ the vision of the product in advance of it being built, and customers assume vapourware by default. No one bats an eye because we’re accustomed to the idea that engineering will always be able to fulfill whatever we’re selling, given enough time and money.
New technologies like machine learning and blockchain offer a world of possibilities, but many of these possibilities may not actually be able to be implemented in practice, even with a huge budget. It's easy to promise "The product will automatically predict X with high accuracy." where X could be anything from detecting a security breach to predicting stock prices to finding the perfect outfit for you wear. But even if the prototype is already 70% accurate, it may never get to 80%, or whatever you need it to be to be commercially viable.
A Program Manager is responsible for managing multiple interrelated projects and ensuring that - taken together - they produce specific business outcomes and benefits for an organization.
The title "Program Manager" is not very common. Organizations have Project Managers, Product Managers, General Managers. But "Program Manager" is rare. This is because often executives and middle managers play the role of Program Manager even if they don't have the title.
Most companies are laser-focused on meeting the current quarter's target, with an all-hands-on-deck effort by sales, marketing and product to close the gap by quarter-end. There is usually also a funnel of opps and leads for next quarter. But what about 2 quarters out?
Short-term revenue is the lifeblood of the company - you don't survive very long if you don't make your number. So companies get good at meeting their target quarter-to-quarter. But one day the current quarter does not look good. The funnel is just not there. Maybe you've saturated the market, or there's been a disruption, or maybe you just didn't have enough funnel-generating activity 6 months ago. Now you're in trouble, and no amount of short-term execution can solve it. Don't fall into this trap!
There's a vast difference between an average project manager and an excellent project manager. Yet if you google "how to be a great PM", or "what makes a great PM", you only get a list of lowest common denominator qualities: organized, good communicator, blah, blah, blah. Of course it's important to be organized and communicate well. But that's just the starting point.